Friday, September 19th, 2014
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1970 / Northern California

Hold the Chicken


[Bobby, Terry, Rayette, and Palm are seated at a booth in a roadside diner. The women have given their orders and a waitress stands above Bobby, waiting for his.]

Bobby: [looking at his menu] I’d like a plain omelette. No potatoes, tomatoes instead, a cup of coffee, and wheat toast.

[The waitress indicates something on the menu with the butt of her pencil.]

Waitress: No substitutions.

Bobby: What do you mean, you don’t have any tomatoes?

Waitress: [annoyed] Only what’s on the menu… [again, indicating with her pencil] You can have a number two, a plain omelette. It comes with cottage fries and rolls.

Bobby: Yeah I know what it comes with, but it’s not what I want.

Waitress: Well I’ll come back when you make up your mind…

[She starts to move away and Bobby detains her.]

Bobby: Wait a minute. I have made up my mind. I’d like a plain omelette, no potatoes on the plate, a cup of coffee and a side order of wheat toast.

Waitress: I’m sorry, we don’t have any side orders of toast. I can give you an English muffin or a coffee roll.

Bobby: What do you mean, you don’t make side orders of toast? You make sandwiches, don’t you?

Waitress: Would you like to talk to the manager?

Palm: Hey, mack!

Bobby: [to Palm] Shut up. [to the waitress] You’ve got bread, and a toaster of some kind?

Waitress: I don’t make the rules.

Bobby: Okay, I’ll make it as easy for you as I can. I’d like an omelette, plain, and a chicken-salad sandwich on wheat toast—no mayonnaise, no butter, no lettuce—and a cup of coffee.

[She begins writing down his order, repeating it sarcastically.]

Waitress: A number two, chicken sal san—hold the butter, the lettuce, the mayonnaise—and a cup of coffee…anything else?

Bobby: Yeah, now all you have to do is hold the chicken, bring me the toast, gimme the check for the chicken-salad sandwich, and you haven’t broken any rules.

Waitress: [challenging him] You want me to hold the chicken, huh?

Bobby: I want you to hold it between your knees.

[The other three laugh, and the waitress points to a RIGHT TO REFUSE sign above the counter.]

Waitress: You see that sign, sir?

[Bobby glances over at it, then back to her.]

Waitress: Yes, you all have to leave, I’m not taking any more of your smartness and your sarcasm!

[He smiles politely at her.]

Bobby: You see this sign?

[He reaches his arm out and “clears” the table for her.]

©© 1970, renewed 1998 by Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. Used with permission of Columbia Pictures. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

Carole Eastman and Bob Rafelson, from Five Easy Pieces. Jack Nicholson played Bobby; Karen Black played Rayette; Lorna Thayer played the waitress. While driving with his girlfriend Rayette to his upper-class family home in Puget Sound, Bobby picks up a pair of hitchhiking lesbians, and they all stop at this roadside diner. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor (Nicholson), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Black), Best Picture, and Best Writing.

American table manners are, if anything, a more advanced form of civilized behavior than the Europeans, because they are more complicated and further removed from the practical result, always a sign of refinement.
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