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Thursday, December 06, 2007

There is such a thing as a free lunch


One of the many standard interview questions that's almost always asked is, "How would you deal with a free loader?". I have never asked that question nor have I been asked that. But, every so often, life presents me with a situation that forces me to think about this.

I love cooking. My foodblog stands testimony to this. But I didn't undertake to do it all the time and for just about anybody. When I first moved here, we had guests very often. There were a couple of bachelor friends of my husband's and a couple of my friends from my childhood. Every once in a while, we also had some colleagues come over. We enjoyed entertaining and continue to do so.

But there was this one friend of S's and he would land up almost every Saturday. Worse still, he'd end up staying until the wee hours of the morning. He'd pick any time to land up at our place. I began to resent it. It became the norm. If we were in town during the weekend, he'd arrive. He'd gladly empty our booze stock. I'd be dying to spend some time with S after a hectic week or even just wrap up things and sleep, but he'd be there. He'd even specify the stuff he'd want to eat and I obliged quite often. I must admit, I never once got a compliment. Did it irk me? I'd be lying if I said it didn't. At some point, I lost interest. I offered him leftovers. If we could eat the stuff, so could he.

What irked me more was the fact that none of this was ever reciprocated. We didn't get invited for lunch or dinner. One day, I told him to take us out as I didn't want to cook. And he did. But a couple of weeks later, he told us we owed him for that dinner.

Excuse me, please! Owe? What about the countless dinners, lunches and breakfasts? What about my time and effort that went into making them? What about my stock of booze that was depleted? Just because things are inside a house, are they free? Since then, I have not been able to bring myself to entertain him at home or outside. Why should I? He's not a child. In fact, now that he's married, I'd like to intrude on his personal time on Saturdays with his new bride. But then, that would equate the two of us and I can't allow that.

All those meals for him were free. So, there is such a thing as a free lunch. Literally. Maybe someone will become a free loader and he'll have to bear the brunt. Maybe I was a free loader at some point. But I am sure I wasn't.
Am I wrong to keep score of such stuff?

This article tells me that I'm not alone. http://www.rd.com/content/my-planet--repaying-the-dinner-party-debt-/. We subscribe to the Reader's Digest and I read this article. It struck a chord, rang a bell and did many other such things. Everybody keeps score and what goes around will come around. No one's getting away without clearing dinner debts.

10 comments:

Revathi said...

I used to keep accounts too. But then my sister gave me the best advice 2-3 years ago, If you do a favor for someone you like, you don't have to keep account because you like the person so much. On the other hand, if you help someone you don't like, please don't be stupid enough to expect from that person, it will only make you get frustrated and look petty in front of your loved ones.

I have tried to follow her advice, and it has really helped. I don't cook for anyone in the name of 'hospitality / formality' anymore. In fact, I don't even entertain uninvited guests anymore. It has definitely earned me the title 'Revathi is not the same person anymore since she did her MBA'....Oh please, everyone is allowed to grow smarter and wiser.

Goutham said...

I have found myself in quite an opposite situation. Sometimes I get invited to dinners/lunch which I am reluctant to go because of being busy or because I want to do something else or just because I don't like to go to that party. Still I make it just because I don't wish to offend the other person. Do I still have to repay in full even though the free food is thrust at me? On that note I must add that I am an enthusiastic cook myself. Just that I cannot match the enthusiasm levels of a certain few in these aspects.

Revathi said...

I guess, in Goutham's case, if people who you are friends with feed you, then like I had mentioned, you don't have to keep accounts.
I don't want to come off as this silly person.

Soul said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Soul said...

Sorry...Posting a totally unrelated comment to your topic....
Tell me how is Gurgaon ? I will be moving to Gurgaon within a month..

How do u feel the place is ???

" theriyathu athukku thaan kekkiren "

Sig said...

You are not wrong to keep score Raaga... First of all, you were being extra nice by letting this uninvited guest into your home every weekend... That is one thing that annoys me the most, someone thinking it is okay to just walk in and ruin a perfectly happy lazy day...
As far as dinner parties and entertaining at home are concerned, it is absolutely okay to keep score... if someone keeps on freeloading on us, after a few months that person is off our guestlist for sure... I have seen a lot of our friends doing this as well. Yeah, it is true that some people love to entertain more than others, so it doesn't have to be an eye for an eye all the time, but the other party must make an effort once in a while.

Raaga said...

I agree Sig, it isn't an eye for an eye and I don't expect it to be so, but it is unfortunate!!

Arundati Rao said...

i got here after your mention that you have random thoughts too...gosh...i hate freeloaders....we had a couple...who would sponge off us - time, food and booze...and never ever reciprocated....even restuarant bills had to be paid in full by us....they're off our friends radar now....i hate people who walk in on a weekend and stick on like gum....and can it be that people cant actually see that you are sleepy / tired/bored of them?? i also have smarty pants who talk as if they know every wisdom of this world...like which rice / honey/ ghee to buy....if you know so much do it at your own home...and get off my back!! gosh...this post of yours is too close to a raw nerve.....

Sameer said...

:D I wonder how Sachin dealt with this friend.

Raaga said...

@Arundati: I agree... we now steer clear of such people. This same friend has been calling us as his wife is away for some time and we have been avoiding him like the plague.

@Sameer: Knowing Sachin, you shouldn't ask such a question :-)... he accommodates them, I send them away... so in all of this, I become the BAD person. But I'm OK with that!