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Repost: The $90 cup of water

True story: I paid $90 USD for a cup of water. This is the explanation, and if you were there, please forgive any lapses of memory, okay?

The setting: TSSJS 2006. It was my first TSSJS, the first one where I was not only present but the organizer. I didn’t go on stage, because I’m an introvert and I don’t like to be noticed much. (Later Symposiums had me on stage, because I felt that it was more important to serve the show than my own reclusiveness.)

My supervisor, Mike W., had made sure we knew we were a for-profit conference, by telling us to make sure we stayed within reason for expenses: $30 per diem was a good target.

One of the conference speakers was getting married while in Vegas on TSS’ dime (good show, mate!), and he and a bunch of other people decided to go hit a nice steakhouse as a sort of pre-wedding meal for him. The attendees were names you’d recognize either as big-time open-source contributors or bloggers from places like Atlassian, Google, IBM, Wal-Mart, and others.

So we’re at this great steakhouse, and the prices reflect the “greatness” of it: anywhere from cheap beef at $60 or so to some… truly stunning hoofage. I’m an ordinary guy, so I picked a decent sirloin, at $71. This is important.

The waiter was going around picking up orders, and asked the bride what kind of wine to serve; I wasn’t paying attention, but what I was told was that she didn’t know what to ask or look for, so she said, “Bring us whatever is good.”

This was a mistake.

Now, here’s the thing: at the time, I was on some medication that carried, uh, strong warnings to avoid alcohol of any sort. I’m not a teetotaller, strictly speaking, but right then I was; the interaction warnings were pretty strong.

But the waiter didn’t ask me what I wanted to drink; he just assumed the wine would suffice… because it was a huge bottle of wine. I thought it was a magnum, except a magnum is only equivalent to two bottles; this thing looked like it was four gallons or something.

I, however, had none. No interest in flowers growing from my ears or anything like that, plus I don’t have a really discriminatory palate; I don’t really appreciate wine properly. So I figured maybe the waiter would come back and I’d be able to order a Coke or something.

munch, munch, graze

After the meal comes the ticket. Except… what a ticket! That bottle of wine was eight hundred and ninety-five dollars. Spread out among each of the attendees, it worked out to $90 per person.

But I didn’t have any — and being the host of the conference in question, I felt like I really shouldn’t decline to pay for my part of the dinner. Etiquette, you know. So it worked out to $71 for my steak and… $90 for my libation, which might have been wine, but was instead my initial cup of water, which was never refilled.

Explaining it to Mike the next day was great: “Remember how you said no more than $30 per diem?…”

Author’s Note: This is yet another ancient repost.

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