It’s not the gift but the thought that counts. Or so I’ve been told. And the thought behind this gift spoke volumes, the thoughtfulness of a $50 gift card to Olive Garden from a boss in lieu of a legitimate Christmas bonus.
Not that I’m known for having a fondness for Olive Garden. I haven’t been to one in over 10 years. Still, a gift card to dinner is marginally better than last year’s bonus, a gift card to Walmart which was used to get kitty litter. Joy.
Don’t get me started on gift cards, perhaps the most controlling of all the gifts.
We walked into the restaurant and … What in the name of Zeus’ butthole is this?! Little iPad-style devices on every table. This is the Olive Garden way of saying, “Do not expect fine dining here.”
Out of respect for my wife I left my iPad in the car. This was so we could look at each other and interact and be old-fashioned. Yeah, we were the freak shows of the restaurant.
I ordered an appetizer. The waiter squatted by the table and punched it in the device. Was this intended to be a teachable moment? “Listen,” he seemed to be saying. “We prefer the dupes handle this themselves.”
My iced tea arrived. I was not asked if I wanted lemon. No long-handled spoon was provided so I MacGyver’d and stirred the sugar with my butter knife.
Our waiter arrived with the app. Simultaneously our entrees arrived. That felt rushed. In Italy it is traditional for the evening meal to take hours. Here we were being told, “Take your time. You have 10 minutes.”
I shrugged and figured, “What the hell. Might as well join ’em.” I grabbed the device and used it to review the restaurant on Yelp. “Breadsticks have carbs. One star!!”
Food? Meh. Nothing to write home about.
At the end of the meal our waiter showed us how to use the device to self-serve payment. I wondered if it was routinely sterilized and how many varietals of feces it might contain.
I couldn’t decide on what to base the tip. The waiter didn’t seem to do all that much. Perhaps soon staff will be a memory and a robot cart will bring meals self-ordered on devices from automated kitchens?
“Olive Garden. When you’re here you’re spamily.”