Sunday, August 06, 2006

Hold the chicken salad

Addendum: I cannot possibly do the job that other bloggers are doing in their amazing reporting of the war. So, perhaps, if I can add a laugh or two to someone's day, in the midst of the horror...maybe that's not such a bad thing.
A scene from the movie "Five Easy Pieces" with Jack Nicholson as Dupea:

Dupea: I'd like a plain omelette, no potatoes, tomatoes instead, a cup of coffee, and wheat toast.
Waitress: No substitutions.
Dupea: What do you mean? You don't have any tomatoes?
Waitress: Only what's on the menu. You can have a number two - a plain omelette. It comes with cottage fries and rolls.
Dupea: 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.
Dupea: 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 English muffin or a coffee roll.
Dupea: 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?
Dupea: ...You've got bread and a toaster of some kind?
Waitress: I don't make the rules.
Dupea: OK, 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.
Waitress: A number two, chicken sal san, hold the butter, the lettuce and the mayonnaise. And a cup of coffee. Anything else?
Dupea: Yeah. 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.
Waitress: You want me to hold the chicken, huh?
Dupea: I want you to hold it between your knees.
Waitress: Do you see that sign, sir? Yes, you'll all have to leave. I'm not taking any more of your smartness and sarcasm.
Dupea: You see this sign? [He sweeps all the water glasses and menus off the table]
This is, perhaps, one of the most memorable cinematic scenes in movie history. Partly because of the great dialogue, but mostly because of Jack Nicholson's delivery. Anyone old enough to have witnessed that scene...has it etched in their mind.

Is it just me, or does restaurant service seem to be deteriorating? Perhaps this is just a Los Angeles phenomenon.

I'm not a particularly picky person. Just because I rival Meg Ryan in When "Harry Met Sally" when it comes to ordering on the side, doesn't mean I'm picky...just means I know what I like and I'm not afraid to ask for it.

I remember having my own little "Five Easy Pieces" scene in a restaurant many years ago. I was with a group of friends in a coffee shop, late one night, to get some dessert. One of the men ordered a hot fudge sundae, with the fudge on the the side.

The waitress informed him that the only way she could bring a hot fudge sundae was with the fudge on the sundae.

He again repeated that he wanted the fudge on the side. She again repeated that she could only bring it on the sundae.

This went back and forth several times, until someone screamed out: "Does the fudge already come on the sundae, or does it come in a bottle on the side, and if so, why not just put the fudge in a bowl on the side, rather than on the sundae?"

She offered to bring over a manager. The manager came over and informed us that...Yep, you guessed it...the fudge could only come on the sundae.

We were all quite sure that we had just fallen into the movie Five Easy Pieces... except this was no movie...this was REAL!!!

A few weeks ago, while dining in a Los Angeles restaurant with two friends, one of them ordered chicken parmigiana. When our order arrived, the waiter sat down a plate of something entirely different in front of this friend. When she inquired, the waiter told her that they were no longer serving the dish she ordered, and just brought out something else he thought she might like.

HUH? don't inform the customer that the dish she ordered is gone, and give her another choice? Another in our party found saran wrap in his food, another's was cold, and the waiter never came back to see if we wanted anything else.

Another restaurant I frequent, brought out half a salad rather than the whole one (okay, so maybe this was the restaurants subtle hint to me to lose a couple pounds off my J.Lo derriere) that I ordered. I really didn't want to be charged for a whole one without reaping the benefits of stuffing myself with a full salad.

Well, that's two restaurants off my list.

Now, when dining at my favorite restaurant, In and Out Burger, I don't expect a romantic ambience. Therefore, little children screaming, is perhaps a bit annoying, but to be expected.

BUT, if I go to a fancier restaurant, ready to spend a bit more than the $3.00 for a full In and Out meal, I kind of expect a more subdued atmosphere.

But what seems to have erupted from this generation is complete entitlement. That means that little children rule the restaurant world. Apparently, it is no longer the obligation of parents to make sure their children behave in a manner appropriate to a "nice" restaurant.

Personally, I do not think it's the children's fault. First of all, why do parent's insist on taking small children to restaurants with white tablecloths and a chalkboard stating the specials of the evening?

When our children were young, we stuck to "family" restaurants, where if a kid acted up a bit, it wasn't unexpected. (When our kids began acting up, one of us would walk out of the restaurant with them until they calmed down, thereby not subjecting the other patrons to tantrums of my children...bad enough I had to hear it!).

And the owners of the restaurants are stuck between a rock and a hard place. If they ask the parent's to corral in their children...the parent's will most likely:

leave in huff and be sure to spread the word about this "unaccepting restaurant",
do absolutely nothing,
or allow the children to step up the behavior. (yes, I've seen this happen...the parent's actually urge their children to run around the table a little faster, and scream a little louder).

So while the rest of the patrons watch in sheer horror, these families take over the restaurant, and essentially win.

But, what do they win? Tell us Don Pardo...

These parents win children that are spoiled, obnoxious, and argumentative. They win children that won't understand why no ones wants to date them, and why bosses want to fire them.

Oh well.

Sounds like I'm picky? Well then, you try taking your well deserved time out on a Saturday night, spending your hard earned money, only to have small children running through the restaurant while screaming right next to you.

