“.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 . . .