Frugal Flight Attendant

March 19, 2011

in Diner Stories

It was my first Paris layover and since I don’t speak a lick of French I decided to stick with my crew (I’m a flight attendant). Usually I like to venture out on my own in a new city, but I knew dinner was going to be a massive problem if left to my own devices. In addition to being a vegetarian, I’m by far the most picky eater I know and I could see myself accidentally ordering all kinds of horrible things without outside guidance. Even the most popular items on the menu could be something disgusting and I wouldn’t even realize it. For some reason I’m incredibly shy about trying to order food in strange countries. I’ve heard horror stories about Parisians giving major attitude and scorn to Americans who don’t at least try to speak the language. I’d love to try but I just can’t. I really don’t know the language whatsoever. That bluff would be a miserable fail.

The pilots and five of the other flight attendants (including our French speaker from the flight) agreed to meet under the Eiffel Tower at 8pm. I spent most of the day running around with my camera, trying to capture as much of the city as I could on film in the hours given. I made sure I was at the Eiffel Tower at 8pm though. In fact, I was there at 7:00, just in time to get yelled at in French for stepping on some grass where apparently there’s a “Keep Off Grass” sign.

We find an Italian place in a not-so-touristy area just across the Seine. If I’d been smart enough to think of Italian food I wouldn’t have needed to be with the crew since I can read the names of Italian dishes no problem. Oh well, I’m here now so let’s roll with it.

I’m a pretty light eater and I like to save money when I go out. I think it’s ridiculous to spend 12 Euro on a single glass of wine, especially if you’re just going to have the one glass and not catch a buzz. What’s the point? I don’t do appetizers or salad unless that’s going to be my entire meal. I never take dessert or an after-dinner drink. All of that is just a waste of money for me. I can have some drinks at a bar before dinner for much cheaper. I can eat an ice cream from a street vendor after we leave the restaurant at a fraction of the cost.

So the crew orders and I watch it happen. A couple of people want this appetizer and a couple more want this other one. It’s decided that the table will order three apps and everyone will just share them. I don’t object. I let it happen.

I’m drinking soda but everyone else gets wine with sparkling water on the side. Again, it’s decided that three bottles of each is good for everyone to share. I think that’s a smart decision on their part and fail to recognize how and why I’m being a complete idiot.

I have one basic pasta dish while everyone else gets some soup, salad, antipasto, prima and secondo courses. I marvel at the appetites these people have, even the skinny girls and waif thin gay boys I’m flying with. The wine runs dry and the flight attendants order more. I wonder if I’m getting paid the same amount as they are, the tab is really adding up in a hurry! If I knew the pilots were going to be paying for the meal I might partake in some of the extras, but I know that’s not going to happen. There are two gay boys with us and the pilots very rarely treat guys to dinner, especially the gay ones. I’m not willing to bank on the possibility that my dinner will be free. I order sensibly and economically.

Everyone finishes and they ask us if we want formaggio, dolci, cordials, or coffee. All four are ordered. I think about it, but look at the prices and decide against it. I can get a latte for a third that price at the coffee shop just around the corner from the hotel. Again, I think I’m being so responsible and smart. I’m about to see the error of my ways.

That moment arrives soon enough when the bill comes. It never occurred to me that paying for what you ordered wouldn’t be an option. My crew, now wasted on wine and Sambuca, insist that if we just divide by eight then we’ll be set. Everyone is okay with that. It’s at that point that I realize why the flight attendants were ordering more than the pilots. They knew this was going to happen. If the pilots are going to order all these extras and then make the crew split the bill, the only way to come out ahead is to top them and order more yourself. Well played flight attendants, well played.

There’s nothing I could do but pull out sixty Euros and think about the fifteen Euros worth of Coke and penne alla arrabiata I had. I grab the last bottle of wine still standing and empty it into my pristine, virginal glass. If I’m paying for this I may as well get as much out of it as I can. I grab a fork and have some Tiramisu. Lesson learned, but at a price.

Now I avoid eating with the crews as much as I can, at least in that large of a group. Smaller groups will let you get away with paying for what you order but never a group of eight. Never after that much alcohol. The only way to “win” is to order the appetizer, and the soup, and the salad, and the wine, and the third bottle, and the fifth bottle, and the dessert with Cognac, and anything else you could possible want. Hell, get a souvenir shirt and hat thrown on the tab too while you’re at it! As long as you’re eating and drinking more than everyone else, you come out ahead since the bill is getting split evenly. If you don’t play the game like that, it’s going to be a dinner from hell.

