Guest blog by Randy Blue
It wasn’t until I waited outside for my wife to set our ADT securityalarm that I decided where I wanted to go for dinner: the new Olive Garden in Williamstown, NJ. Susan accepted my suggestion without objection, admitting that she had been craving their signature salad for days. We ordered the same entre, chicken parmigiana over linguini, and decided to split the salad, as well as a dish of fried calamari. The entire dinner, including our bottle of house Cabernet Sauvignon, came to under fifty dollars. Overall, our experience was satisfying—right on par with what one expects from cheesy, faux-Mediterranean chain restaurants, with their absurd dinner music lulling in the background and their mass-produced murals marring the walls. Our waitress, a typical college-aged woman, granted us a level of courtesy and competency any civilized person would expect. Yes, we waited a bit long for the breadsticks, and, yes, we felt rushed once the food arrived, the staff obviously struggling to keep the dinner crowd at bay, as a herd amassed in the restaurant lobby. But, again, those are the things we had signed up for, and we played our role as expected.
We ended up taking our bottle of wine home, half full, and finishing it on the patio, not talking to each other much, maintaining the same air of casual indifference we constructed at the booth in the restaurant, and neither of us mentioned that we would ever go back—but like most well-cultivated suburbanites, I think we both knew we would.