THE BLOG
09/24/2014 04:52 pm ET Updated Nov 24, 2014

What's Half of $33.35?

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A friend of mine was taken out to dinner on Christmas Eve to a classy hotel. She was dressed in black velvet and pearls. They had just finished a lovely meal in the dining room. The waiter brought the bill. She watched as her date reached into his pocket and handed the waiter two slips of paper.

"Do you take these?" he whispered, furtively.

"Not during the holiday season, sir," sniffed the waiter. "Besides, these discount coupons expired. Two months ago!"

Why are some people cheap? It's definitely not a gender thing. I've known incredibly cheap men and extraordinarily generous women. And the other way around. I just had coffee with a female colleague and when the bill came she said, "Oh, let's just split this. What's half of $33.35?"

Maybe it's a way to exercise control. Maybe they need more fiber in their diet. I'm guessing, of course. Do the doyens of human behavior even claim to know?

I'll tell you about Gerry. Gerry worked in construction. He was loaded but refused to pay two bucks to put his bike into a rack. Instead, every day he hauled it up onto the top of a dumpster on the worksite. Guess what happened?

You got it. They took the dumpster away.

Gerry is not unlike the woman who asked the waiter for a refund on the portion of her meal she hadn't eaten. She'd left one chicken wing on her plate, you see. Doesn't she know they only discount if you leave more than a third of the entree?

An old boyfriend of mine carried a calculator with him everywhere. He hauled it out constantly to double-check totals in front of supermarket cashiers and flea market vendors, and to help him figure out taxes and tips to the penny.

I was out for brunch with him once and ordered scrambled eggs. About 10 minutes after the eggs came I decided I wanted an order of bacon. When the bill came, out came the calculator. While I vacillated between embarrassment and fury, he punched numbers onto the keypad frenetically. He finally looked up and announced: "Do you realize that if you'd ordered your bacon and eggs together, you'd have saved me $2.85?

Do they still have those supermarket offers where when you buy a certain quantity of a product you get discount coupons for restaurants in return? A guy I know bought tons of fruit cocktail so he could get Arby's coupons. His wallet was stuffed with coupons and his kitchen cupboards were full of fruit cocktail. The man was a lacto-vegetarian and detested fruit.

This is the same guy whose friend in France offered him a place to stay while on his vacation there. All he had to do was buy his plane ticket. I got a postcard from him. It read:

"Paris is very expensive. But you can still find a cheap dinner."

This actually happened to a girl I knew in high school. A friend, okay? A friend! She was taken to a drive-in movie on a date. Before they reached the ticket booth, her escort pulled the car over and asked her, casually, if she wouldn't mind just climbing in to the trunk to cut down on ticket cost.

Apart from the fact that trunks can be sheer hell on a hairdo, exactly what was she supposed to do once they were inside? Crawl out of the trunk in front of the other 300 parked cars?

Everybody resents paying for something, of course. For me, it's parking. I will drive my car through a mall concourse straight into J.C. Penney's shoe department before I'll pay 24 dollars per half hour for anything.

People can be cheap with their comments, too. One particularly stingy one that came my way was this:

"Yea, I'd write poetry too, but who has the time?"