I was at the Olive Garden not long ago. I was having a perfectly fine time with my family. When you go to the Olive Garden, the value prop is the same: a bunch of salad and bread, followed by mediocre food, all served in a vaguely Italian area. I worked there for 3 years or so in the Clinton years. It’s not a bad place.
But it’s not wonderful.
Wonderful is reserved for things like grace, mercy. Friendship, love. The laughter of your daughter as she flops on your stomach. Your son trying one last time to overpower his old man. A kiss that conveys peace. Finishing a long project.
A meal at the Olive Garden can be Wonderful but the food itself isn’t. Yet, if we deny that we are somehow off, we are somehow negative. I was there, and the waiter asked if everything was wonderful.
I said: “You know, let’s not overstate things it’s the Olive Garden. You guys did fine.”
He looked at me like I’d just dropped a deuce on the rug. ”What was wrong.”
“Nothing was wrong, it it was all OK, thanks.”
I wanted to get back to talking to Jackson about his day, and about how he was learning about the Mona Lisa in school. Or whatever. But that wasn’t to be, I had to pledge that this was wonderful. Like the powers that be at the Olive Garden would have me believe that a meal with them was on the same level as a first kiss, or a graduation or the birth of my kids.
It was nice. I got what I expected, I got my money’s worth or thereabouts. It wasn’t wonderful. And for the waiter to expect that I deem his meal wonderful – and to be personally invested in it all – is nuts.
Now: I don’t fault the Olive Garden for aspiring to be wonderful. They’re not. Apple (and I love Apple) and Starbucks aren’t even Wonderful.