Doing a food van, you are constantly meeting new people. That is one of the joys of the job. The food, the market, the tedious British weather and the daily toils may stay more or less the same, but the customers and passers by are always different, and always inspiring in one way or another.
In general, the people who visit the rainbo van are in search of great food and a friendly face to go with. We have built up quite a little community of returning customers and it is always nice to check in with them and see what has happened since their last gyoza fix. Others are new and curious about what we sell and why we are here, and usually fall prey to a sample or two and leave with a box full of hot steaming dumplings. This makes us very happy.
Totally aside from those in search of filling their bellies, our van also attracts a number of die hard car lovers. Part normal citizen, part vintage petrol head, you wouldn't know them from afar - but one cursory wave hello and they're practically diving under the hood. Today a guy came past and sussed us out in one: "cor blimey, what's this then? Late forties, early fifties, with a Ford transit chassis and custom build on the back?"
I love these people. Their love of cars is such that they pay no notice whatsoever to the food we are selling, if they see it at all. And one can easily imagine that with their foot on the pedal and the wind in their hair, they need not eat anyway. When you tell them it still has the original 1948 V8 engine, their eyes widen and they give you such a smile that you almost offer them a test drive. Then, just like that, they're off again to do whatever they do when they're not adoring vintage motors.
Also abundant on Leather Lane are the very busy lunchtime executives. As we mostly cook our dumplings to order, so that everything is fresh and nothing hangs around, these customers can be slightly problematic. You would be surprised at how few people are willing or able to wait five minutes for their lunch.
If they can wait, you feel tremendous pressure to rise to the deadline, all the while thinking "oh god, oh god, will they get back fast enough for their 2pm meeting? Have I got the right change? Am I ruining their whole hard earned career because I can't find the only fiver left in the cash box?". We constantly explain that we cook our produce fresh and are the opposite of fast food.
"Have you got about three minutes?" asks Ben, looking his most affable at the griddle and flashing his best be-dimpled smile. The answer is often no, and we are left sad and surprised at the pace of office life today. Last week, a lovely man replied "Do you know what, I actually don't. But if I say that to you then it is pretty sad, so I will risk it and wait". Good on him, we thought. A rebel with an appetite.
As for us, with memories of faceless office emails still relatively fresh, Ben and I are still riding high off the thrill of chatting freely to anyone and everyone who visits us. And it is true that sometimes we get a little overexcited. Bored of chatting to one another about salad quantities, meaningless twitter activity and whose turn it is to wash up, we are prone to rather eagerly pouncing upon any passer by and holding them hostage with an overexcited babble until we have assaulted them with our complete life stories, both at the same time, without drawing breath, only just remembering to ask at the end what they do themselves and if they might like to try a gyoza. God help them if they say no.