Dine and Dash: The Final Frontier Before Adulting


Dine and Dash: The Final Frontier Before Adulting

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

When I proposed to write a piece on “Dine and Dash”, I was met with a line of questioning faces at the edit meet. When I explained that it was a term coined by our miscreant ancestors to define an act of enjoying a meal at a restaurant, and leaving without paying, recognition dawned and hands on the table went up sheepishly.  

The first time I had ever heard of “dine and dash” was in an episode of That 70’s Show, wherein Michael Kelso, the dumb, pretty boy of the group, informs his friends about having been gifted $30, and suggests that they go out someplace nice, to get a meal. Kelso, however, does not tell his friends that he had no intentions of paying for the meal, but simply turning them into an accessory for the perfect dine and dash.

The idea seemed incredulous and dangerous, yet everyone I know claimed to have tried it once. Just like everyone had tried other miscreant-like behaviour like gatecrashing, shoplifting, kissing your best friend on a dare… okay, maybe that one’s just me. But these wholly needless but adrenaline-boosting stunts that come with the profound rush of doing something wrong are a rite of passage before you get your act straightened out and begin adulting.  According to my friends, though, there is nothing else that comes close to a fine dine and dash. It leaves you with an adrenaline rush to last a half marathon, and a story worth telling unless you get caught, in which case, it still is, a great fucking story.

So as my friends prepped me for my first dine and dash, tips came abound. You had to choose your dine and dash target carefully. Too posh and you’d be caught on camera, too small and you’d be caught in person. If it’s a restaurant, it would have too many idle wait staff, and if it was a bar, they’d take your cash upfront. Local restaurants and small burgers joints were places one could successfully D&D, but there you don’t come across as badass at all. In fact, you come across as some sort of a douchebag. The other thing worse than being a douchebag is being dead, so no dine and dashing is ever to be done in a dive bar. Dive bars are usually visited by local gang members so you run the risk of getting shot, or being beaten up black and blue. Some may say free food is worth that but I like to play it (a little) safe.  

It had given us material to keep the story mill churning, the beer flowing, and the chatter alive. Because isn’t that why we pull all the stunts in our youth?

With all these stipulations in place, I zeroed in on a rundown pub for my first D&D adventure. It checked all the boxes and my friends and I had taken seat right near the exit. As we ate and drank and worked up a bill that was worthy of the heist, we decided to go for the old “slinkout” rather than the “vanishing act”. In the former, each member leaves one by one, and in the vanishing act, everyone disapparates together, leaving only dirty plates and cigarette butts on the table.  

My friends ordered rum and coke, and left in five-minute intervals leaving me a sitting duck. It was my cherry that was being popped, so it was only right that I would usher in the finale. I sat there with my heart pounding and my face red. A few moments later, I stood up resolutely and made my way to the exit. I could see the the waiter walking toward me with a rum and coke. So I feinted to the right and dashed for the exit, bumping into another waiter on my way. It was the worst D&D executed in the history of D&Ds.

We ended up getting a hot earful from the manager and emptying everything we owned onto the table. Plus we were barred from ever entering the premises again. The “being barred” part gave us serious street cred though.

It was a story that went on to fuel many drinking sessions over the years. Variations of it have me peeing my pants and all of us running face first into the waiter, or spending the night washing dishes. Our misadventure soon got added to the Hall of Fails. It seemed to have served its life purpose. It had given us material to keep the story mill churning, the beer flowing, and the chatter alive. Because isn’t that why we pull all the stunts in our youth? So that when we’re old and grey (everything above 25 falls here), we will need them to remember how once we were young and wild. And then we’ll go back to our knitting.