I don’t like the ice cream man. I don’t think I’ve ever liked the ice cream man.
If there are any ice cream man unions out there who take offense to this statement, then I don’t know what to tell them. The concept sounds amazing on paper. Ice cream driven to you? What’s not to like? Well, plenty. All I know is that from the time I was a child to the time I was a dad, I have dealt with ice cream man soft-serve insanity.
As a kid, I can remember being part of a very low-level day-camp at Fireman’s Park near my house. There were only two counselors, both right out of casting for the Sopranos, named Gino and Lenny. I kid you not. “Luckily”, the ice cream truck was parked nearby throughout the day. We were free to get whatever we could buy, but Gino told us on day one that there was one rule to obey.
Listen! You should be very careful with treats. People put bad things in them. So whenever you get from the ice cream man, you make sure either me or Lenny taste it first. You hear me?!
I used to hide with my ice creams from Gino and Lenny.
They cost me every penny I had, so I might as well. I would go to this camp with a small rubber Flintstones change purse full of coins. In order to open it, you had to squeeze Dino’s face and crack open the slot on the back. If you took more than five seconds to do this, the ice cream man would “help” you.
Give me that. I’ll do it.
Then he’d dump the contents into his hand and give you ice cream to go feed the counselors. It was terrible.
If I ever did spot an ice cream truck in the wild, driving from street to street, I’d wind up chasing them for four miles before they ever stopped anyway. Sometimes, I would stand on my porch because I could hear the bells playing for hours in the distance. They’d fade in and out as if he was getting closer and then farther away. Most of those times, he never showed up.
The ice cream man still haunts me as an adult. This freakin’ guy would actually park his truck right outside the doors for my daughter’s summer camp pickup. He knew what he was doing. By the time I’d get Olivia from the sun-roasted gymnasium, she’d be begging me for a $10 cone; offering everything from her allowance to her first born. Please, just get some ice cream man ice cream.
I call it “ice cream man ice cream” because, upon seeing a line 50 people long, I would always try to make a deal for a stop on the way home.
They have the same ice cream anywhere. They have it at 7-11. We can stop at 7-11.
Of course, she claimed that it wasn’t the same and, I guess when you’re little, it’s not. So we become #51 on the line and wait in the boiling sun for twenty minutes all so she can complain when she has ice cream dripping on her hand…and my car. This freakin’ guy.
I’m not exaggerating on the prices either. When we first moved to our new house, the ice cream man showing up was like a dance party for us. We had never had one randomly drive down our block until the move. My daughter freaked out and we went running outside with $15.
He wasn’t very friendly. In fact, he was more of a horror movie ice cream man than a real one. Apathetic and seemingly annoyed just to be awake, he watched as we tried to make up our minds. The items had no prices on the menu so I just went by whatever the prices were in the 1980s when Lenny and Gino ate my cones and the ice cream man yanked my money from Dino’s mouth.
OK, Olivia. You got a cone. We’ll get Lucas that bar. What else should we get? We have $15.
That’s when the ice cream man clued me in on what year it was.
The cone and bar together are $12.
Oh. OK. Great. That’s easy. Here you go.
It was like a drive-by mugging. Whenever we hear the ice cream man bells ringing out now, I try to sing really loud to distract my daughter from begging me to chase him down.
I might not even need to. As she gets older, she’ll start to see this truck for what it is. It’s a grift. A work. A scam. And It’s going to haunt her when she has kids of her own.
At our block party, who do you think the kids had issues with? Yup. Ice cream man. Something about change or the dropping of an ice cream or something. I don’t know. All I know is that introducing money management and frozen treats to hyped-up children is a bad idea. Parents know this. Yet, this dude loads up a truck and invades the neighborhood, spraying hot fudge on the dumpster fire that is our summer schedules. Hey, your kids are happy? Yeah? Not for long. Ice cream man is here.
Ice cream on wheels. The concept is good. The idea sounds magical. The reality is awful. Sometimes you just have to grit your teeth and bare it. It’s just another one of those unexpected issues that moms, dads, babysitters, and caregivers face every day.
Don’t even get me started on the facepainters…