“Yeh, now all you have to do is hold the chicken, bring me the toast, give me a check for the chicken-salad sandwich, and you haven’t broken any rules.”
There’s nothing more aggravating than a waiter who is saddled with the twin deficits of a bad attitude and a bureaucratic mind-set. A memorable scene from the movie Five Easy Pieces, starring Jack Nicholson, highlighted these unpleasant characteristics in a hilarious way that I think everyone in the audience could relate to.
Nicholson, playing the character Robert Dupea, is sitting in a diner when a bored, scowling waitress saunters up to his booth and asks him what he would like to order. He requests, among other things, a side order of wheat toast, to which the waitress snaps, “I’m sorry, we don’t have any side orders of toast.”
Irritated, Nicholson dryly replies, “What do you mean, you don’t make side orders of toast? You make sandwiches, don’t you? … Okay, I’ll make it as easy for you as I can. I’d like an omelet — plain — and a chicken salad sandwich on wheat toast. No mayonnaise, no butter, no lettuce — and a cup of coffee.”
Increasing the intensity of her scowl, the waitress repeats the order, then asks, “Anything else?”
To which Nicholson responds, “Yeh, now all you have to do is hold the chicken, bring me the toast, give me a check for the chicken salad sandwich, and you haven’t broken any rules.”
Do you love it, or what? I don’t know which one I dislike most, a bad attitude or an employee who refuses to bend some silly little rule for the sake of satisfying a customer.
However, even though Jack Nicholson’s diatribe is a film classic, my experience with such people has convinced me that it’s a bad idea to be confrontational when dealing with them — especially in the case of waiters. The thought of what the waiter or cook might put in my food to exact retribution for my insubordination (which anyone who has worked in a restaurant will tell you is something that does occur) is enough to steer me away from confrontations.
Since you can never totally remove nasty or inflexible people from your life, the art of humoring is an essential tool for handling them. I normally don’t like to humor people, but in some cases it’s a matter of self-defense. The only other solution I know of when, for example, I enter a restaurant, is to carry a concealed weapon, but is it really worth life in prison just to rid the world of one nasty waitress?
Probably safer to stick with Jack Nicholson’s artful approach.
Here’s a young Jack Nicholson giving a preview of his future greatness: