Picture if you will this scenario. Birds are chirping outside your window, the sun is shining brightly, fluffy clouds are passing lazily overhead, the house is peaceful and all is in order with the world. You have your favorite book or maybe you’re outside playing with your friends…and then it happens. You hear the hypnotic music from someplace in the distance and your pulse starts to race. You’ve completely forgotten about the book you’re reading as the music grows louder, the pitcher fails to make his next hurl to the batter in the neighborhood boys’ stickball game. As if choreographed everyone reaches for their pockets simultaneously in an effort to extract change just as the white vehicle makes the turn at the top of the street. At first sight of the truck and as the unmistakable music plays children scatter in all directions, dogs get left unattended on leashes, balls bounce ownerless in the street. Piggy banks are broken, the cushions on the couch are thrown about, siblings and parents are begged for money as the ice cream truck makes it run down the street. Children plead and make promises of extra chores and better grades, all in an effort to get the necessary money before the truck passes the house. And once the right button is pushed and correct lie is told and you have the $1.25 that you need the race is on. Three of your friends that live at the top of the street are already in a full sprint 75 feet behind the truck begging the driver to stop as you jump down the three steps from your front door to join the chase. Finally the truck slows at the bottom of the street where children have to take a moment to catch their breath before they order their summertime treat. Minutes later, the truck revs its engine and makes its way down to the next block while the neighborhood kids walk away with their sugary desires in hand satisfied until tomorrow when the same scenario unfolds.
Last Sunday marked the first sighting of the ice cream truck on my block. Even to this day when I hear that bell I come to a halt with whatever I’m doing, the TV goes on mute, and my ears get keener all due to that music and little bell. Because of our childhood experiences we’re conditioned to stop everything and check our pockets for money, hell, last summer I actually succumbed to the urge, leapt from my couch turning over my tray table nearby in the process, raced out the front door, jumped two sets of steps, flagged down the truck on the corner just to buy a Strawberry Shortcake ice cream. Never mind the fact that I could have driven a mile to Kroger and gotten 6 Strawberry Shortcake ice cream bars for what I paid for it; I just had to have it.
Again, we’re conditioned and it sticks for life. Never mind the fact that in my neighborhood as a kid there was no merry ice cream truck that looked like this…
The ice cream truck in my neighborhood was just a white box van like this one with stickers of the ice cream available stuck to the side. “Yes, I’d like to have a Bomb Pop and a side of Child Abduction, please!”
And pay no mind to the gentleman driving whose English didn’t extend beyond “You want cherry?!” or “That all gone, you take this!” because you didn’t care what language he spoke as long as he kept bringing the good stuff.
And there was no happy Mister Softee music like my friends from up north heard on their block bellowing from the happy truck speakers. The music coming from the white no windows abduction ice cream truck van sounded like an old 45 record misplaced, off center, and distorted, like a song for a demented clown that likes to dance behind the truck with a bloody knife…sort of like this.
But despite the risk of abduction, presence of a language barrier, and soundtrack for an evil clown, we chased the ice cream man every day, my parents did it, I did it, and my children one day likely will do it. It’s American like baseball, apple pie, and white picket fences. So hail to the ice cream man: be he from Nigeria, Mexico, or The Ukraine, may you keep American kids chasing your vehicles for generations to come.
~thanks for reading 🙂
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