Piss-Taking, Principle and Pettiness: A Jaffa Tale

“.עדיף להיות חכם מאשר צודק” (Adif liheyot chacham me’asher tzodek)

“It is better to be wise than to be right.”

This is a much-used Hebrew aphorism . . . and one whose message I have always seemed to excel in missing or defying (though I am no different to most of my compatriots in that).

A few evenings ago, I went to eat in Jaffa with a friend. I see this friend – who doesn’t read melchett mike, but who, just in case (and without wishing you to prejudge him), we will call “Piss Taker” – every few months on his visits to Tel Aviv, when we invariably go for a long wander with Stuey and Dexxy, followed by some grub.

And, whilst I tend not to eat heavily in the evenings, Piss Taker – who, after gorging on his 5-star hotel buffet breakfast, is forced to spend the afternoon fasting – tucks in with abandon. In spite of that, when we last met, just before New Year, we split the cost of an expensive meal the large portion of which was on the congested journey through his alimentary canal.

On Monday evening, after sharing some mezzes – Piss Taker had, it seemed, left some food for other hotel guests that morning – I had a beer, while he ordered a couple of pricy glasses of wine and chocolate cake.

When Piss Taker (conveniently?) failed to notice the arrival of the bill, the voice of my late father rang in my ears: “Don’t be taken advantage of again!” (“Don’t sweat the small stuff” might have been better life advice, but it is rather late for that now – I share my dad’s determination never to be the freier, or fall guy.)

Unwittingly, though, Piss Taker had handed me the initiative. I picked up the saucer, and inspected the crisp piece of paper resting on it. The bill was for 190 shekels, of which a quick calculation showed my share to be less than 60.

“Here’s 70,” I stated with feigned assertiveness, returning the saucer with one 50 and one 20 shekel note, presenting Piss Taker with a fait accompli. “And it includes tip.”

“I would have just split it,” Piss Taker, clearly peeved, responded.

“And that’s the problem,” I only thought to myself, not wishing to inflame matters further.

“I would have just gone halves,” repeated Piss Taker, waiting for a reaction. Again (and rarely for me), I gave none.

It was not the money that mattered here (if you will excuse the cliché), but the principle. It was Piss Taker’s presumption that had got my back up. And it was not the first time.

Needless to say, the walk back to Tel Aviv was somewhat uncomfortable. Whilst not feeling that my actions had been unreasonable, I was experiencing familiar – and familial – Polish guilt. I considered explaining myself to Piss Taker, but decided that verbalisation would only make me feel more petty than I already did.

The following morning, I phoned a friend, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire-style, to get his take on events . . . though, ultimately, for him to reassure me that my stance had been thoroughly justified. Instead, whilst agreeing that Piss Taker was deserving of the epithet, he opined that it had not been worth taking a stand.

And I knew, of course, that he was right. But sticking to stupid principles is a bloody hard habit to ditch.

“Phone a Friend” then shared with me the tactics that he employs to counter Piss Takers: he refrains from eating all day, and then matches them dish for dish and drink for drink.

But isn’t such a ploy – stuffing one’s face to spite one’s stomach – as ridiculous as my behaviour may be considered petty?

Anyway, if you are reading, Larry David, here’s some material for a new episode of Curb . . .


8 responses to “Piss-Taking, Principle and Pettiness: A Jaffa Tale

  1. Now, I’m back in Israel, fancy a coffee (or four)?

  2. dizengoff dave

    nice one melchett!

    i am a fellow new ignorant from the uk.

    i like that you are not scared to expose yourself or tackle thorny sensitive issues… and bills are certainly one of them!

    perhaps you could write a blog about “bill-paying and the israeli woman”… that should occupy about 4 lines!

    happy purim.

    dizengoff dave

  3. Don’t start me off on that one, Dave . . .

    Whilst always paying on dates, it is still nice when a woman offers or, at the very least, says “Thank you.” Many Israeli women do neither.

    There is even the ever so subtle ploy of her getting into your car, waiting till you have driven for a few minutes, and then exclaiming “Oh no, I left my purse at home!”

    Having said all that, Russian women are even worse . . . though, at least with them, you often get something extremely memorable in return . . . or so I hear. 😉

  4. Mike, next time out with your “friend” (assuming there IS a next time after this blog-post), I recommend a round of good old, cold-war style “brinkmanship”. When he orders his expensive dish, you go ahead and order an even more expensive dish and keep ratchetting up the bill with fine wine , expensive dessert, and a whopping 25% tip. We’ll see who’s “the man” after that one….

  5. Aharon Factor


    I say good for you! Why should you pay for food that you didn’t order? As a suggestion, to avoid the embarassing silence after the meal, why not set the ground rules before you enter the restaurant or before the menu arrives. That way there are no unpleasant surprises for either side later on, when the bill arrives. This is recommended when dining with friends but not for first dates (or perhaps for dating).

  6. Mark Goldman

    We’re often out on a Saturday night with friends, couples etc, and always split the bill. Seems tedious to start adding up every salad, drink, who had dessert etc. I think that’s a benefit of friendship. You either get to treat a friend, or get treated.

    re: Dates. It’s been a while for me, but (gay) friends tell me, that the person who initiates the date will typically pick up the check . If there are follow up dates, they’ll alternate who pays. If one is in a better position to pay, they he’ll get the expensive meals, while his date will pick up lunch or something.

  7. Piss Taker’s motto is rather “You either get to shaft a friend, or get treated”!

    Anyway, Mark, everyone knows that gays are nicer. 😉

  8. Hello!

    I have stopped by so often to read, and am ever amazed at what interesting things that go on in your life. This one rang to me because I had just come back to work from lunch….and here in Colorado, it’s either talked about before we eat, and decide how to pay, or we pay for our own. So what your friend Piss Taker is doing is taking advantage AND trying to guilt you into going halves. Damn, stick to those priciples! Cause here in the west, we’d call what he does a load of horse sh*t.
    Truely, you were not being petty, and phoneing a friend, I thought was briliant. And yet, what will you do next time? I’d be onery enough to buy a 50cent cup of coffee and ask the waitress to only fill it half full, and plunk my quarter down when the check arrived… 🙂

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