Since the mid 70’s, I have often enjoyed going to a little steak house and sitting in a booth, drinking a glass of wine and reading a book. Sometimes I wear my deck shoes and put my feet on the other side of the booth, sometimes with my shoes on, sometimes, not. I am normally in a corner. I order my glass of wine and a rib-eye, medium rare. I always point out that I want to eat my salad before they bring my baked potato and my medium-rare rib-eye. They always do that. But, not this night. They close at ten o’clock and I was on a business call until 9:40; and, I thought “oh, dear, I think they close at 10:00.” I looked up their closing time on the internet and, yes, they close at 10:00 (I went to a franchise restaurant last week and they closed at 10:00 but they had already locked the door at 9:50), so, I called my little steak house and told them I could be there at 9:50, giving them an opportunity to tell me that it would be better for me to come some other night. But, they said, “come on.” I got there about 9:45. I got my booth, ordered my rib-eye (medium-rare), baked potato, glass of wine and pointed out (once again) that I would like to finish my salad (a salad bar) before my steak and baked potato were served. The waitress said, “no problem.” I got my salad, piled on some Thousand Island dressing, pickled okra and cottage cheese and sat down. I sipped my wine, ate my salad and read from my book.

When I finished my salad, the waitress asked me if I was ready for my rib-eye, medium-rare. And I said, “absolutely.” She brought it, I put butter and sour cream on my baked potato, mashed it up and took a couple of bites…really good. Then, I took my steak knife and cut into my rib-eye, medium-rare; and, it was not medium-rare. I kind of laughed to myself and remembered the waitress had previously asked me if I wanted steak sauce and I had said, “I hope not.” She then said, “well, I wanted to ask…some people want steak sauce, others want ketchup.” Ye gads!

I then thought of one of the funny lines that Johnny Carson used to say….”what do I do…what do I do?” It was late, after 10:00 and I saw tables being cleaned and chairs put onto tables so that they could vacuum. I knew the waitresses, chefs and management were tired and wanted to go home. But, my rib-eye was not medium-rare. It was medium. Ugh….. Do I ask for steak sauce or just eat it as is? Do I ask them to grill another rib-eye, medium-rare? “what do I do…what do I do?” I then thought of “the brand.” This was one of my favorite little restaurants. There was a mistake in grilling my steak. Was it accidental or had they changed staff and they didn’t know how to grill a rib-eye, medium-rare? Or, did they just not care?

In my opinion, this was not about my personal steak but the legacy that might transpire and hundreds, if not millions, would get their rib-eye, medium-rare, not medium-rare but medium; and, what would happen to this little steak house? It might go out of business, after, all these years. The weight of the world and the need to show courage was heavy on my shoulders. “Be strong, be courageous, defend the honor of those cooks and waitresses who came before.” So, I asked my waitress to come over, I apologized and showed her my rib-eye, medium, not medium-rare. She said, “oh, dear….let me get you another one.” I said that I was sorry and she even offered to bring another baked potato or even green beans (green beans?). I said that’s ok. I didn’t even ask for a free glass of red wine. She said it would be five minutes (that’s about right to grill a rib-eye, medium-rare). I said that will be fine.

The clock kept ticking, I finished the chapter in my book and I thought, this has been more than five minutes…. Oh, dear. Shortly, she brought me my rib-eye, medium-rare. And, the cook came over and asked, ”how is it?” I had yet to cut into it but I saw the concern in his eyes. He was just a kid. I said, “perfect.” And, he smiled and left. I then cut into my rib-eye, medium-rare; and it wasn’t. It was medium (again). I sighed and thought of Johnny Carson again….”what do I do…what do I do?” I felt the legacy of the little steak house on my shoulders, again. I can single handedly put them out of business if I don’t say anything.

I slowly cut up my steak and ate it. I then laid out my credit card and the waitress came by and took it. When she came back, I handed her five dollars (in addition to the tip I put on the bill) and said, “this is for you to say nothing to management…. But, tell the young man that my second steak was medium. Perhaps he does not know the difference between medium-rare and medium. Please do not say anything to management but go talk to him.” I showed her my steak and she understood.

As I left the steak house, I was the only customer, the restaurant was quiet and everybody was cleaning up. I looked back at the grill and there was the young man. Our eyes met, I smiled and gave him a thumbs up and he waved. I trust that my little steak house will be ok; and, in the future, when someone orders a rib-eye, medium-rare that they will get a rib-eye, medium-rare. I will find out next time.