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Art Buchwald

A Diabolical Master of the Doggy Bag Scam

September 14, 2000|Art Buchwald

Art Buchwald is reprinting some of his favorite columns.

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I was having dinner in a Washington restaurant with Belberg. He had a large piece of steak on his plate, and he called the waiter over to our table. "Would you put this in a doggy bag for me, please?" he said.

"Yes, sir."

When the waiter disappeared, I whispered to Belberg, "You do that every time we go out to eat."

"Do what?"

"Ask them to put your leftovers in a doggy bag. There's nothing wrong with this, except that you haven't got a dog."

"They don't know that," Belberg said.

"It's not the point. By asking for a doggy bag, you're living a lie."

"I'm doing it because the restaurant help are much nicer to you if they think you're a dog owner. I suspect that most of them have dogs. Besides, when I ask for a bag it makes them feel that the food is not going to waste."

"I don't know if I should trust someone who gets food wrapped for a dog he doesn't even own."

"Who's getting hurt?" Belberg wanted to know. "Look, the restaurant is happy to get rid of the food, everyone thinks that I'm a real good guy, and when I leave I'm carrying a package that a French poodle would kill for."

"What do you do with the food?"

"I usually dump it in the trash can next to my apartment house."

"Why don't you give it to a dog?" I shouted at him.

"I don't want any canines in my building to become dependent on me. As a matter of fact, that's why I don't own a dog. They're always expecting you to bring home the leftovers when you go to a restaurant."

"I'm glad there are not many people like you who are chiseling dog scraps from the management."

"What difference does it make what I do with my leftovers? I'm paying for them."

"What happens if an employee asks you your dog's name?"

"I tell them it's Czar Nicholas, and his breed originated in Rasputin's monastery."

"Well, at least you give them a good story."

"For a guy who never had a dog, I'm the best. Sometimes after I finish a story the waiter goes back into the kitchen and throws in a couple of bones."

"This doesn't shame you?"

"Not really. Look, I didn't start life lying about being a dog owner. It came to me one night at a restaurant when everyone else at the table asked for a doggy bag. The waiter assumed that I wanted one as well and handed me a silver-foil swan. When I thanked him and told him Czar Nicholas would go crazy, he took the leftovers from the next table and handed me them, too."

I said, "I want you to know that I think you're weird."

The waiter returned with the bag and a big smile on his face. Belberg handed him a dollar and said, "You're sending joy to a dog who has been doing nothing but guarding sheep for 24 hours."

The waiter was so impressed that he validated Belberg's parking ticket three times.

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