Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Five Easy Pieces

Just when I think Dad is a lost cause, he reminds me why I love him so much. He and my step-mother Di are both making enough money to pay the bills, and a little bit more. As it was in the old days, so it is today, that when Dad has money, we all have fun.

Jackson couldn't wait for his Grandma Di to come for a visit, and even compared his mother to her with unfavorable results.

"You should be more like Grandma Di, Mommy. She plays with me."

And so it begins. I remember when my grandparents came for a visit, like Mr. and Mrs. Claus they bore gifts and had the patience of the earth. They laughed when I was naughty, understood when I was mad, let me have treats when mom and dad weren't looking, and basically revved my little engine and left my parents, who looked on with that veiled promise of future retribution, to slow me down. Like Mustafa's circle of life--with a slight twist.

They arrived with a stuffed animal in the likeness of a St. Bernard, which Emmett thoroughly enjoyed for all of five minutes. His grandma and grandpa took Jackson to Toys R Us and bought him a couple of Hot Wheelz sets, then Grandpa set it up for him on the back porch, and both kids were consumed for the weekend.

Emmett is two years old and is basically a momma's and poppa's boy. If a stranger comes around, or even family, he clings to us until they leave. But something about my Dad got his attention, and within minutes he ran to him and yelled, "Up, up, up." Dad and Emmett are best of friends now. Emmett sat on his lap facing him and slapped Dad's face continuously, and Dad just made a funny face and pretended that it hurt--which it probably did. Now we have to break him of the habit.

They say you can take the boy from the farm, but you can't take the farm from the boy. Dad is a great example. He was on his best behavior for most of the weekend, and even decided to treat the family to some Seafood. When I was a kid, Dad's role model was Jack Nicholson from Five Easy Pieces. I didn't know that until I saw the movie.

The following scene happens at a restaurant, where Jack and three others are ordering breakfast at a roadside diner. Jack plays a character called Bobby:

BOBBY (looking at his menu): I'll have an omelet, no potatoes. Give me tomatoes instead, and wheat toast instead of rolls.

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

WAITRESS: No substitutions.

BOBBY: What does that mean? You don't have any tomatoes?

WAITRESS (annoyed): No. We have tomatoes.

BOBBY: But I can't have any. Is that what you mean?

WAITRESS: Only what's on the menu... (again, indicating with her pencil) A Number Two: Plain omelet. It comes with cottage fries and rolls.

BOBBY: I know what it comes with, but that's not what I want.

WAITRESS: I'll come back when you've made up your mind...

She starts to move away and Bobby detains her.

BOBBY: Wait, I've made up my mind. I want a plain omelet, forget the tomatoes, don't put potatoes on the plate, and give me a side of wheat toast and a cup of coffee.

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

BOBBY: What do you mean, you don't have side orders of toast? You make sandwiches, don't you?

WAITRESS: Would you like to talk to the manager?

BOBBY: You have bread, don't you, 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. Give me an omelet, plain, and a chicken salad sandwich on wheat toast -- no butter, no mayonnaise, no lettuce -- and a cup of coffee.

She begins writing down his order, repeating it sarcastically:

WAITRESS: One Number Two, and a chicken sal, san -- hold the butter, the mayo, the lettuce -- and a cup of coffee... Anything else?

BOBBY: Now all you have to do is hold the chicken, bring me the toast, charge me for the sandwich, and you haven't broken any rules.

WAITRESS (challenging him): You want me to hold the chicken.

BOBBY: Yeah. 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 (CONT'D): You'll all have to leave, I'm not taking any more of your smartness and your sarcasm!

He smiles politely at her, then:

BOBBY: You see this sign?

He reaches his arm out and "clears" the table for her.

So, my theory is that Dad saw this and took it as validation that every waitress on this planet is out to screw up his order, and he made me nervous every time we went out to eat. He once squirted a waitress with ketchup for delivering his sunny-side-up eggs upside down.

At the Seafood restaurant, our waitress misunderstood my father and didn't bring a glass of wine for his wife. When she came back by the table, his old self bubbled to the surface.

"Uh, miss?" Aggravation was splattered on his face as if painted by a three-year-old.

"Yes sir?"

"Are you going to bring out the glass of wine?"

"Oh, I thought you cancelled that."

He cocked his head and said with tight lips. "No, I didn't."

His wife looked over his shoulder from beside him. "Now John, it did sound like you changed your mind when you ordered the pitcher of beer."

The waitress didn't seem to notice the tension. "Well of course I can bring you a glass of wine. I'll be right back."

When she arrived, Dad had realized his mistake and, like the big fella he is, admitted it to the waitress.

"Sorry about that. That was a misunderstanding." This was said with the sincerity of a forced apology between siblings.

"That's ok," the waitress said, and went into the kitchen.

"Have you been taking anger management courses?" I said to Dad. "That's not the guy I remember." Then I told them all about the ketchup story.

"You were there for that?" Dad asked.

After we finished our main course, the waitress started to roll up the paper table cloth, which upset Dad's beer.

"Ma'am!" Dad yelled. The waitress, far from being startled or offended, seemed amused. "I'll let you know when I'm ready to go!"

"Dad," my wife said as she leaned over the table. "They always do this before they hand out the dessert menus."


