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You Don’t Get A Free Meal for Nothing

There’s nothing like stopping off for a drop o’ grog and a decent plate of belly timber after a day of trade wind sailing. Charlie often likes to stop off at his favorite local watering hole, Fatima’s where the portions are huge and the service is …well…island style. The menu is generously sprinkled with fried specialties like chicken, chips, Johnny cakes, fish, fritters. The cook, Colestorella, also makes goat water, bull foot soup, pigtail and other island delicacies.

One reason Charlie loves it is because the service is so slow that there’s ample time to try every available drink in the place. When Colestorella finally waddles over with steaming plates of food the guests are either vociferously extolling the virtues and wonders of the BVI, telling each other filthy jokes, or slumped over, head on table, having a nap. One thing is for sure: no-one leaves Fatima’s hungry.

Once Charlie’s guests were so satiated with food and drink they actually accidentally left the place without paying the bill. It was then that the speed picked up considerably; Fatima proved to everyone that the hundred yard dash was no stranger to her. She arrived at their parked car before they did, turned around and introduced them to a totally new vocabulary. Some of the words were ‘tiefin, scunt, hunky and tink-you-is.’ Charlie, in his usual diplomatic style, apologized profusely and told his charter guests to add an extra ten dollars to the total and finally all was well; the evening ended happily.

Charlie has always been well loved at Fatima’s. He often brings in groups of six or eight charter guests and for this service he is rewarded with a free meal. Recently Fatima’s has got into the habit of adding an inexplicable figure at the end of the bill. Then, under this is another figure, before the total is arrived at underlined at the bottom. Usually the well lubricated guests pay up without a second glance but once a guest challenged this fairly large figure of extras. This brought about considerable confusion with the waitress having to run back and forth to the kitchen several times, returning each time with a different explanation.

First it was a tax but the guest knew there was no restaurant tax in the BVI. Then it was extra drinks but drinks were already charged for. Then it was service charge but that was already included at the end. Finally it was explained that it was actually a ‘different’ service charge. One was for the entire staff and the other was for the waitress. The exasperated guest then grabbed the menu and at the bottom it clearly indicated, “Please tip your waitress generously. It is not included in the bill.” Then the waitress explained that the menu was an “old” menu and the tipping system had changed. All eyes then turned to Charlie who was expected to solve the problem. Charlie shook his head and palms up explained in his most humble way and in great detail how expensive island living was. Finally nods of approval were given from around the table and the total was agreed upon. Charlie breathed a sigh of relief and thought, “You don’t get a free meal for nothing.”

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