To tip or not to tip? That is the question. And that is a subject that has occupied my thoughts inordinately for the last few days as the result of something that I witnessed with my own eyes.

Until recently OH and I regarded one of the restaurants in the nearby Arab village as a ‘home away from home,’ as it were. On returning from a trip abroad it was the easiest place to go to for a meal before we descended once more into the routine of shopping and cooking. If there was an occasion to celebrate, we would use the opportunity to eat there. The food was on the whole good, if uninspiring, and the service was generally efficient and friendly. We could pick up the phone and order a table for two, four or more, with the greatest of ease, and we were always greeted cordially upon arrival.

Last Saturday we repaired there for lunch after attending a concert in the nearby church. We were ushered to the table for six we had reserved and were ready to help our four grandchildren (and ourselves) order the main course, as meanwhile the table was bedecked with numerous small plates containing salads of various kinds, as is customary in this kind of restaurant.

It was a sunny day and the restaurant was full with diners—mainly families—enjoying the opportunity to eat out. We felt very much at ease. When the waiter came to take our orders he duly noted the various requests on a pad, and our wait began. That’s probably why they’re called ‘waiters.’ They make you wait.

After a very long wait, two servings arrived, and the recipients began to eat, expecting the rest of the party to receive their plates forthwith. This did not happen, however, and it took quite a while before another two portions were brought out. One more portion arrived, but one poor granddaughter was left without food while the rest of us tucked in. When the waiter did finally bring her order, most of the rest of us had already finished eating.

I know that it was a busy time and this is a family-oriented restaurant in an Arab village and not a repository of haute cuisine and the customs of fancy restaurants in town. Nonetheless, it has been customary even in family restaurants to serve all the people sitting at a table at more or less the same time. In fact, I even saw this happening at other tables in the restaurant while we were sitting there.

At this point OH told me that he was not going to give the waiter a tip. I did not take him seriously, so did not protest. However, when he settled the bill OH told the manager he had not been happy with the service, and strode out of the restaurant without another word/ The four grandchildren and I trailed out after him, but as I left ‘our’ waiter tapped me on the shoulder and said: “He’s forgotten me. He didn’t leave me a tip.”

Mortified, I tried to find some money in my purse, at which point one of the other waiters said: “Never mind. Next time.” To my regrest, I put my purse away and left the restaurant. But the incident has haunted me ever since.

One thing is sure: I feel too uncomfortable to go to that restaurant in the near future.