As kids, the ice cream truck makes us scream with delight. As adults, on the other hand, the thing can simply make us scream.
Maybe it’s because it makes normally well-behaved children clamor for Creamsicles right before dinner. Perhaps we’ve been stuck behind one in neighborhood traffic. Or maybe it’s the incessantly loud and tinny music.
It’s gotta be the music.
But it’s just not right to hate the ice cream truck. How can we hate something that is filled with so many goodies and so much glee?
To soften any hardened perspective on the ice cream truck, I moseyed on over to one ambling through the Reid Park parking lot on a recent Saturday afternoon.
Its speaker was blasting “The Entertainer.”
Katrice Vega, 31, was in the driver’s seat, working the ice cream business her mother-in-law has manned for the past 20 years.
Sister-in-law Juanita Villegas was dispensing the treats to eager children. The two regularly go out on ice cream rounds, paying extra for things like permits to sell ice cream in Reid Park – and loads of the tinny music.
Yes, loads of the tinny music. Unlike the olden days when the little electronic music box only had as few as three or four songs, the box has gone digital and includes a fine selection of all types of ice cream truck music.
“It goes through my head all night long,” Vega admits.
“The Entertainer” can now be supplemented with “Pop Goes the Weasel,” “Happy Birthday,” “Popeye the Sailor Man” – and the everlasting staple of “Turkey in the Straw.”
“The Entertainer” is pure joy compared to “Turkey in the Straw.” Actually, a jackhammer in the eyeball would be pure joy compared to “Turkey in the Straw.”
Another pure joy of the job is definitely the children, Vega said. “The best part is the kids getting so excited.”
Vega works the ice cream truck part time and holds a second job – are you ready for this? – as a teaching assistant at the Pima County Jail.
While the gigs may seem like they are on opposite ends of the spectrum, she notes the similarity that ensures she enjoys both. “Both involve working with people.”
Vega said the toughest part of the ice cream job is the heat. Even though the truck is outfitted with a freezer, it’s tough to sell ice cream through a closed window. Heat seeps up from the asphalt and sweeps into the truck, licking at armpits and leaping at brows.
Although the heat may be the toughest part of the job, Villegas points out the most dangerous aspect.
No, the most hazardous aspect is not the potential to gain some 25 pounds from eating ice cream drumsticks and the best-selling chocolate tacos. Nor is it kids who dash and bolt at all angles into the street.
It’s the thieves.
“In this economy, people are trying to steal,” Villegas says. “Ice cream trucks make easy targets. You have to keep your eyes open for anything – and be ready to act quickly.”
Their own truck has been the target of two different robbery attempts. While Villegas did not say whether or not the robberies were successful – or if the ice cream truck has a handgun holster next to the Bomb Pops – she did say suspects were usually easy to spot.
They often appear strung out on some type of drug.
Or maybe they’re just strung out from the music – we hear strange things do happen after repeated exposure to Turkey in the Straw.
Ryn Gargulinski is a poet, artist, performer and TucsonCitizen.com Ryngmaster who thinks ice cream trucks should play Stravinsky and the Violent Femmes. Her column appears every Friday on Rynski’s Blogski. Her art, writing and more is at RynRules.com and Rynski.Etsy.com. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
What do you think?
Does the ice cream truck fill you with glee – or dread?
Do you agree with New York City’s Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s 2004 proposal to ban ice cream truck music in neighborhoods and instead ring a bell?
What ice cream truck song drives you the most insane?
(HINT: Turkey in the Straw)