Signed- Brian Easley
My blog: Straight Guy in the Queer Skies

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Julie March 20, 2011 at 2:06 pm

I don’t understand why you didn’t stand up for yourself and say, even though the others were drunk, I’m only paying 15 Euros you guys can divide up the rest or ask what was going on during the dinner?

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Lea McFalls Zeqiri August 29, 2012 at 7:04 pm

Because if she had, she would have come off as cheap and alienated the crew. People whom she would be working with on a daily nail biting regular routine. She played it off well, albeit a bit too late. Besides, she learned her lesson.

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Ilovefyling January 7, 2016 at 6:33 am

Dude look at the sig its a he not a she!

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Amber May 11, 2016 at 1:47 pm

It's not cheap to not want to pay for things that you never ordered and never partook in, especially 45 euros worth.

He should have stood up for himself and said he was paying his share of what he ate.

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QAZ March 20, 2011 at 9:28 pm

I agree with Julie. I don't think it's the least bit fair to chip in for an equal portion of the bill when you clearly did not ingest or imbibe an equal portion of the food.

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Jack March 22, 2011 at 5:45 pm

Brian, in the future you should eat alone. It's obvious you just eat to live, not, live to eat. Going out with a group is fun, splitting appetizers, sharing plates, it's all part of the experience, and in a city as fabulous as Paris, well what are a few Euros? This is not the time to be cheap.

What may I ask, made you decide to go to an Italian restaurant while in Paris?

Just eat alone, perhaps from a street vendor. It's cheap, and sometimes you get decent food.

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SashaTheBrit March 23, 2011 at 9:09 am

Reading this made me want to punch you in the face. I hate picky eaters.

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Substantial April 4, 2011 at 10:47 pm

For somebody who is supposed to be a flight attendant you're not very worldly. You need to get out more. The two stories of yours that I've read here make you sound like nothing but a whiny insular brat who has had zero life experience.

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Kirsten August 28, 2011 at 11:58 am

The worst thing about this story is the idea that foreign people eat disgusting food. Oh woe is me, I'm here where I don't speak the language, I haven't had the sense to bring a phrasebook, and everybody knows how those Europeans eat horrible things!

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Kara March 20, 2012 at 6:25 am

Sometimes foreigners do eat disgusting things but yeah it's often very much exaggerated.
As far as I know, you could order a hamburger just about anywhere but only in certain places could you eat something like snail or goat cheese or insects or oysters for examples.
Sometimes we're the ones that others feel have disgusting food habits and foods.

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Amber May 11, 2016 at 1:49 pm

It's only disgusting to those not accustomed to the cultural dishes. These same places think we're disgusting eating beef and pork, but those are completely normal to us.

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Alina September 6, 2011 at 8:10 pm

Soo… the only reason to drink a good wine would be to "get a buzz on"?
Classy.

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Mikyla May 18, 2012 at 5:54 pm

Why are we surprised? Look at the name of his blog. He's bigoted against his co-workers, why would he not show the same derision to the people of each country he visits?

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Adam August 14, 2012 at 11:29 pm

You sound like a ball of fun to be with. I'm all for not wasting money, but every once in a while is OK. In my opinion that's no way to go about life, spending as little as possible and not enjoying yourself, you can't take it with you! I'd sooner spend money on activities and events to enjoy myself than on expensive toys to show off to others.
I agree though, you should have just paid for what you had.
Wasn't too comfortable with all this mention of "gay boys", in such a tone. What did the sexuality of your colleagues have to do with the story?

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christine September 1, 2012 at 1:23 am

Wow, why is everyone jumping down his throat. I have been in this position many times, as I do not eat alot of food at one sitting. It is so not fair to the person who had ONE thing as that was his choice!!! Y'all need to lighten up kids. Rock on my favorite stranger that I have never met. ( I hope you know who I am Brian)

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Amber May 11, 2016 at 1:50 pm

No one saying his paying an 8th of the bill is fair, what we're saying is he needs to learn to speak up.

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