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Insult can bring understanding


Once again an insult brought me self-understanding, the most important achievement of a human being.


I had handed my iPhone with the cable to him to be charged. The little mousy-looking individual in the dark grey and blue sweater took it. I was somewhat puzzled and his obvious excitement at being asked to do me this service. Why should an opportunity to charge someone’s telephone engender such enthusiasm? I had no idea.


It looked suspicious, but I wasn’t going to be bothered with this puzzle. I was too excited to be taking my place at the table on the outdoor balcony of Pizza Place, chosen by my son and his two little girls for our evening family gathering in Tel Aviv. Ezer, my brother-in-law from Canada was there and we were a happy party. The pizza filled my stomach and went down well with a glass of dry red wine. The girls were thrilled with the gifts of books that their great uncle had brought them and we were all full of admiration.


He’s a great one for turning every minor incident into an exciting story and we listened to his description of the bookshop in Jaffa where he’d made the purchases. He held up the bags that held the books. They were made of recycled cloth and were very artistic.


Rising to make our way back to the car, to say our farewells, Etti stopped and remembered the telephone the waiter had taken to be chargers. She’d almost forgotten and that would have been the end of a valuable telephone.


I returned to the restaurant and a blond young waitress went into a room at the back, closed the door, and a moment, longer than I had expected, passed until she returned with the phone.”What about the cable?” I asked. She returned, closed the door again, and after a much longer moment than before, returned saying there was no cable. Some feeling of having truth shattered caused a nerve to snap. I can’t remember what exactly I shouted, but it must have been loud because Etti came in to calm me down. The diners were looking at me in shock. They must have been surprised to see an elderly calm looking man screaming like a stuck pig.


I then considered the matter more calmly and was ready to relent and give up the confounded cable, when the mousey-looking waiter came to insist that no cable was given to him with the telephone. This time I kept quiet, but he was soon into the room with the waitress and like a flash returned with two cables and offered my choice. I pointed to the shorter one, which looked like mine.


Ettie stepped out and I was following her, cable in hand, but as I passed the mouse, serving, he turned and said something which only when I was outside, I realized what it was: “you should be ashamed of yourself”. Clearly, he was suggesting that I put up the ruckus in order to obtain something that I was not entitled to. Resisting the temptation to return and wring his neck was no easy matter. I carried on walking away with the family. Each moment that away from the place of my anger brought greater calm, confidence, and happiness.


Resisting the desire to act impulsively pays dividends in the form of self-understanding, that I would never have earned had that fellow not insulted me. Not reacting to being insulted turns the insult from a disaster to a benefit.


This also brought benefits to me in the form of gaining an understanding of the waiter. The reason for his forgetfulness could be one of many; either he was a thief and desired the attachment and probably the phone, which he was sure we’d forget, or he was under the influence of drugs. Whichever way one looks at it the poor fellow has a problem he was desperately trying to hide and my impetuous behaviour followed by calm, revealed all to him and to those with whom he works.

His comment to me as I was walking out of the restaurant was a clever ruse to pass onto me any guilt people thought he possessed.


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