You know how I was going to get all the important things done the other day, but I wrote a post instead? And then I got sick? Well, I finally had a free moment to sit down and tackle some of these pressing items, but an unfortunate event took place, and now I am forced to write instead of working yet again. It’s cool, though. When Joe settles in to watch sports tomorrow night and the house suddenly goes dark because I never did get around to paying the electricity bill, I know that he’ll smile to himself and say, “At least Jen got to blog.”
What follows is an open letter to our local ice cream truck driver, who was the initiator of said unfortunate event. (And yes, ice cream truck rounds in January are yet another thing that comes with living on the same line of latitude as Egypt. Scorpions in beds and year-round ice cream trucks — remember that next time you’re shoveling snow, northern friends.)
Dear Ice Cream Truck Driver:
Hi, my name is Jennifer. We have not had the pleasure of meeting in person, though if I were to shout from a distance “YOU KIDS GET BACK IN HERE AND PUT ON SOME SHOES! AND PANTS!” my voice would probably sound familiar.
Let me begin by saying that while I appreciate your service to our community, your presence in our neighborhood is an increasing source of distress for me, and so I am contacting you today in hopes of finding a mutually beneficial path forward.
Let me begin by describing the events of yesterday afternoon:
At 2:15 PM, my afternoon was off to a lovely start. We had had a long week where one plague after another descended upon this house, which left me working so hard and under such miserable conditions that I began to consider scrubbing vomit out of the carpet to be a relaxing activity. So when a long stretch of health and peace seemed to be finally afoot, I was overjoyed. I got my two youngest children down for naps, and set the four older kids up with quiet educational activities (read: I told them they could watch whatever they want on Netflix as long as they leave me alone). Finally, I could escape for some much-needed time to myself.
I went into my office and began my afternoon prayers. Okay, fine, I was pinning stuff like this on Pinterest. But maybe I would have said prayers at some point. We’ll never know. Because ten seconds later I heard the ominous ding-dong-dinging sound of your truck’s music.
It’s hard to describe the intensity of the reaction that that noise triggers in me. Just as a tornado siren announces impending bad weather, the distant, electronic rendition of The Entertainer is like a Bad Life Siren announcing that my precious quiet time is about to come to a very abrupt end.
And while we’re on the subject, is there no other noise your truck could make? Must the presence of your vehicle be all downside for me? If you insist on continuing to peddle overpriced unhealthy treats at my front door during naptime — a matter which we will return to in a moment — perhaps we could discuss replacing the current song with secret bird calls recognizable only to parents, or, if it must be music, maybe some Wilco. (Although then you’d have a bunch of hipsters chasing after your truck. Just brainstorming here.)
So there I was, in my formerly silent house, the sound of your impending visit now filling the air. The last time this happened it woke up my napping two-year-old, and I can now admit that at one point when the overtired child was hitting me while refusing to be put down, I had a vivid fantasy about running out of my house with a knife and slashing your tires while screaming, “That’s what you get for coming at naptime!!!!” (Although later I realized that the main upshot of that move would be that your truck would be stuck in front of my house — undoubtedly with the music still blaring — for hours on end.) (My revenge fantasies need some work.)
But yesterday, while the two-year-old mercifully slept through it, my other children heard the approach of your truck. And, as usual, as soon as their ears detected the first few notes, they morphed from quiet little humans into rabid animals who had heard their species’ mating call, and whose ritual response was to howl “MOMMY-WE-NEEEEEEED-ICE-CREAM!” over and over and over again.
I was faced with the usual decision:
- A. Refuse to let them get ice cream and watch them sit at the window like Flowers in the Attic children, peering from inside their darkened house at the neighbor kids who frolic in the sun with their treats.
- B. Let them get ice cream.
- C. Lock myself in a closet and scream.
Now, at first glance, B might seem to be the obvious choice. Just let them get the ice cream! you say. What’s the big deal?
Alas, this is a huge decision fraught with day-ruining implications:
First of all, I must make the agonizing call as to whether or not there is time enough to catch your truck before it passes by. There was one day when I announced with great fanfare that the kids could have treats, but by the time all seven of us managed to get out the door, you’d disappeared around the corner. I think I could taxidermy the cat and there would be fewer tears of outraged despair than I saw that afternoon.
But even if it’s clear that we have time to catch you, the difficulty has just begun.
Trying to find matching shoes for six young children in under ten seconds is like a challenge from one of those reality shows where they also make people eat roaches. I don’t even attempt it. Also, inexplicably, at least one of my children always has at least one sartorial disaster going on at all times, and there’s no time to untangle the two-year-old from the ream of toilet paper she’s wearing as a scarf if we’re going to catch your truck.
And then they get out the door. Contrary to all the evidence you’ve seen, my kids are generally pretty good about not straying too far away from me. They typically listen when I tell them to slow down or come back. But evidently we are descended from a long line of people who survived by hunting animals that were large, white, square, and made electronic music noises, because as soon as they spot your truck, an ancient, primal force takes over and instills them with superhuman speed and agility. This leaves me watching my barefoot kids sprint down the street at twice their normal pace in various states of undress, my words utterly powerless to bring them back. Then I’m running through the streets as well, occasionally wearing one black high heel and one poofy pink slipper because that’s all I can find, feeling every single pound of the extra baby weight as I lumber after my shoeless, ragtag group of children.
We arrive at your truck where you’ve carefully arranged the choices so that there are the plain vanilla cones that cost $2, known as the “boring and stupid ice cream” by my children, and then, right next to them, there are the ones shaped like a happy frog with candy eyes and sprinkles for hair for $5.50. And I am panting and sweating and all decisioned-out, so we walk away with six ice cream frogs and I just blew my budget for little extras like dinner.
Look, I respect your entrepreneurial zeal. I admire your hustle. I certainly don’t want to stop anyone from making a buck in this economy. But surely we can put our heads together and find a better solution than the current one. How about you start a street-by-street racket where you have us parents pay you off not to come to our part of the neighborhood? The mafia has proven that this can be an effective monetization strategy for your type of business. Similarly, you could let us pay you to park your truck with the music on full blast in front of other people’s homes. I know someone who recently stuck me with quadruple the parent volunteer work I signed up for. I have an address. Send me a bill.
In conclusion, I must ask you to cease and desist your operation in its current form. However, if you would like to transform your vehicle into the Wine Truck that comes around every evening at 5:30, you have my full support.
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