OPN 191106 EATING-1573039353924
Who is the joker between these two 'shared' diners? The one who willing pays for the other with more costly orders? Think again. Image Credit:

Some say that a good friend is one who can see right through you but still enjoys the show. I’m not sure if Alex and Vic (short for Victor) count themselves as close mates but every day at lunch time they can be seen sauntering in together into a restaurant called Dutch Burgers.

It’s a popular eatery, particularly with tradesmen because the restaurant’s unique mealtime offers works for crew mates looking for a meal that’s both filling and also not a price rip off. The system works this way: bring a workmate with you to lunch. Then, when each orders their meal, the restaurant works in a 10 per cent discount.

The balance is ‘shared’ between the pair of diners. The ‘shared’ referring to a term long since gone out of use: ‘Going Dutch’. That is, going halves, splitting the bill, with whoever one is eating with.

Now, this sort of arrangement can often be touch-and-go. Because people’s appetites differ, along with their tastes.

I know a family of five in Sydney who have to call the equivalent of a boardroom meeting in their sitting room to discuss exactly what each will be ordering. Their tastes range widely so if the five of them decide that they will order four curries and three sets of entrees, they can take hours to finally arrive at a place where they are all reasonably happy on the same (menu) page. This can involve shouting, fussing, calling names, sulky bouts of silence, withdrawal and hissy fits.

I would watch them out of the corner of my eye — me, a writer, always observing, overtly or covertly, on the lookout for a story. What I noticed with this trio was that the woman was ‘a faster’

- Kevin Martin

Luckily for Dutch Burgers, this family of five wouldn’t be able to dine there since their number (five) would rule them out. You can only order in pairs. There are yet other problems that crop up with eating out with others. I used to know three IT workers (two men and a woman) who came into the local cafe at lunch time.

I would watch them out of the corner of my eye — me, a writer, always observing, overtly or covertly, on the lookout for a story. What I noticed with this trio was that the woman was ‘a faster’.

She didn’t come into the restaurant to order a meal for herself, per se. Her two colleagues, on the other hand, ordered up, a plateful each. And while they ate, she would sit with them, chatting and occasionally picking up a spare fork and sampling something from one plate, then tasting something else from the other. Not too obviously, but quite regularly. At the end, the men paid for their meals and left with her.

At the Dutch Burger, observing the two handymen Alex and Vic, I am reminded of this in a somewhat roundabout way. Every single day, Alex orders for himself the most economically priced burger combination on the menu; Vic, meanwhile, lets his imagination run wild. Every day, he orders something different but always something from the high end. When the time comes to pay, they split the bill and head back to work. When this is tactfully pointed out to Alex one day, he shrugs and says, ‘Who cares? Have you worked with Vic?

I’m the lucky one. My day would be miserable if he called in sick. When you work in construction you could do with someone like him for a partner. Great sense of humour and an endless stock of jokes. Have you heard him tell one? Man, I’d pay to go see his shows if he were a stand-up comedian. Instead, I get to hear them for free. Why should I care if he orders an expensive burger?’ Sometimes, with a pair of jokers, it’s hard to say who the joke really is on.

—Kevin Martin is a journalist based in Sydney, Australia.