Monday, 26 January 2009

Blue Steak Man...

On the face of it my favourite guest shouldn't really be my favourite guest. On the face of it you would think I'd run a mile, if I was capable of performing such a feat (which I'm not), from his table. But despite his foibles and idiosyncrasies he is an absolute hoot to serve.

On first meeting you would say he was just another 50 something male with bad guts (that would be from all the raw meat) and an undeserved air of satisfaction. And you would probably be right. But there is more to him than that. He is a benevolent sort, congenial and good humoured. And unlike almost every other regular customer he never crosses the line. We chat and we joke and I listen to his little tales and he mine but there is no familiarity and thus no contempt.

Blue steak man is a portly chap. The word "chap" could have been created for him as he does appear every, rotund, inch like a character from a Billy Bunter novel - Buster Blue the school tubby lad most probably. He has jaunty jowls and a wobble of chins and his eyes peek out through his billowy cheeks. If he was to dribble, which he doesn't, you would swear he was a bulldog pup.

At a guess I would say he works in one of the dry and dull professions, something involving huge dusty ledgers and towering lists of numbers, the sort of place were all the employees refer to each other by their surname and carry copies of the Daily Telegraph under their arms. They start at nine and end at five, every day except bank holidays when they tend to their gardens or visit old and dusty Aunts. And Blue Steak Man fits right on in, never rocking the boat or revealing the red socks under his trousers or the book of French Love Poems he keeps in his desk drawer.

But I have a feeling that Blue Steak Man lets his mind wander whilst counting the numbers or estimating the number of bricks needed to build Mrs Carson-Carruthers new holiday home. I'd say that when you think he is working he is in fact doodling pictures of cars and rocketships and penning little lusty rhymes to his sweet wife. He looks the sort, a doodler, a rhymer, a maker of mischief. But he never acts on his impulses no matter how much he wants to glue Mr Fitzsimmons hat to his hat stand. But he thinks about it and chortles to himself. He is a chortler.

He has never LOL'd in his life.

He doesn't get to say much at home either what with four teenage kids that he doesn't quite get. He loves them all, deeply, but wishes they would go away, to university or Spain or anywhere, so he can cuddle and canoodle. He's a canoodler too. He has never kissed in public though, except for that one time, in Paris, but that was Paris, you have to kiss in public.

No, the only time Blue Steak man gets to speak and be listened to is when he goes out for a meal and that's where Waiter Chum Number One and I come in. It took us a long time to twig all this, that he is voiceless everywhere else. But in a restaurant he has to be heard, he has to be listened to. And we do, listen to him, and put up with his teeny tiny complaints. He complains every week, every visit. It's always something inconsequential - the carrots weren't as round as I'd hoped, the wine could have been a bit more French, the napkin was a little rough and so on. And we get him rounder carrots and find him softer napkins. His wife playfully chastises him for making a fuss as they coo and woo and blush across they table at each other.

His favourite bit is when we bring him his steak. He has very exact standards about how he likes his steak - seven to ten seconds on each side depending on the size of the meat, no more no less. It's all pure theatre, a dramatic highlight to end his week and set him up for the next. We serve him his steak, we wait, he cuts, he chews, we wait some more feigning anticipation, and he pronounces his opinion in a Man from Del Monte kind of way.

"The Man from Del Monte he say Yes it's not bad maybe a little fatty and possibly overcooked by two or three seconds."

In five years I don't think we have ever completely satisfied him, well not that he has ever told us. But we love serving him and enjoy his dry wit and playful and obviously put on self importance. He tips like a character in a bad 1950's movie by stuffing a folded note into your hand and half nodding half winking at you as he does it. And as they walk away he reaches for his sweet wife's hand and off he goes. He always says he, "might be back" the following week as if he might give us another chance.

He always comes back.

Cynicism and belligerence have taken a day off but will return tomorrow.