Later that evening Dad and Di had a fight, and Dad decided to let us in on what it was about while Di smoked a cigarette on the front porch. I won't bore you with the details, so let's just come in at the end.

"It's all my fault," he concluded, looking at my wife Beth, "and I don't want you to be mad at Di."

"Oh, I know it was your fault. Why would I be mad at Di?" Beth said.

I laughed as Dad shook his head, hoping that something witty would fall out. But nothing did. He just doesn't get this crazy thing called life, but thank God he has a sense of humor about it--sometimes.


Mr. T said...

Sometimes even old dogs can learn new tricks...

I'm particularly glad my dad did, else I don't think my kids would have ever known my parents which makes me sad to think about.

Scott said...


It's the T-man back again.

Good to see you around. How are things at the new job?

I know what you mean about the dad thing. The old dogs either adapt or fall away, but it isn't always easy for them.

magnetbabe said...

Funny story. And that's one of my all-time favorite movie scenes.
A couple of months ago I had a Nicholson-esque experience at Subway. The woman asked me what kind of veggies I wanted on my sub and I said in my usual manner, "Everything but onions. Extra black olives, please." She said, "We'll have to charge you extra for the extra olives." I said, "You're kidding, right?" She wasn't. So I said, "Okay, I'll have everything on it. Except when you reach for the onions, put more black olives on instead." That didn't go over well.

Eve said...

I like that Nicholson scene too. My father changed when he became a grandfather - something mellows them. But then he was always good with little kids - all of the neighborhood kids would come ring the doorbell and ask if he could come out and play. Grandparents are the spoilers.
Oh, and Philly bothers me - desperate teams do desperate things.

Mrs.T said...

Those are rare moments... when someone so set can do something to surprise you..

The Zombieslayer said...

Never seen that Nicholson movie. I imagined in my head him clearing the table. Would have loved to see the look on the waitresses face. Sounded like a typical restaurant in New York City.

Miranda said...

Your dad sounds like a character.
I'd love to meet him - as long as I wasn't waitressing at the time.

Ultra Toast Mosha God said...

Never seen this film.

Shamefull really. I've heard it's a classic

jenbeauty said...

Aging and wisdom do come hand in hand. Sounds like a little progress here Scott.

I really hate going to restaurants with my dad sometimes. Most of the time its ok, but there are times he gets a bug up his ass and thinks that the whole restaurant should be at his sole service. I love my daddy, but on those occassions I want to deny I know the man! lol

Scott said...

MB - There is something about the way Jack said, "I want you to hold it between your knees." That guy is too much. I can't believe that Subway gave you a hard time. Way to give it back.

Eve - It's nice about your father, and it seems that my father has changed too, but in some ways not really. He could be a lot of fun when I was a kid.

Mrs T - Here here!

Zombie - I really didn't enjoy the whole movie, but that scene was a classic.

Miranda - Yeah, dad is can be a real trip, but you have to be the kind of person that enjoys eccentricity.

UTMG - Like I told Zombie, the scene was all that really grabbed me in that movie.

Jen - It must be an Ohio thing, huh? Maybe this is one of those other things we have in common.

Ben O. said...

I always think that it is in your best interest to be nice to the guy (or lady) bringing out the food. I don't understand why some people treat them like dirt.

They can spit in your food people!

Had to get that out.

Ben O.

Tee said...

Your Dad sounds SOOO much like my late paternal grandfather. He was a terrific grandfather - very generous. Bought us all kinds of treats and toys and played with us, took us out to dinner. But he could be a bit of a loud mouth. He was from New York but they retired to San Diego, CA... He was quite a character.

trinamick said...

Man, if someone squirted ketchup on my when I was waitressing, he & I would have to have a little "come to Jesus" session. That said, I spilled a beer on someone once and I would have understood if he'd have done something like that.

Sadie Lou said...

Oh my gosh. Your dad cracks me up. How does he think of those witty remarks so quick on his feet? Dang. If I could ask God for more of something, it would be more wit or biting sarcasm. You can never have too much--well, you CAN but...

anyhoo, being a waitress for most of my teen years and early 20s, I can appreciate this story to the fullest.
"hold it between your knees"


Moni said...

You know I think people mellow with age. That was a wonderful story and your dad really seems to be trying. Your kids sounds so cute, I'll bet there's never a dull moment around your household. :)

mr. schprock said...

My father and I didn't get along at all until I got married and had kids at 30. I think I started to understand him better because of the new phase of life I was entering. Since then, he and I have been pals, and I've always been grateful for that . . . you know, that he didn't die or get Alzheimer's or anything before I had a chance to look at him differently (he's still going strong, BTW). So I'm glad to hear how tight you and your dad are.

Scott said...

Ben - Good point, one that I tend to observe when dealing with the help.

Tee - There's nothing boring about a loud mouth, and a kid appreciates that personality better than anyone can. It takes a certain strength to remain so.

Trina - I thought of you when I was writing this. But you don't know my dad, especially back then. A come to Jesus meeting might have turned out to be just that.

Sadie - Dad was never boring, that's for sure.

Moni - The household is always in a waiting stage for the next major catastrophe.

Mr. Schprock - I know what you mean. For me I am happy that Dad is a part of it at all. I can appreciate some of the freedoms he gave me as a kid now, some of which I don't pass along to my kids. He was a good dad in small, strange and unorthodox ways.