Will you be paying together or separately? (Part 1 of 2)

Talk about putting you on the spot.

I was out with a couple of new friends I had met at a bookstore, and eventually the group of five people turned into two: me and a brown-eyed girl with long dark hair. We talked about coffee and shared our views on unconscious cues that people give off. Both of us being deeply interested in human behavior, we had lots to talk about. It was around six o’clock in the evening, and the sidewalk was getting a bit crowded, so we stopped by a coffee shop that either sold really bad coffee, or was operating illegally because it was empty from what we could see from the outside. We walked in.

Sometimes you don’t know how to order at a new place, you know? Some people let you pay once you get your drink, others you pay up front, you can open up a tab, you can stuff your face and then pay later.. it can get quite confusing. The barista was cleaning something in the sink and asked what she could get for us, so I ordered a house coffee, and Megan ordered a latte with some other italian sounding words.

“It’ll be ready in a minute, guys! For here, or to go?”

I looked over to signal that we’re going to be heading out, and she looked directly at me and walks over to the cash register, wiping her hands on a towel. I walked over, and took out my wallet.

“Where are you guys coming from?”

“A bookstore,” I reply, “the one two blocks down, on Fourth.”

I handed her a ten dollar bill, and she held it without doing anything else. She looked at me and then at Megan. Then she asked, “Will you be paying together, or separately?”

Megan looked over, and stood up. I turned toward Megan.

“It’s OK, this one’s on me.”

“No, no. It’s OK.”

I looked at the barista, Kelly, her name tag read, and motioned her to accept it. Looking over my shoulder, Kelly opens her eyes widely toward Megan and says “Would you like to pay separately, honey?”

Megan froze. She looked at me, and then at Kelly.


I turned around toward Kelly and said, “It’s fine, just take my money,” trying to sound as casual as possible even the though I was awkwarded out.

Kelly waited for Megan to say something.

What was happening? Why was this such a big deal? I made an obviously confused facial expression for Megan, out of sight from Kelly.

Megan laughed.

“Yes, that’s fine. I’ll get you next time.”

Thank you, Megan. You just got us out of this strange situation. Pheew. Awkwardness averted.

Oh, wait.

There were no sounds coming from the cash register. Kelly was still looking at Megan, trying to communicate telepathically or something.


I wanted to laugh.

Still silent.

“Are you sure?” she asked.

Silence again.

Megan didn’t know how to respond, and the whole situation was so awkward that we ended up paying separately.



Why was this barista being so weird? We asked her. Her response may surprise you. Or not. Yeah, it probably won’t.

Any theories?

Part 2 of this story is coming up on Wednesday. 


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