"I want you to hold it between your knees."
Description: Sassy remark directed at a diner waitress (Lorna Thayer) by Robert Dupea (Jack Nicholson) in the motion picture Five Easy Pieces (1970).
In the film, Robert "Bobby" Eroica Dupea abandons his life as a concert pianist and ends up working as an oil rig worker in California, despite the disappointment of his well-to-do family.
Wandering through life, Robert spends his time in a series of bars, motels, bowling alleys, and relationships until he meets Rayette Dipesto (Karen Black), a waitress.
When Robert learns that his father, Nicholas Dupea (William Challee) is paralyzed from a stroke, he reluctantly returns to Washington to see the family and the friends he left behind. Robert brings Rayette, now pregnant, along for the ride.
Along the way, they pick up two lesbians traveling to Alaska, whose car fell into a ditch on the side of the road. As the four travel North, Palm Apodaca (Helena Kallianiotes), the more talkative of the two hitchhikers begins to prattle on about this and that. Here are some of her backseat rants:
"People are filthy. I think it's the biggest thing that's wrong with people. Dirt isn't bad. Filth. Filth is bad. That's what starts maggots and riots."
"People. Animals are not like that. They're always cleaning themselves. Did you ever see, umm... pigeons? Well, he's always picking on himself and his friends. They're always picking bugs out of their hair all the time. Monkeys too. Except they do something out in the open that I don't go for."
"You know, I read where they, uh, invented this car that runs on, ummm... that runs on, ummm... when you boil water? Steam. Right, steam. A car that you could ride around in and not cause a stink. But do you know they will not even let us have it? Can you believe it? Why? Man! He likes to create a stink! I mean, I've seen filth that you wouldn't believe. Ugh! What a stink! I don't even want to talk about it."
Later, Robert, Rayette and their two passengers stop at a roadside restaurant to get something to eat. They take a booth, and when the waitress approaches, Bobby, in a low and pleasant tone, tells the waitress what he wants to order. But the waitress, either rigid in her ways or just too lazy to accommodate a seemingly easy food request, begins to piss Bobby off and so he comes up with an amusing way to get even with the irritating woman.
|Bobby:||I'd like a plain omelette, no potatoes, tomatoes instead, a cup of coffee and wheat toast.|
|Waitress:||[pointing to the menu] No substitutions.|
|Bobby:||What do you mean? You don't have any tomatoes?|
|Waitress:||Only what's on the menu. You can have a #2, a plain omelette. It comes with cottage fries and roll.|
|Bobby:||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.|
|Bobby:||Wait a minute. I have made up my mind. I'd like a plain omelette, not 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.|
What do yo 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:||[Irritated with the difficult waitress] Hey, Mac!|
|Bobby:||Shut Up!...You've got bread, and a toaster of some kind?|
|Waitress:||I don't make the rules.|
|Bobby:||OK. I'll make it as easy for you as I can. I'd like an omelette and a chicken salad sandwich on wheat toast. No mayonnaise, no butter, no lettuce/. And a cup of coffee.|
|Waitress:||A # 2. Chicken salad sand. 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, bring me a check for the chicken salad sandwich and you haven't broken any rules.|
|Waitress:||You want me to hold the chicken, Huh?|
|Bobby:||I want you to hold it between your knees.|
|Waitress:||You see that sign, sir? Yes, you all have to leave. I'm not taking any more of your smartness and sarcasm.|
You see this sign. [Bobby sweeps his arm across the table and clears it off, knocking everything to the floor.]
|Palm:||[Driving away from restaurant] Fantastic that you could figure that all out and lie that all down so you could come up with a way to get your toast. Fantastic!|
|Bobby:||Yeah, well I didn't get it, did I?|
|Palm:||No, but it was very cleaver. I would have just punched her out.|
After dropping off their annoying hitchhikers, Robert and Rayette continue their journey until they get to his childhood home in Puget Sound. Embarrassed, Robert leaves Rayette at a motel and proceeds to his family home. But later, Rayette comes unannounced and it is obvious that her simple, blue-collar background is in stark contrast to their cultured, upper-class ways. When Samia Glavia (Irene Dailey), a pompous friend of the family makes an uncomplimentary observation about Rayette, Robert shouts in anger:
"Where do you get the ass to tell anybody anything about class, or who the hell's got it, or what she typifies? You shouldn't even be in the same room with her, you pompous celibate... You're totally full of shit! You're all full of shit."
While at home, Robert meets pianist Catherine Van Oost (Susan Anspach), his brother's fiancee, with whom he is romantically attracted. At one point, at her request, Robert plays the piano, and then later they make love in a nearby bedroom. Robert asks her to go away with him, but Catherine needs more than Robert is willing to give. As she explains:
"You're a strange person, Robert. I mean, what will you come to? If a person has no love for himself, no respect for himself, no love of his friends, family, work, something - how can he ask for love in return? I mean, why should he ask for it?"
Robert finally has a chance to be alone with his father. Wheeling him outside to a nearby field, he apologizes for not being the sort of man that he was expected to be. Explaining why he acts the way he does, Robert says, "I move around a lot, not because I'm looking for anything really, but because I'm getting away from things that get bad if I stay." Robert concludes his conversation, saying, "I'm sorry it didn't work out."
At the end of the film, Robert and Rayette return home. When they pull over for a rest stop, Robert enters a restroom and stares at his reflection in a mirror. Meanwhile, Rayette goes to buy some coffee. But when Robert exits the restroom, he suddenly hitches a ride to Alaska from a passing motorist. A few moments later, Rayette returns to their car and waits for Robert to arrive so they can continue their journey home. But Robert, without even the courtesy of a goodbye note, has moved on - never to return.
Note: In the film Dogfight (1991), Eddie Birdlace (River Phoenix) visits a restaurant with a girl named Rose on the night before going to Vietnam in 1963. When their waiter asks Rose (Lili Taylor), “Are you ready to order?” she answers, “Yes, goddammit. I’m going to have the fucking poached salmon, with the son-of-a-bitching rice, and a dirty bastard salad with a shitload of Roquefort dressing. Thank you. And um, who knows what this asshole wants.” Trying to fit in, Eddie says, “Uh. I’ll just take a fucking beer.”