Gut Rumbles

December 17, 2007

The ice cream truck

Originally published June 1, 2006

One of the most consistently exciting, heart-pounding experiences of my youth came when my friends and I heard the sound of the ice cream truck tooling through my neighborhood. It had big loudspeakers mounted on top, from which issued a tinkly, static-plagued version of "London Bridge (is falling down!)" to alert "The Children" of its presence.

When we heard that sound, we dropped whatever we were doing, shot home to shake a dime out of the trusty piggy bank, then ran barefoot down the street in hot pursuit of the truck. It was piloted by a cranky old man named "Shorty" and I don't believe that he liked kids at ALL, the bastid.

He would SEE us coming, yelling and waving frantically, and he just kept going, purely to make us suffer. Sometimes, we chased him for BLOCKS before he finally pulled over and stopped. Then, he acted as if he were doing us all a BIG favor by selling us ice cream.

Looking back now, I think that "Shorty" maybe had this problem. [Ed. Don't know what problem he had because the link goes to the current front page.] The old bastid was as surly as a mongrel dog and just downright mean to kids. The Ice Cream Man ain't supposed to be that way, but Shorty WAS.

But we still wanted the goods he carried, and we all were fascinated by the coin-dispenser that he wore on his belt. You remember those, don't you? That thing-a-ma-jig that had cylinders for pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters, with a button on top of each cylinder, much like the keys on a trumpet. Shorty made change by pushing those buttons and having coins shoot out the bottom of the device. It was really cool.

Ice cream trucks don't come where I live now. In fact, I haven't even SEEN one in years. Do they still operate? Are they still piloted by malevolent assholes like Shorty? Do they still play that horrible, static-plagued music over big loudspeakers on the truck? Do excited kids still chase them down the street SOMEWHERE in this country?

Did ice cream trucks go the way of the drive-in movie and just fade away to extinction? Or do they still operate in the inner city--- selling crack cocaine as their "snow" cones and dealing joints instead of popcicles? Maybe instead of becoming extinct, ice cream trucks EVOLVED to fit a new market.

I don't know, because I haven't seen an ice cream truck for a long, long time now. If kids today never have the chance to chase one, they're missing a memorable experience in life. I WISH that I could chase one today.

What a sight that would be: a decrepit old Cracker, hobbling down the street and yelling at the ice cream truck to STOP!!! Heh. Chances are that a good, drunk-driving ice cream man would turn around and run OVER me, for the good of humanity.

Maybe it's a nostalgia thing, imbedded deep in my psyche, but the Mexican popcicles I buy in the grocery store today don't taste NEARLY as good as the popcicles I remember buying off the ice cream truck when I was a kid.

Maybe part of that goodness was the thrill of the chase when I was young. Now, if I'm expected to chase ANYTHING, I don't, because I don't want it THAT much. Growing old sucks.

And if we don't have ice cream trucks anymore, well... that sucks, too.

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