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Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Ice Cream Man


How come there aren’t any milk men anymore, but there are still ice cream men? For those born after the 1960’s, milkmen were route drivers, usually dressed in freshly laundered white uniforms, who silently delivered milk, cream, butter, and other dairy products directly to your house. Some houses used to have milk chutes, or small holes in their walls with doors on both sides where the milkman would leave the milk, early in the morning, before anyone got up. Some milkmen were allowed just to walk in the door and put dairy products in the family refrigerator and take back the empty glass milk jugs to be refilled. Many of us never saw the milk man, because he was so subtle, so quiet in his wee-early-morning rounds. In my old neighborhood, you could even subscribe to the potato chip man who delivered crispy snacks to you at periodic intervals.

Customer service is such a thing of the past. So why is it that there are still ice cream men? Ice cream men who drive continuously, every single day of the week in my neighborhood, playing the same rotten tune from the loudspeaker of their filthy, rusty truck? The same, annoying, Turkey in the Straw tune, to which I have assigned the first-grade lyrics, “Do your ears hang low, do they wobble to-and-fro, can you tie them in a knot, can you tie them in a bow?” This melody, if you can call it that, is played repeatedly, noisily, causing me to psychotically hum that tune well into the wee hours of the morning until a strong sedative finally un-knots the rage I feel towards this man who is trying to eke out a living by sucking the allowances from sugar-crazed monsters who allegedly await his arrival every freakin’, blessed day of the week.

Do I sound bitter? A tad angry, perhaps?

I try, really I do. I try to remember the simpler times when the chimes of the ice cream man approached our house. We begged our mother for dimes, only to be refuted with the phrase, “If you’re hungry, get an apple from the fridge.”

Mercifully, our old ice cream man used to stop and turn off his music and exchange sugary frozen goods for small amounts of change. This ice cream man, the one in my neighborhood now, the one causing me to grind my teeth as I write this, if he does ever indeed stop, he doesn’t turn off his damn hi-fi. I think it’s a front. I think he’s selling narcotics. Or something else just as evil.

Are these ice cream men background screened? After all, his primary customers, assuming he has them, are kids. Kids that can be easily lured away from their homes by the cacophonous chimes until they are out of sight from their parents, where they can be abducted and ground up into Nutty Buddies.

If my ice cream man isn’t deaf (self-inflicted, I would imagine), he is certainly crazy, and there’s no telling what he’s capable of. After all, he has to listen to that tune for hours on end, only it’s louder for him. Does he ever have any other music in his head once he’s home and the ting-a-ling is mercifully silenced? How could he not detest his entire life, knowing his livelihood is derived from annoying middle class taxpayers in single family homes? This man, although I’ve never met him, is a time bomb.

I’m sure this is a civil rights issue. The right to self-employment. The right to run out into traffic and risk being a hit-and-run victim in an effort to obtain a toxic-looking Rocket Pop. But we childless homeowners have rights, too., such as the right to sit on our patios and read library books without having the words on the page dissolve into endless paragraphs of “Do your ears hang low?”

Like I said, I try to remember my early years when life was simpler, and safer, and we were kinder and gentler. But there’s a reason houses are no longer built with milk ports and doors aren’t left unlocked at night so Mr. Man-In-White can stock our fridges like some kind of mystical Dairy Fairy while we sleep.

I know my neighbors are in agreement with me. No one is outside when this madman in a musicmobile trolls around our neighborhood for youthful customers. My neighbors hate him as much as I do. Sometime I am going to have to set aside my petty annoyance and go out with a fistful of cash and interview this ice cream man. And buy something frozen from him just to see if it is indeed laced with OxyContin. And see if he has, as I suspect, been driven crazy by his own annoying melody.

One day I will do that. But right now, as he ting-a-lings back and forth in front of my window, causing my blood pressure to take me to the steam-from-the-earholes level, I can’t see doing that without taking along my sledge hammer and smashing his speaker into a rusted steel pancake. Sure I would be charged with all sorts of crimes, including murder, assuming the cops didn’t get there quickly enough. Yet, despite my lawyer’s justifiable homicide strategy and the positive support from my neighbors, I would still be convicted in order to set an example for other writers who might be tempted to kill other neighborhood distracters. They would include the Avon lady, Jehovah’s witnesses, racing sport bikers, children on motorized skateboards, and first year band students.

And as the drugs from the lethal injection spread through my veins, I’ll have just one thing going through my mind:

Do my ears hang low? Do they wobble to-and-fro? Can I tie them in a knot? Can I tie them in a bow?

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