DELEGATE MARSHALL: In the wake of our night at Barney’s Beanery, we must confront the owed sum of $145.87. So, in the interest of maintaining the balance of power, I propose an equal five-way split. All in favor?

DELEGATE ETHAN: While that sounds good on paper, I did not eat any of the sweet potato fries and therefore cannot be expected to cover that expense and will not agree to this proposal with the terms as written.

DELEGATE CHARLOTTE: Similarly, as the designated driver I did not drink anything alcoholic and thusly should be exempt from having to chip in for the bar tab. Particularly when some parties, whom I will not mention by name, had upwards of four drinks.

DELEGATE TARA: Yes, however Charlotte did eat the buffalo chicken pizza and those Shirley Temples cost $2 a pop. So she was not entirely neutral in this conflict and needs to pay her share.

DELEGATE CHARLOTTE: Let it be known that I will be paying under protest.

DELEGATE MARSHALL: In which case, it would be more agreeable if we all did our own independent calculations of what we personally owe. We’ll write those amounts on the check along with each of our credit card numbers. If there’s a balance left over at the end, I’ll cover that.

DELEGATE ETHAN: Oh no. You’re going to hold that over us as leverage in a future negotiation.

DELEGATE MARSHALL: All right. If there’s anything left over, we divide that balance by five and add it to everyone’s estimated total. Shall we put it to a vote?

DELEGATE JACOB: Don’t have my credit card with me so I’m paying cash. Only have a twenty so I’m going to be short.

DELEGATE CHARLOTTE: And yet you drank four Jack and Cokes? How were you going to pay for that?

DELEGATE JACOB: If I recall correctly, Tara is indebted to me from a previous meal.

DELEGATE TARA: You’re calling in that old favor? That was a 2 AM Fatburger. Doesn’t come close to covering what you drank tonight. I will not be bailing you out.

MARSHALL: Fine. We’ll take Jacob’s $20 off the top of the bill. As future reparations, he promises to pay us back by covering a larger share of the next two tabs.

ETHAN: If I might offer a counter proposal. Say we create two separate bills: one strictly for food and the other for alcohol. We split those up according to how many people partook of either category.

JACOB: That’s not a terrible idea.

ETHAN: Perfect. I owe $15 for my drinks. And you know what? I might have that much cash on me.

CHARLOTTE: Wait. I’m placing a moratorium on debate for the time being. We haven’t factored in the tip. We need to make sure that our waitress is fairly compensated.

ETHAN: Are we tipping off the whole check or just the amount that we pay?

MARSHALL: Let’s just make the bill $160 for the sake of easy math.

CHARLOTTE: $180 sounds fair.

TARA: Oh no. That means she’s getting almost a 20% tip and she didn’t remotely warrant that from me. Kind of a weak pour on my Negroni.

ETHAN: We’re still on board for the Two Checks Solution, right? Show of hands?

TARA: But with that method I would either be throwing down my credit card for two different bills or adding together two separate totals. Seems too confusing.

JACOB: Although if the waitress does end up having to run 10 different credit cards, then maybe she deserves that 20% tip.

CHARLOTTE: After a closed-door sidebar, I have been reminded that I owe Tara for my movie ticket last week at the Arclight. Therefore, the Charlotte/Tara coalition agrees to cover the entirety of the pizza and wings just so long as someone else pays for the pitchers of beer and cocktails. In addition, we ask for stricter sanctions to be placed on Jacob for his continued mooching.

ETHAN: I agree to these items, considering that it takes the food off the table. However, I will not be paying for the pitchers of beer that I did not think we needed to begin with.

TARA: But you will be covering the tip. Seeing as you were the one who spilled your drink and she had to mop it up.

ETHAN: Fine! Pile that on top of me too.

MARSHALL: Okay. I think we’re close to an agreement. Jacob is paying with cash and an IOU. Ethan is paying for his own drinks as well as handling the tip. Charlotte is throwing in for both herself and Tara, covering the pizza and wings. I will be paying for the first pitcher and the sweet potato fries.

[He calculates on his phone.]

MARSHALL: … And that only brings us to $97.

JACOB: We forgot about tax, didn’t we?

TARA: And this is exactly why we should have done separate checks to begin with!

CHARLOTTE: But we’re friends! If we do separate checks, we might as well be eating by ourselves.

MARSHALL: Fine! If it makes everything easier and allows us to bounce the hell out of here and get to the Escape Room on time, I will put down my credit card and cover the entire bill. Throw me some cash if you feel like it. Okay?

ETHAN: A super power coming in to save the day! How convenient. And now we’re all indebted to you!

MARSHALL: Do you have a better plan?!?!

[All delegates remain silent.]

MARSHALL: Just VenMo me what you think you owe.

TARA: I don’t have VenMo.

MARSHALL: It’s a free app. Download it now.

TARA: Not without Wi-Fi! I’m on my parents’ data plan and I’m almost over the limit for the month.

- - -

“In witness thereof, we the undersigned have agreed to the present articles and have put an end to our conflict.

“The bill is paid.”