The sun is melting slowly in the background of a serene suburban apartment complex. Kids are regrettably dragging themselves home from the manic play of earlier hours–fighting being dragged away with every fiber of their being. Streetlights flicker and mother voices echo across the parking lot, connecting with their own child’s ears. Tired parents, feeling like toddlers themselves are beginning Sunday night rituals in order to successfully adult the next day, and show some kind of responsibility in the eyes of their children. There are baths to be run, dinners to wolf down, clothes to put out and lunches to pack. The inevitable drudgery of Monday looms over the remnants of a beautiful Sunday at home.
The complex grows quieter with each drop of the sun. Parents who have completed their tasks sit outside until they too must accept that alarms must be set for a work day they no longer wish to be a part of. It had been a long, strange winter and this unseasonable Spring-like thaw brought everyone out as if it was June. I was enjoying rare quiet on my back porch with a comfortable chair and all ground floor windows open–airing out the house after the cold had kept them shut for months. All in all it was a typical Sunday evening until the peace was shattered by something none of us could’ve fathomed.
At first a faint whisper of something in the Port Columbus area background, broke the evening music of birds chirping. As it increased in volume, I looked inside at the oven clock and saw that it was 8:15pm. I thought that I was imagining things until the noise hit a crescendo, then I knew this was no figment of my imagination. The unmistakable carnival-esque music was getting louder, which meant it was getting closer.
I felt my panic-stricken heart and thought that this must’ve been what parents had felt years ago. This must’ve been what my own mother felt after she had accomplished settling us all down for the night in our house. I had just put my young son to bed and prayed that this would not wake him–destroying any hope of quiet I had planned for myself. Just when I thought that it wouldn’t be a big deal….it stopped right outside my apartment.
The Ice Cream Man from Hell.
The song was deafening and amplified by the fact that it was bouncing off of all of the surrounding apartments:
Do your ears hang low,
Do they wobble to and fro?
Can you tie ’em in a knot?
Can you tie ’em in a bow?
Can you throw ’em over your shoulder,
Like a Continental soldier?
Do your ears hang low?
This renegade truck, with its freezer packed with frozen sugar, sat outside in the middle of our complex–its melody announcing its intention. It played over and over and over and over and over, as if it wanted to torment us enough to buy or be driven completely mad. This was not the Good Humor man of days gone by. This was no soft sell of soft serve.
The parents who thought they had won the war, now had a new battle to fight. The ones who hadn’t run inside while tightly gripping their child’s hand, had to reason with their child as to why they couldn’t have an overpriced ice cream at 8:20 in the evening. The ice cream man just sat there creating a standoff–blaring his torture tunes and entertaining himself with the arguments of parents and their kids. I had seen this particular ice cream truck before, and due to the very shabby look of the health code violation on wheels, wondered if he ever had a customer. It wasn’t a pleasant-looking ice-cream truck. Possessing no friendly business name, riddled with rust and faded advertisements plastered on the sides, I knew that I would win this argument for ice cream if my kid startled awake and saw it sitting in the parking lot. To him it would seem like Christmas, but to me, it was now my arch enemy.
After holding us hostage for thirty minutes, and gaining a couple customers from parents who couldn’t take any more battering to their senses, the ice cream tank slowly rolled out of the complex and into what was left of the evening. It oozed slowly onto Johnstown Road–all taillights and exhaust fumes–taking what was left of the evening and my sanity with it.