Abbie Hoffman, a political and social activist, was a counter-culture hero who wrote a literary gem during my hippie days, entitled, Steal This Book. My best buddy Marco picked up a copy and learned several of its techniques for ripping off the establishment to garner freebees in return, for which he recruited my services to aid him in one of his nefarious adventures.
Early in the book, various scams described how to get free food, like going into a self-service cafeteria and finish the meal of someone who left a large quantity of food on their plates. Use of slugs in automats was another suggestion.
At “fancy sit-down restaurants,” grab a table with dishes remaining from the previous patron, and scoff up the leftovers real fast. When the waitress comes by with a menu, say you have to go outside for something and split.
As another swindle documented: after ordering a large, expensive meal and eating half of it, take a dead cockroach or piece of glass stashed away in a pocket and place it on the plate mixed in with the chow.
Make a scene by loudly calling for a manager and act insulted and humiliated, saying something like, “I could have been poisoned.” Refuse to pay for the meal and leave. Many times the establishment will attempt to talk you into accepting a new meal on the house for the inconvenience incurred.
Marco, nor I for that matter, weren’t very good actors and strayed away from the scene-making endeavors. One of the book’s “free-loading tricks” seemed more appealing to us, which entailed that we enter a diner at separate intervals and sit next to each other at the counter, acting like strangers.
The first individual should have ordered a hefty meal and had it served before the second hooligan enters and sits next to the first, whereby the latter then orders a cup of coffee and a Danish, timing each other’s consumption so that the waitress will have placed the respective checks on the counter when both scoundrels were almost finished and telling her that will be all.
The one who had the large meal is to take the check of the one who had the smaller, bring it to the cashier and pay the lesser amount before leaving the premises. When the remaining accomplice gets ready to leave, he’ll call over the waitress to tell her there must have been some mistake with the check, stating he only should be charged for coffee and Danish, not for steak and lobster with a piece of chocolate-mousse pie.
Thinking we could pull it off, I played the part of the coffee-and-Danish guy, while Marco went in first to order his extravagant dinner. Watching from the car in the parking lot, I saw when his meal was served, waited about five or ten minutes before going in, and sat next to him before ordering.
Out timing was perfect. Both checks sat on the counter. Marco pick up one of them and proceeded to the register after leaving a decent tip. One of the instructions in Hoffman’s book was to never stiff the waitstaff.
In the corner of my eye, I caught Marco doing an about-face and heading to the men’s room. After several minutes of his not exiting the loo, I became a little concerned and picked up my check to end this charade.
My charges were for a coffee and Danish. Marco had picked up his own check inadvertently. Before paying, I went into the restroom to check on him, and no one was in there. He had pulled a disappearing act evidently by exiting out the window, for which I found him outside waiting for me.
I declined switching roles to get my part of the deal, never wanting to partake in another one of Hoffman’s schemes. So much for my life of crime. As my dad once said, “All I have to do is spit on the wrong side of the street, and I’d get caught.”
Happy Father’s Day, Pop, wherever on the other side you may be. I miss you!