As I have mentioned before, we are fairly serious about eating local – with a couple of choice exceptions.

Chick-Fil-A, of course, doesn’t count – it is a necessary staple of all families-with-small-children’s diets.

And another is The Olive Garden.  Chris and I have a deep-felt adoration for The Olive Garden, as it is one of the only places left that meant something to us when we were dating – everything else fell victim to Our Curse.

So, as culinarily unacceptable as it may be, we still visit The Olive Garden every now and then.  And even more rarely, we take the children along.

On the particularly fateful visit at hand, they only had booths available, so Noah had to try the difficult task of staying in a booster seat.

To distract him from the many opportunities for escape, he started out trapped between Chris and Ali:


After a few long minutes of many attempts at causing chaos, he moved to The Booster seat next to me, where he immediately dumped all of the sugar packets and began trying to summon invisible liquid to come out of the sweetener holder.


Blessedly, breadsticks finally arrived, which kept him happy for about … 23.5 seconds.


But this story has nothing to do with Noah.

It’s about our waiter. He was new. Let’s call him Bud.

Bud was a young guy, probably a teenager.  He was talking to a table of four guys when we sat down, and after a few minutes that we made inordinately long by Noah’s attempts at destruction, he finally turned around to get our drink orders.

“Hi! Welcome to The Olive Garden.  What can I get y’all to…

Wait a minute.

(to himself, he whispered) is this my table?

HEY!! CARISSA!!! Is this my table?”

Carissa was no longer within earshot, so he disappeared to find her.

Apparently Carissa did affirm that we were indeed Bud’s table, because after a tortuously long five more minutes, he returned.

“Hi! Welcome to The Olive Garden.  What can I get y’all to drink?”

He took our orders, then went back to talking to the table across from us.

I got a good look at them: four guys in their mid-thirties, who were awarded the exquisite privilege of hearing our waiter’s entire life story.

During the next fifteen minutes, as he managed to squeeze in bringing us our drinks and taking our food orders, he told them,

  • Where Bud used to live (in a $248,000 house in Clay),
  • Where Bud lives now (in an inexpensive and dangerous part of town),
  • Why Bud moved (because his Dad got laid off),
  • How much Bud’s Dad used to make ($70,000 a year),
  • What kind of car Bud drives (“did you see the red GT in the parking lot?”),
  • Where Bud used to work (Ruby Tuesday),
  • How much Bud spent per week on gas to get to his old job (half of his paycheck),
  • And how much harder it was to work here as opposed to there.

“Yeah, man.  At Ruby Tuesday, all you have to do is bring people their food and refill there drinks.  But here??? You have to bring breadsticks!! And salad!! And refill their breadsticks and salad!!!! It’s ridiculous, man.”

Apparently Olive Garden is the coal mining of food service.  Only the strong survive.  Good luck Bud.

Chris managed to get a word in between the intimate details of Bud’s Life Story and ask for more breadsticks and a drink refill for Ali, thereby making this poor kid’s job infinitely more ludicrous.

Bud dragged himself to our table and huffily handed me the breadsticks, not having the time nor energy to place them all the way down on the table.  Then he turned around and started talking to the four guys again – before handing Chris Ali’s lemonade.

We watched, puzzled.  And then, without turning around or looking in our direction, Bud reached his arm back, lemonade in hand, for Chris to take.

We sat there and stared at this comically back-extended arm for a second, drinking in the fabulousness of the moment.

Then, still without looking, he shook his drink-bearing arm impatiently, veering dangerously near Chris’ face with the lemonade.

Chris quickly saved the lemonade (and his own head) from danger.

A few minutes later, I couldn’t hear his words, but it was clear that he was back to expounding on the preposterous demands of his job.  Bud’s voice raised a notch as he said, “Like these guys!!”, and exaggeratedly gestured in our direction.

I nearly spit my so-difficult-to-come-by drink.

Finally, the table of men left, and he was left with no one but us to talk to.  Plus, I think he realized that the whole back-handing a drink at a table may not be the best tip-attaining strategy.  So all-too-suddenly, Bud was our best friend.

Every 90 seconds, he’d pop up from nowhere.

Blink, blink.

“Hi! You need anything?”

“Nope, we’re good.”

Blink, blink.

“Do you guys need anything now?”

“Nope, still fine.”

Blink, blink.

“How about now?”


Blink, blink.

“Can I get you a refill on that drink?”

“It’s still full.”

Blink, blink.

“Would you like more breadsticks?”


Blink, blink.

“Can I do anything for you?”


Blink, blink.

