Enough, already. I am a wee bit embarrassed that the town next to my hometown in Alabama . . . Oxford . . . is making national news over a flag fracas. The little suburb of Anniston (that is going to get me into big trouble) has a lovely Olive Garden restaurant. My husband and I frequent it, and are always happy with the food, atmosphere and service. It's a typical Darden restaurant, run with efficiency and respect for its patrons.
It is currently under attack along with all other Olive Gardens for this appalling reason (my tongue is firmly in my lasagna-lovin' cheek): a local Kiwanis club booked the place for a meeting, and they were told (gasp!) that because there is no private meeting room, the facility was unable to accommodate their request to display an American flag.
Double-gasp. The enraged meeting planner raised all kinds of fuss over this, and now the corporate vice president of OG has to come to Alabama and make a formal apology.
Online commentary on this story has run the gamut from, "Boycott Darben (sic) restaurants!" to "Olive Garden is anti-American!" to "My dad (brother, uncle) served in the Army and I will never darken their door again."
Calm down, please. Untwist your knickers for a moment and answer these simple questions:
- Do you want to walk into Olive Garden for lunch and see a Nazi flag? A banner for the thing that offends you the most deeply? A sign denouncing your particular ethnicity?
- Do you think it is unreasonable to fail to check in advance on a meeting venue's rules of display, and then denounce them for failing to honor your demand upon arrival?
- Is there a graceful way to say, "I understand, and we will book our future Kiwanis meetings elsewhere—keep your breadsticks."?
All of this reflects badly on a local establishment that bends over backwards to please its customers. (I am one, and I have witnessed it.) It reflects badly on my beloved home state and its vociferous citizens. It reflects badly on those who fail to understand that this is, after all, America—we love our flag, but it doesn't have to be displayed everywhere (men's room?), nor should it be.
I have arranged a number of meetings in my day. One thing I always did was inquire in advance about full accommodation of my group's needs. One person's failure to do so does not give anyone the right to demonize Olive Garden.
If you will excuse me, I have some spectacular leftover Lasagna Rollata al Forno waiting in the kitchen. From the doorman's greeting through the nice conversation with an employee on the way out the door last night, I had a perfectly wonderful meal at the Oxford Olive Garden. In fact, I noticed several employees wearing American flag lapel pins as they usually do.
Love from Delta.