Wednesday, June 11, 2014


Aung put a small chocolate cake in the middle of the table while the men were digging into their baked bananas and drinking their liquor and coffee to go with it. The cake had a single candle at its centre which Aung lit with a lighter before leaving the men alone with their deserts. But as soon as they had all finished their treats she returned, asking them if they would like to sing the birthday song for Thomas.

"Of course we do," Frank replied on behalf of them all, and immediately started waving his hands in the air as if to direct a choir. The men started singing, and the other guests in the room also turned their attention to Thomas, some of them joining into the short little song. And as soon as the song was over Thomas leant over towards the cake to blow out the candle.

Everybody applauded as the candle was extinguished, and Thomas got the task of cutting the cake into five equal pieces. An endeavour he managed to the satisfaction of his colleagues. They all got a piece of chocolate cake dished out on clean plates provided by Aung, who swiftly collected their used desert dishes, stacking them expertly up in her hand before disappearing back into the kitchen.

A little later, when the chocolate cake was consumed and the men all sat leaning back in their chairs, finishing their coffee, Aung reappeared, this time with the bill and five mint chocolates.

"Anyone want more coffee to go with that?" she asked as she put the tray with the bill and the mint chocolates on the table.

Frank, Thomas and Ante all accepted her offer with thanks, and while Aung went back to the kitchen with their plates, Ante grabbed the bill to see what it had all added up to.

"Almost exactly one thousand five hundred MG," Ante announced. "That's three hundred from each of us."
"That's all?" Espen asked, genuinely surprised.
"That's all!" Ante confirmed. "You are not being ripped off for a change, huh?"
"No, I guess not... But that casino lady... I don't know..."
"You know?" Frank said, leaning towards Espen as if sharing a secret. "Why don't you stop that whining? I mean... Things are dirt cheap down here... And nobody is forcing you to go here."
"It's not like this is your first time to Lundby either," Ante added. "So why are you so surprised? The tokens were a bit more expensive than you expected, but things are as cheap as ever."
"Okay, okay!" Espen protested. "I'm happy about this... I am!"

"So who has exactly three hundred in change?" Ante continued, focusing again on the bill. "My smallest token is five hundred."
"I got three hundred," Bjorn answered, tossing a two hundred and a one hundred MG token into the little dish where the bill and chocolate mints had been.
"Me too," Thomas added, tossing three one hundred tokens into the tray.

The three other men each put a five hundred MG token in the tray, removing two hundred of the change left there by Thomas and Bjorn, and pretty soon the dish contained exactly three five hundred MG tokens.

"It's a fortune for many people living here in Lundby," Bjorn commented to his colleagues just before Aung once again appeared by the table.

"You can keep the change," Ante told Aung generously as she picked up the tokens.
"Thank you," she replied with a smile. Then she pulled out a small handheld device, the size of a credit card, checking each token before dropping them into a pouch in her apron.

"Just checking for counterfeits," she explained, sensing the curiosity of the men at the table. "I haven't actually ever come across any counterfeits, but with this kind of money it is always good to know for sure."

Aung put the device back in the pocket of her apron, and thanked the men again for their generosity before going over to a neighbouring table.

"What sort of tip are we giving her?" Bjorn asked as Aung headed for the kitchen again.
"Twenty MG," Ante answered shamefully.
"But that's nothing!"
"To you maybe," Espen answered on Ante's behalf.
"Come on!" Bjorn replied, finding a twenty MG token among his remaining change and putting it on the table. "Anyone else have some spare change to give the girl for her excellent service?"

Thomas and Espen each had a ten MG token of spare change, but apart from that they were simply all out of small tokens, so there was noting they could do, short of asking Aung to break a bigger token just to get some smaller change. And finding that just as awkward as leaving a relatively small tip on the table, they ended up leaving the restaurant with just a modest sixty MG in total tip for the young woman who had taken such good care of them.

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