“How is everything?”


Blink, blink.

“Do you need any more drinks?”

“Still to the brim.”

Blink, blink.

“Ready for your check?”

“Never been so ready in our lives.”


So.  Keep your eyes out for Bud: Coming soon to a restaurant near you!

(Preferably one that doesn’t serve breadsticks.)

(Or salad.)

If you see a red GT in the parking lot, prepare yourself for the meal of a lifetime!

31 thoughts on “The Burden of Breadsticks.

  1. We have the curse, too. Chili’s at Eastwood was our favorite place and it closed the day after we went there. I should make a list, too. In our newlywed lives we made many trips to Eastwood Mall, even though it was clearly dying. We ate at Olive Garden on date night on Friday, and we probably shouldn’t have. Service was inconsistent, but not as bad as Bud. I will be on the lookout.

    1. We have trouble tipping on merit – we feel guilty. So yes, he did.

      Actually, now that you mention it, he was going to MAKE SURE he got a tip – he didn’t bring back our gift card (We always get OG gift cards with our credit card points), which had right at 20% left on it. We would have given him the remainder anyway, but if we didn’t have kids-that-were-ready-to-go with us and if we were more confrontational people, we might have insisted that he bring us back our gift card.


  2. Ack…I hope you didn’t leave a good tip. I think people have come to expect tips versus try to earn them sometimes. I do love me some Olive Garden, though…but we haven’t been since last summer!!

  3. I’m giggling at the popping up and blinking thing. I’m seeing him like a meercat popping out of a hole. :)

  4. I know Chris, but I would hope he did not leave Bud the expected tip. Now you know Leo, he would have gone straight to the manager and repeated Bud’s complaints including pointing at your table and I doubt he would have gotten a tip. Reminds me of the guy at Duck’s Diner.

    1. Yes, we tipped. No, we didn’t tell the manager. But I did take the online survey about our visit and linked to this post. Sorry, Bud.

  5. Aww – Olive Garden was our first date and where God revealed to my hubby that “I was the one”. We hardly ever go there now. I would have asked Bud to speak to the manager. GRRRR doesn’t he know there are STILL people out of work?

  6. We used to love the Olive Garden in high school – and then for some reason, they Closed down every one that was anywhere near me. No more bottomless breadsticks for me. :(

    I don’t think I could have given “Bud” a tip. He’s lucky enough to have a job, he should probably be more concerned about doing it properly so that he keeps it.

  7. oh bud. you poor over-worked dude.

    have you ever waitressed? i did. for a week. it was quite hard. i hope i wasn’t ever as rude as bud. though pretty sure i wasn’t.

    we like to eat at home. contain the insanity. but having people over exposes them to the chaos. samuel is outtacontrol. noah reminds me of him :)

    1. Never. I’ve actually never worked in any service or retail of any kind, so I am sure that I can’t possibly understand the demands put on Poor Bud. Or at least that’s what he would tell me.

  8. We recently had an occassion of very bad service at an Olive Garden… I’ll spare the details but it was beyond horrid. I asked the hostess if I could speak to the manager and calmly relayed the problem. We ended up with the meal being given to us for free, $30 gift cards for each of the 4 adults at the table and an apology from the waiter. We were even offered a free desert! I was glad to see how OG made good on the situation, and I hope the waiter could benefited from a respectfully given learning opportunity. Now I’m looking forward to spending our gift cards!

  9. My favorite part was the drink behind the back maneuver. That’s something I’ve never gotten to see in a restaurant! I did get the privilege once of hearing two waitresses going on and on about how they have to “discipline kids that come in because their parents won’t and it’s, like, not even that hard”. I got a good laugh out of that one. There’s inattentive and overly attentive. Can we just get attentive? That’s worth a 25% tip in my book. :)

  10. I’m over the mandatory tip thing. I tip well if service is good. If it’s horrible, I sometimes leave something really insulting, like a dollar or less, to make a point.

  11. Oh how funny… poor guy, if he continues this behavior he may have to settle for (gasp!) cleaning toilets or something… like I did when I worked at my parents’ skating rink… when I was 12. Makes you wonder why his dad was laid off, maybe the Bud doesn’t fall too far from the tree.

  12. You were writing that blog post as you sat at the table, weren’t you? You had the title down with the first bite into a breadstick, and your punchline as you counted out his guilt-driven tip. Kudos… this was masterful!

    1. Actually, this was one of those moments where I wasn’t thinking about blogging, but my husband was!! By the time we left the restaurant, he had the whole post in his head! He’s a great blogging partner.

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