Why is there always a wait at the Olive Garden in Times Square when the tourists in question are a mere cab ride from the most authentic Italian food they could eat anywhere in America?
From the most authentic Italian food they could eat anywhere in the world besides Italy?
And instead, mind-blowing enough, they choose to eat at Olive Garden. Which is sh*ttier than the Olive Gardens in their suburbs, more expensive than the better Italian food they could get in Little Italy, and probably even more packed.
Seriously, the Olive Garden in Times Square usually has a forty-minute wait, and I know. Because I’ve eaten at the Olive Garden in Times Square before. I’ve also, and I’m a little ashamed to say it, eaten at the Applebee's in Times Square. More than once.
Why did I do this? Well, when I ate at Olive Garden my Israeli girlfriend was visiting America, and I wanted her to try it. Yes, I should’ve brought her to Little Italy.
But Olive Garden, and Chili’s, and Applebee's-- they’re all just so inextricably American. What’s the deal? When I went to Applebee's (twice), I did not have my tourist girlfriend with me. I was with my American roommate who lives in New York City too.
So why’d we do it? The simple answer is that I love Applebee's. Really, I’m a big fan of the atmosphere, the big, comfortable red seats. I love the honey boneless barbecue wings, even though they’re definitely worse in Times Square than they are at the Applebee's in the suburb of Philadelphia where I grew up.
I also love the giant portions of water, of wings, of French fries. Of course these portions are also completely American. When I spent a year in Australia, what I missed the most were those giant cups of ice water with meals.
Why do I buy wraps at 7-Eleven with relative consistency, even though I could make a better, cheaper wrap myself? Especially when I could get a better quality, less expensive, more delicious wrap at any corner store in NYC?
The easy answer is that humans love comfort. All humans gravitate toward comfort.
7-Eleven makes me feel safe because there was a 7-Eleven a few miles from the house I grew up in, and there was a 7-Eleven a few miles from my apartment on Long Island last year, and now, in NYC, there’s a 7-Eleven just a few blocks away from my apartment.
The creepy thing about yearning for all this comfort is its omnipresence, the eeriness that the interior of an Applebee's in New York City would be nearly identical to the one in Denver, which would be nearly identical to the ones in Idaho and Texas.
The weirdest thing is that the music in restaurants like Applebee's and Chilli’s and Olive Garden are controlled by satellites, so at any given moment the music playing at the Applebee's in Times Square is the same music that’s playing at an Applebee's in South Dakota.
And that’s really weird.