When I was a kid, going out to dinner was mainly reserved for special occasions. And we would go out to some pretty fancy restaurants. Otto's Pink Pig was reserved for anniversaries and special birthdays. What a nice Jewish family was doing at Ottos Pink Pig, is beyond me...but, hey, who was I to question a free meal.

We would dress in our best clothes, and knew to act polite and quiet. If not, I wouldn't be able to order a Shirley Temple. I knew my limits.

My only question today is this...

Do you think the lack of restaurant service I seem to be receiving these days has anything to do with the fact that whenever we went out for one of those fancy dinners, my brother and cousins, and I would sit (but very quietly, mind you) and make "concoctions" with our drinks?

You know...pouring all the salt, pepper, sugar, ketchup, mustard, and anything else we could find, into our drinks...and then asking one of our poor, unsuspecting parents to take a sip?



Claire said...

Hehehe, I remember concoctions.

Man, this post hit so many of my buttons...5 Easy Pieces...bad customer service...noisy kids.

Great work.


PS May I link to you from my blog, please?

Britmum said...

I really enjoyed reading your blog. You are funny. You should see if they have a clip of that movie on It sounds so funny.

Take care

Ezer K'negdo said...

I still love 'Shirley Temples' and I make them for my kids!

Nice post; thanks for the smile!

torontopearl said...

I was grinning through most of your post...
Reading about your restaurant ordeals reminds me of the word in "serve us."

"We are just asking you to SERVE US what we ordered, dammit! There should be no more questions at your end, is that understood, Mr./Ms. Waiter?" (AND A VARIATION OF THE SOUP NAZI'S MOTTO: "No tip for you!")

cheated are the clouds said...

Cruisin you made me laugh again. And it is not your imaination the servise has gone down hill in a record fashion. I've never been to LA, but ontario canada has the same problem. This generation only wants the paycheck and will be satisfied to start at the top of the company ladder within the organization, I should not have said this generation, There are some good workers which belong too this generation, nice post

Head over heel said...

Great post, put a grin on my face.

Same overhere - I am just sick paying $ 50.00 (swiss prices) per person for an so, so ok dinner and beeing severed by snoody waiters and in the end you almost have to say thank you that they served you.

The screaming kids in restaurant is not very common in Switzerland. If you take your kids (toddler) with you, the other guests look at you as you have the pest - even at McDonalds....what should I say kids are expected to be not seen or heard!!!

StepIma said...

That's all totally true -

I'm guessing once parents factor in the cost of a sitter, they'd just rather bring the kids along, and after all, it's bad for the kids' self esteem to tell them they're doing anything inappropriate. Ugh. And I'm guessing most of these kids don't have Emily-Post level manners at home, that they know they need to ratchet up their behavior in public.

The flip side also seems to be that people don't understand tipping, so waiters really don't feel they have to go out of their way, when they won't be appreciated... and that's partly a result of the tipping culture where everyone who works at Starbucks feels they should get a tip just for bringing your coffee to the counter.

Meanwhile, at kosher restaurants, if your waiter shows up with a kippah on his head -- forget it. Forgive the stereotype, but you already know he's not planning for a career in the food-service industry and anything you say can and will be forgotten or used against you... ;)

Mildred Garfield said...

Your post reminds me of a true story that I heard about hostesses.

If the hostess knew the waitress she would seat the couple with NO childred at her table. The couple with no kids would leave a bigger tip.

If the hostess saw the lady patron had on a large diamond she would seat her at her friends table. {figured the tip would be bigger.)

And if the couple came in with a few kids she would seat them with a waitress that was on her black list!

cruisin-mom said...

claire: thanks Claire! of course...please link :)

Britmum: welcome! glad you enjoyed.

e.k.: LOL...haven't had one in ages.

t.p.: I like tip for you! or 2 cents just to get the point across.

catc: I think there are plenty of hard workers in this generation, but many that do think they should just fly right to the top.

HOH: well, I don't think kids should be seen and not heard...just be quiet when I'm eating dinner :)

Stepima: good point about the tipping thing...that's a whole other post, when did tipping start for people who just hand you your coffee?

Millie: thanks for stopping by! Love the story :)

Mia said...

LOL, you are hilarious! I am maybe a bit complicated when it comes to order in a restaurant, but as you said, I just know what I want :D

This might also be a very Israeli thing. In Israel the waiters are waiting for you to make your special changes to the menu when you order and look surprised if you just order straight from the menu. The Swiss are a bit less understanding and the Hungarians just mess the whole order up totally....

I love your writing!

cruisin-mom said...

Mia: wow, you know your restaurant geography! Glad you enjoyed :)

Claire said...

Have linked to you - love your pieces!

Sweettooth120 said...

Once again you have found something that we both have in common. Customer Service, or lack thereof is one of most biggest pet peeves, and though it isn't often that I get bad service, it is almost always that my food order is not up to par. It happens so often that I definitely have a reputation among my friends and family. It's not even that I am being TOO picky (which yes, I am totally a Sally) it's just I have bad karma when I go out to restaurants.

As for my kids, because we go out to dinner so often (I really hate to cook), they behave quite well but I definitely know what you mean. When I used to work in very upscale restaurant in SF, parents would bring their kids and allow them to run around. Not good when the food runners are carrying very hot and heavy trays full of food.

cruisin-mom said...

Hi S.T.: big surprise...we have something else in common! Yep, now you know one of my biggest pet peeves.