*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events I experienced firsthand; used with permission.
My coworkers and I went to dinner after work one night. One of my dinner companions was a close friend, in addition to being a coworker. One of my other dinner companions was a young man I didn't particularly like, but he was dating my close friend besides being a coworker.
There were perhaps eight of us in the group. The restaurant pushed two tables together to accommodate our party. They assigned only one server to our table, meaning she had to work twice as hard to serve such a large party.
The server did an admirable job, but my young dinner companion made things difficult for her. He constantly interrupted her while she was taking our orders, asked for things that weren't on the menu, and made a general nuisance of himself.
My close friend and I tried to talk to him about his behavior, but he ignored our pleas. I felt embarrassed for my friend, knowing how much she liked him. They were in the early stages of dating; most of the others at the table didn't even know about their budding relationship yet.
I was relieved when the meal was over and we could all go our separate ways. As we said our goodbyes, my close friend told me she appreciated my patience with her new boyfriend. I forced a smile and told her I understood. But I didn't understand. I couldn't imagine why she would want to date someone like him.
Things only got worse when the bill came. Although I was the only one at the table who hadn't ordered alcoholic beverages, I agreed to pay an equal portion of the bill. After putting down enough cash to cover my assigned share, I left a generous cash tip
I watched as my friend's new beau reached down and picked up the tip I'd just left on the table, added it to the cash in his hand, and then counted out the exact amount to cover his share of the bill, minus a tip.
Now, the server was short the amount of my tip, and short the amount of a tip this other person should have left on the table. I wanted to say something, but I was shaking inside and couldn't speak.
My friend's eyes widened. "You just took Tracey's tip off the table," she said, looking from him to me.
He looked startled, but he didn't respond.
"Oh, that's okay," I said. It was the wrong answer. It wasn't okay. Not only had I paid for part of his dinner with my generous tip, but I had also inadvertently agreed that we would stiff the server on her tip. It was inexcusable, but I panicked.
I wish I had scolded the man who took the tip I'd intended for the server. It's been years, and I still regret pretending it was okay.
What would you have done? Comments are welcome.