Family Dinner

Posted: May 10, 2012 in Ramblings...

Olive Garden’s slogan is “When you’re here, you’re family.” Well, I have to say I agree with this statement. In fact, last Sunday, as we were eating at our local Olive Garden, I had the distinct feeling I was like family to them; the kind of family that the rest of the family talks bad about behind their back, type of family.  Perhaps I should elaborate…

Content Warning: If you do not have kids, and if you are not a social reject, then you will probably have no idea what I am talking about. All I can say is, feel content with your ignorance, sit back, and learn about how the rest of us function… On the other hand, if you do have kids, or you are a social reject, then I think you should be able to nod your head with assent as I lay this out…

Now normal people without kids will go into the Olive Garden, be greeted by the host or hostess with a warm smile, be seated in the main dining hall, where the atmosphere is lovely and relatively quiet, and they will be treated with a quality level of service. They will be able to carry on conversation and enjoy their dinner with a minimal number of distractions, and leave the restaurant fat, happy, and content. This is not the case for the rest of us.

Amber and I go in last Sunday with the kids, and we were relieved to see the waiting room was empty. Literally, there was not a single person waiting for a table. In fact, I can see open tables directly ahead in the main dining area. However, when I inform the host I will need a table for 2 adults and 2 children (needing highchairs), he mumbles something directly into his little Bluetooth earpiece, and then starts scrolling through his electronic seating chart at the host/hostess podium. After going through all the charts twice, he looks up at me with a furrowed brow and asks for my last name. Without thinking I reply, and then start thinking how odd it is for him to ask such a question. I mean, if I’m going to be waiting, don’t they give you one of those annoying hockey-puck things with a number? Anyway, he tells me there will be a slight wait. He ignores my confused expression, turns around, and continues to mumble something into his Bluetooth device.

We wait for like 2 minutes, and then Mr. Bluetooth comes back in with a satisfied-looking smile on his face and says, “this way please.” We’re led into the main dining area, straight toward an open booth. I glance around at the happy people, joyfully making small talk over their wine and breadsticks, and then I’m jarred back to reality, when I realize we’ve taken a 90 degree turn towards a back room. We enter this back room and it’s like I’ve been teleported into an alternate reality. This backroom is only separated from the main dining area by about 6 inches of drywall, studs, and acrylic plaster, but it might as well be a brick wall. Upon entering the back room the decibel level raises to a low roar. Toys and food particles are strewn about on the floor. People appear sweatier. The table we are seated at still has a fresh sticky glaze on it apparently from the previous dining party’s poor aim. Heck, even this room’s decorum is less “Italiany” than the main dining hall (I think I saw that poster of the 5 dogs playing poker).

To my direct left, there is a long table which is presently being occupied by group of people who look to be the white version of Sanford and Sons. It’s a birthday party, and it looks like the whole family (plus their 15 children) came to wish the old man many pleasant returns. But as I glance around I realize it’s not just people with children they abandon in this place, it’s also the social rejects.

A boy-man gets up, and at first I think it’s Jonah Hill (the fat kid from the Seth Rogan films) but I realize it must only be his stunt double. He has a perfectly trimmed one-inch wide pedi-strap that starts at his sideburns and works its way past his chin, and back around to meet the other side burn. He’s wearing a fabulously ornate gothic-looking “Tapout” T-shirt, which has been stretched to the limit with pasta & numerous breadsticks. About this time, his partner also rises, and for a split second, I think I have just witnesses mitosis… His fe(male?) companion looks exactly like him, only minus the pedi-strap, and plus some wicked looking acne. She’s toned it down a little with a rather large solid black number, which wouldn’t be too bad if it weren’t for the crumbs and rigatoni still clutching onto the fabric.

I glance to the right and see an older gentleman coming in, with what appears to be some old hill woman with straight hair that falls to somewhere around the back of her knee caps in length. As if she needed anything else to distinguish her, she’s wearing a glossy black and turquoise jacket that features some sort of Cherokee Indian embroidery / bedazzling. I avert my eyes when she turns my way.

Then I see an older neighbor who moved away when he foreclosed on his house. I thought to myself, “that’s odd, he really doesn’t appear to be a social reject or anything… why’s he here?” Then the waiter moved and I get a glimpse of his girlfriend. She must have just came from her on-screen appearance in the latest Lil’ John video, because she’s wearing some sort of gold jacket, corn-rows, 3 inch long nails, and the smuggest looking “Mrs. Thang” expression on her face. Literally everywhere I look its either people with kids, or social rejects.  

But this segregation is not where Olive Garden’s Fascism ends. We are greeted by our server (apparently the loser in tonight’s Rock, Paper, Scissors competition for not having to serve in the kid/social reject section). He attempts to be warm and friendly until he realizes we are both having soup and salad (with water) and the girls are splitting a kids’ meal. We are eventually presented with salad (with the bare minimum of dressing included) and breadsticks (which are literally as hard as actual sticks).

As a little side point here, when Amber and I go to Olive Garden and get soup and salad, I try to throw down 2 plates of salad before I get my soup, and then hopefully 2 bowls of soup, depending on how fast I can eat it versus how fast my stomach tells my brain I am actually full. In this manner, I feel like I take full advantage of the endless portions and achieve maximum dollar to food benefit. However, this night, since our server had to work the whole section, instead of just a normal/feasible amount of tables, we did not get our refills in a timely enough fashion for me to be able to over-indulge as I normally do. Plus, I think getting refills on drinks must only apply to soft or alcoholic beverages because my water sat empty for quite some time.

To add insult to injury, Olive Garden has even provided these little archway windows in the separation wall, so that you can look over into the main section and see how the people in the main dining hall are receiving personalized service, and how you aren’t.

By the time the check came, there was no, “thank you for coming to Olive Garden!” Instead, the check was silently thrust in my direction with our after dinner mints unceremoniously strewn about inside the envelope. (I may have been wrong about the unceremonious arrangement of the mints, but at the time I just looked down and thought… “how unceremonious”). As we left, we past the host, again with the wry smile, and I could have sworn I heard a slight mocking tone in his farewell.

Here are my questions…

1)      The segregation process… who makes the call? Is it the host or hostess? Is there someone in a closet or something (Like Rod Roddy on the Price is Right) watching live video footage of people coming in and telling the host/hostess via. blue tooth where to put them?

2)      The host/hostess… If they do make the segregation call themselves, when they interview for a position with Olive Garden, do they already possess this segregation skill? Or is it an on-the-job training sort of thing?

The funny thing is that even after all this abuse, I still believe in the kid/social reject back room segregation policy. That’s right… at some point my kids will have grown up (hopefully not into retarded gangbangers…) and we will return to the main dining hall. And when that happens do I really want to be there with somebody’s whiny kids or Kanye West’s groupies? I think not…

In the time being, I plan to work the loopholes. Perhaps, I was profiled when I gave my last name… perhaps not. In any case, it’s best not to take chances. I’ll leave the kids in the car, go into the lobby, request a table for four under a falsified last name, and then once I have secured a table in the main section, I will retrieve the children, ask for 2 high chairs, and as I pass the host in the hall I’ll give him that same sly smile, and exclaim “FACE!”

  1. tater says:

    If anyone can relate to this its me. Nuff said……

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