Of Ice and Men

A few weeks ago I came across a story about a turf battle between two ice cream truck drivers in Pennsylvania.  Evidently one of the drivers tried to run the other drivers off the road.

Image courtesy of Roadsidepictures via Flickr

In my investigation of the webpage reporting the incident, I found this comment posted by a “Miss Polly,” the wife of the victimized driver (all quoted material is sic) :

Hi Everyone, this is Miss Polly, I am the owner of the Ice Cream truck that actually called the police because the other Driver ran my husband off the road and almost hit children…The other driver has ran me off the road in another instance last year….[and] is intimidated by a female. I would never let my kids get ice cream off the trucks in our neighborhood b/c they were so scary lookingAnd so you all know…we are the ONLY ice cream truck business licensed in Uniontown, Pa…the other owner is not licensed and is operating illegally. The permit office is sending him a complaint letter. If you would like to see pics of our truck, us, our children and our fans, visit us on Facebook 🙂

Does anything arrest a child’s attention like the music of an ice cream truck coming down the street?  During summer evenings, it did not matter how deep we were into a Monopoly game, or large random hole in the backyard; we would drop our little plastic hotels or little plastic shovels, shake down the closest adult, and run out to meet the truck, screaming “ice cream man” and shoving slower kids out of the way.

As I reflect on those innocent days, when the ice cream cost under a dollar, and could be consumed with digestive impunity, I try to imagine what it would have looked like to see another ice cream truck coming down the street in the opposite direction at the same time.

The first signal would be the music.  The same tune would crackle from the trucks’ speakers – Scott Joplin’s ragtime classic, “The Entertainer” – but one measure out of phase, so that as the two trucks converged in front of my home, the dissonance would intensify, signaling that something dramatic was about to happen, and that there would be more than enough Bubble O’Bills with the red gumball nose to go around.

But instead of stopping, the two trucks would accelerate towards each other.  Out of each driver’s-side window would emerge a lance in the shape of a waffle cone.  The change in my hand would grow sweaty as I watched the ice cream men joust on my street.

Time would slow down.  My friends and I would look from one truck to the other, and instead of the loud engine and crackly ragtime, we would hear galloping horses and the drums and strings from the Battle of Stirling scene in Braveheart.  And one of the drivers – the one who came everyday, the one we knew and loved, the one who I had shortchanged on more than one occasion and who never called me out or told my mother – shouts to his enemy:

“You may take my route…but you’ll never take my Good Humor!”

Then each lance would pierce the opposite windshield, and the two trucks would collide and be annihilated instantly, like matter meeting anti-matter in a particle accelerator, leaving us kids with a puff of smoke, and a scattered and smoldering pile of Pop Rocks, over which we would fight to the death.  Or until our parents called us in, whichever came first.

And to mark the end of an era, we would keep the money meant for ice cream, and never speak a word about it.

Did an ice cream truck grace your neighborhood?  Did you run out to meet the truck like your pants were on fire?

9 thoughts on “Of Ice and Men

  1. Having grown up in rural East Texas, I never saw an ice truck until I moved away to a larger city and a more densely populated area. By the time I was old enough to live somewhere ice cream trucks frequented, I wasn’t interested in running after the ice cream truck. Maybe I’d run after the taco truck, though. 😀

    Do you remember Eddie Murphy’s comedy schtick about the ice cream truck? I still laugh about that.

    1. I do remember that routine! He talked about how the kids wouldn’t hear their mothers calling them from the house, but would hear that ice cream truck music a mile away. So true.

  2. Wow. Thanks for introducing me to this bit of news.

    Once, my son was sitting inside the house eating an ice cream sandwich when he heard the ice cream truck jingle, and immediately jumped up and yelled for ice cream while careening toward the door like Lurch. It was weird. I’m guessing there’s a hypnotizing agent in the music that only affects children.

    I’m also convinced the ice cream truck that came year-round to our old apartment complex full of students and young, childless couples was actually selling drugs. Drugs like caffeine pills. People these days.

    1. You’re welcome. Got to spread the word.

      What kind of music did the drug truck have? Maybe something by Clapton or from the soundtrack to “Easy Rider”? I bet it was the parents jumping up and shaking down their kids for change.

  3. Yet more evidence that I led a seriously deprived childhood… my mother was a fascist when it came to junk food, especially the kind sold from a truck which inspires an immediate Pavlovian response of whining in children. So, yes, we had a truck in our neighborhood, but I didn’t get to buy anything from it. Except during that brief era when I was old enough to have an allowance that would cover the $1.00 charge for a Strawberry Shortcake Good Humor bar, young enough not to have anything else I’d rather spend it on, and deceitful enough to sneak my purchase from the truck, eat it quickly and dispose of the evidence.

    To this day, I can’t walk past a Good Humor cooler in a gas station without jonesing for one of those strawberry shortcake bars. Something about the lure of the forbidden, perhaps?

    1. I love those strawberry shortcake bars. I used to spend 40% of my meal card at college on strawberry shortcake bars. And no parents around to stop me.

      I like that you disposed of the evidence. So many kids forget that fundamental rule.

  4. During the summers, I used to swim at the pool that was owned by my grandparents’ apartment complex. I swear, I could be underwater and I would hear the music and be outside waiting at the curb behind twenty other kids.

    The first (and only) time I have ever been stung by a bee was the day I forgot to bring money for the ice cream truck. Starving, I had to trek across a field of tall grass and yellow flowers to my grandmother’s apartment for a snack. That’s when the little bastard of a yellow-jacket got me.

    Lesson learned that day: It’s very important to remember money for the ice-cream man. He comes when you least expect it and, if you aren’t ready, someone could get hurt.

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