When I’m on vacation I need ice cream. (Actually, I need ice cream even when I’m not on vacation because who am I kidding, I’m twelve years old. I always have a box of fudgicles in our freezer at home, and at one point, collected the popsicle sticks just to see how many I’d get. The result: a lot.) Regardless. A couple of weeks ago we went on vacation to Michigan. By we, I mean my gorgeous and energetic husband. He has awesome blue eyes, but that’s not the reason I love him so. He is also incredibly patient with me. “I need ice cream!” I declared, as we departed the national park where we had been camping the last few days.
“Okay. Let’s get you some ice cream.”
There was a village of sorts just south of the campground that we had driven through each day. “I want to try the place on the other side of the street,” I said, having had a cone from the northbound side the day before. We pulled into a small lot and parked next to two wooden picnic tables in the sun. Above was a sign saying “ice cream, burgers, souvenirs, maps”
We stepped inside to find a small dark souvenir store rather than a cafe. But in addition to displays of shotglasses, there were a couple of picnic tables in the middle. As we walked towards the back, two people with cones passed us. Aha! We came to the right place. An older woman came out of the back. “Need a menu?” she asked. “You can sit here,” she gestured at wooden picnic table
“No thanks,” I said. “Just came for ice cream!” Reggae music played loudly over the speakers.
Along the back wall stood a man in a white apron. Behind him was a grill, and in front of him was a counter top for prep work. There was no big glass display case of ice cream, but.three large tubs sat on the counter between us. “You want a burger?” he said, waving hands in plastic gloves. He was in his late 40s or early 50s, short, with intense eyes of the highly caffeinated. He was also older than your usual ice cream scooper-person. He wore a white apron that tied in the back that he had probably been wearing at least since that morning, and perhaps several mornings before. It had the smudges and oily smears in an orangish hue you’d expect from someone working a grill.
“Just ice cream. What flavors do you have today?” I said.
He fluttered his hands from one bucket to the next, “We have chocolate! We have vanilla! And we have a strawberry nut blend!” He kept fluttering them–
“Oh,” I said, “I thought there was more, that, uh, you were going to mention.”
“Chocolate! Vanilla! And strawberry nut blend!”
“Okay. Um. I’ll just have a scoop of vanilla. In a cone.”
“You should try the strawberry,” he said, pushing the carton he held in his hands towards me..
It looked almost empty. Mostly I saw the cardboard bottom. There wasn’t much left, and I wasn’t sure how long it had been sitting on the counter. Shouldn’t the ice cream tubs be kept in the the freezer? “Is it very hard still?” I asked.
“Oh, you’re being difficult,” he replied.
“Okay. Um. I’ll try the strawberry in a cone.”
“Tell you what! I’m going to give you half a scoop of vanilla and then half a scoop of strawberry! You’ll love it!” With a cone in one hand, he scooped and scooped some strawberry on top. Then he pushed it into the cone using his fingers. They were gloved. Still, it wasn’t something I had seen before. But hey, I’d just been camping, my standards were weakened, so I said nothing. He need both hands to reach for the carton further away on the counter, so he set the cone down—it had a flat bottom afterall– on the counter in front of him. When he reached forward he leaned over the half-filled cone and it stuck onto his apron, the strawberry top acting like glue. The cone protruded there out of his belly when he took a step back. He pulled the cone off and scooped up some vanilla which he put on top.
“I don’t want that one now,” I said, “not after it stuck to your apron.”
“Oh,” he said, looking down at it. “Yeah,” he said, and then tossed it into the garbage can, reaching for a new cone.
“Yeah, well, um, why don’t we just skip it,” I said, putting my wallet back in my purse. “You don’t really have my flavor anyway,” I said, backing away. I waved to my husband and we fled. back into the sunshine.
“What just happened?” he asked.
“It stuck! It was sticking to his apron! Where he had grease from the grill!”
“Yes! And it didn’t even phase him! If you don’t realize you should throw out a cone that’s stuck to your apron, then I don’t want ice cream from you!” I said.
“I can’t blame you,” Tim said, starting the car.
For the next few miles I told many jokes in varying tones of outrage: “We have four flavors. Chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, and apron-flavored!” Then I shuddered. “Apron-flavored!”
“Involuntary shudder!” I added.
We drove off discussing the types of drugs, legal and illegal, that might be available in that part of Michigan.
“It was reggae music. He could have been stoned.”
“Or meth. I’m hoping meth,” Tim said.
We drove a couple of miles and I added, “It’s the first time that I’ve ever had an ice cream person tell me, ‘You’re being difficult.’” Then I laughed. I laughed and laughed. Also, I continued shuddering.
Moral: beware of apron-flavored ice cream