One of my favorite “trip” reports ever

Now, for a completely different type of trip report…

This afternoon a friend sent me a link to a Grand Forks Herald review of an Olive Garden that just opened in Grand Forks (that’s in Minnesota, right?). šŸ˜‰

At first I thought it was hilarious and had to share it on Twitter. This lady reviews her Olive Garden experience in great detail, from her plan to order the raspberry lemonade on a hot summer day, to describing the Tuscan architecture and warm decor of the restaurant, to explaining that she figured a late lunch would be fashionable. At first I had to chuckle, and probably not for the right reasons.

But mlroach Tweeted me the following, and it got me thinking:

I’m not trying to turn this into one of those motivational, self-help blogs, but it reminded me of an empty flight I took to Maui last year. Only a few seats in first class were taken by “revenue” passengers, while seated around me was a family of six non-revs. It was two young kids traveling with their parents and grandparents, and I overheard that the mom was a gate agent.

A lot of people look down on non-revs as not “deserving” to be in first class, though it quickly turned into one of my most enjoyable flights, not because the food or service was particularly good, but because of the excitement of the non-rev family. They took pictures of each other in their first class seats before departure, and also made several phones calls in Spanish which included the term “primera clase” (first class). Obviously they wanted to share their excitement with friends and family. As we leveled off the flight attendants took meal orders, and as she asked the kids what they wanted to eat, they had a wide grin on their face and said “what, there’s free food?”

It’s easy to take all of these things for granted, and it’s easy to even get annoyed when other people are excited. But at the end of the day I am kind of jealous of the simple happiness of many people. Bringing it back to flying, I remember when flying coach would excite the heck out of me, even if it was just a short flight. And then I remember when I started flying domestic first class. And then international business class. And then international first class. Now what?

So whether it’s a trip to the Olive Garden or a trip in Lufthansa first class like I have tomorrow, be excited. But do check out the article, because it’s pretty awesome.

And now I’ll go back to being my usual, cranky, whiny self…

Filed Under: Media
  1. I’ve never flown first class.

    But the excitement of touching down in a new place, especially a new country, after just a handful of hours flying, still excites the living $*!&(* out of me.

    Sure, eight hours trapped in a slender tube with no personal space, crappy food, and potentially no entertainment may be daunting for some, but I’m just happy that I’ve had, at 16 years old, the opportunities to go places and see things that some never see in their entire life.

  2. You could become the next Andy Rooney. Maybe send a tape to CBS and see if they need a replacement.

  3. I’m not sure if I like the word ‘simple’ in ‘simple happiness’, so I propose ‘pure happiness’ or ‘unspoiled happiness’.

  4. The woman’s son wrote a great follow-up piece in the Wall Street Journal about this very review – worth seeking out – she sounds like a wonderful lady…

  5. @Wouter – Simple was a poor choice of words on my part (I’m @mlroach) – I wrote to Ben off the cuff. I in no way mean the reviewer is simple or simplistic.

  6. It’s not clear to me on first glance how that Olive Garden review differs significantly from 32 pictures of breadsticks on an airplane.

    One thing you can say for Olive Garden ā€” never any heads on the shrimp!

  7. Loved her article! Makes me want to take the time to enjoy the scenery more. Also just saw she wrote another post not long ago about sitting flights in middle seat and hanging out in MSP

  8. One thing I’ve learned in life is never trust a review that can’t find anything positive to say. Or, in this case, a reviewer that can’t find anything negative to say. While there are some situations where there is really nothing at all that goes right or nothing at all that goes wrong they are extremely rare and any critic worth reading will go out of their way to point out what was their favorite and least favorite part of the experience. Where is any of that in this lady’s “review?” I happen to know all I need to know about Olive Garden thanks to a friend who loves it, but if I didn’t this lady’s review wouldn’t set me straight on much beyond the most basic aspects.

    @LarryInNYC – Thanks for the laughs! šŸ™‚

  9. Ben,
    Unfortunately I too have become somewhat jaded with dozens of “trip of a liftime” in my past. I have the excuse of being decades older than you. Seeing others have a wonderfully new (to them) travel experience remains nice to see and hear.

    As for your question “Now what?”… How about a suborbital flight on Virgin Galactic?

    Best regards,


  10. I give 85 year old Marilyn Hagerty a lot of credit. She writes 5 columns a week. I hope to be doing as well when i reach her age.

  11. I was reading a small town newspaper a few years ago while traveling. Apparently the usual restaurant reviewer was out sick and the sports photographer filled in for the week. He wrote up a detailed review of his Egg McMuffin breakfast.

  12. That Olive Garden thing has been all over the ‘net for a week already.

    It’s North Dakota, not MN, but a distinction without a real difference. I thought it was too bad that so many people were putting this review down. In a lot of small communities like this, the Olive Garden is the nicest restaurant they have.

  13. @ RakSiam

    The local hospital sends letters to recruit physicians from a PO Box in Minnesota, knowing letters with North Dakota sender address would go straight to junk… So I guess it makes a difference to someone.

  14. To put her reviews in context, read her son’s piece in the Wall Street Journal as Eric suggested.

  15. Ah, Lucky, your First World Problems are truly moving, and the way you deal with them is truly inspirational as well.

  16. Is this the new Lucky?? I quite like it! Bravo for a great post about something that affects most of us frequent flyers – the been-there-done-that-what’s-next mentality. It’s so easy to take it all for granted and become jaded.

  17. There was a piece in the New York Times about this several days ago.

    I have found the overall level of contempt towards this woman’s review of the Olive Garden – as pointed out by RakSiam, often the best restaurant in a town – pretty condescending, especially given that it has often come from people who live in places that New Yorkers or Londoners would consider backwaters themselves.

    It’s not “simple pleasures”, Lucky, it’s feeling fortunate for having the privilege of eating out at all. It’s why I was so saddened by your post, a few weeks ago, about “the laziest, rudest crew ever”. Because they didn’t smile at you, didn’t remember your name, and didn’t remember your drink choice.

    Perspective is required. I hope you remember how lucky you actually are (even if you live in Tampa).

  18. Lucky,

    I’ve flown international J a handful of times now, and have my first CX F trip booked. In some senses, there’s a bit of a BTDT feeling, but OTOH, since most award seats aren’t there for the taking, there’s always a bit of a rush when I’m able to actually make the booking on an itinerary I like.

  19. @ John — First of all, I loved the article and held no contempt towards it. That being said, I think it’s important to distinguish between someone that writes “feel good” articles for a living (as she seems to, and that’s great), and what I’m trying to do by writing constructive reviews.

    I want people to redeem their miles for the best possible products, so in my trip reports I try to point out the positives and negatives. After all, if you have the choice between American and Cathay Pacific in first class, which should you pick? If I only stated the positive you wouldn’t be decipher which product is better. I don’t want my readers to have to “read between the lines.”

    But I agree with your general message.

  20. Reading that made me want to go to Olive Garden for lunch, it’s sounding pretty good right now. šŸ™‚

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