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I better hurry up and say this before Blogger dies again.

Last night John and I had about two hours from the time we dropped the kids off with my mom to the time he had an appointment with a client, and even though we weren't actually hungry, we decided to use that time to go eat in a restaurant without kids. Because we could. We'd had a big lunch, so we opted for the Olive Garden's light minestrone and salad. When our restaurant beeper went off after our 10-minute wait, we were taken to our table. As we walked through the din of clanging forks and plates, passing through small room after small room full of moveable tables with wheeled cloth-covered chairs, the sense of confusion that I always get at the Olive Garden came back. We sat down and ordered, and I looked up at the wall behind John, which had a huge air-conditioning control panel right in the center. Slightly above that, and just to the right, was a decorative plate that would have been too small for the wall even without the monstrous control panel distracting from it. I pointed it out to John and we chuckled over how randomly placed the plate was, and how the panel should have been somewhere less obvious, and then John said something that explained it all - the vague sense of confusion I've had all this time during the two or three visits per year to the Olive Garden, the unexplainable resistance I've had to buying more than the occasional quick lunch there, the underlying but until now unadmitted snobbery I feel toward this chain - and he said it with such effortlessness, as if he'd been privy to such wisdom his whole life, and was only now choosing to share it with me, as I'd finally proven myself capable of accepting it: "The Olive Garden is just so cafeteria-ish."

Suddenly it all made sense: the folding tray tables set up everywhere, the unsightly black support rails lining both sides of every hallway, the carpeted floors, the rolling chairs and tables, the mediocre food quality FOR THE LOVE OF GOD! It had been so obvious! How had I not seen it before?! In all his wisdom, John calmly looked on as I came to terms with the shocking truth: the restaurant beeper, the waiting for a table, the server bringing the food directly to the table, the availability of wine - it was all just a ploy to distract from the real truth! The Olive Garden is a cafeteria! They distract us with these inconsistencies to keep us from questioning why we would spend $8.00 on cafeteria soup. I told John it was all so mind-blowing, a revelation I'd never expected: "How has the Olive Garden convinced the public that they're some kind of nice restaurant chain?!"

He looked at me with amusement and ridicule. "Uh. They haven't. I don't really think anybody views the Olive Garden as a fancy restaurant, Kristen."

OH. Right. Nevermind, then.