Wednesday, July 01, 2009

My First Job - Part 3

Working was crap. I learned that very quickly. Every evening and every Saturday afternoon when I went to the ice cream shop I thought of a million other things I'd rather be doing. It was no wonder my parents and pretty much everyone else I grew up around, eschewed traditional employment. It just plain sucked working for someone else, especially when the someone else was a racist who never got over Vietnam, who was convinced that you were "on marijuana."

"You're on the marijuana, I can tell," he'd say at least three times per shift, as he sat at one of the white tables banging his cane against the checkered floor.

"I tried it once. In 'Nam. The blacks liked it. I didn't know any better, gave it a try. Never been so sick in my life. Threw up. It's evil - the marijuana, and you'd better learn to stay away from it."

By then, I'd given up trying to convince him that I wasn't smoking pot and never had.

Luckily, I didn't have to work with the owner (whose name I can't remember to save my life) every shift. He wasn't always there. Sometimes I shared a shift with a girl named Kayla, who was mixed race. This always bothered me because I wondered why such a bigot would hire a girl who was obviously part black. I wondered if he'd given his speech about "The Blacks" to her and how that made her feel. I hoped he hadn't.

Kayla hated the owner. She hated everything. Just like me. She was fun to work with because we'd sneak spoonfuls of ice cream and break cones on purpose and then eat them, but every time we did it, I'd become consumed with guilt and paranoia and swear the owner would know, like he had hidden cameras set up to see if we were eating the ice cream or not. If he caught us, he'd probably blame it on that grass we were smoking. Grass makes you hungry you know.

It was with Kayla that I discovered pumpkin ice cream. It arrived in October, just in time for Fall. But I'll come back to that.

The ice cream Shoppe advertised "homemade" ice cream. When I first started I'd assumed that they made the ice cream there. Isn't that what homemade meant? Apparently, it wasn't and this practically destroyed my entire worldview. It meant I couldn't trust advertising anymore.

The ice cream was made in a factory nearby.

"They make it homemade," the owner explained when I asked how the ice cream could be called homemade if it arrived on a tractor trailer in big plastic tubs.

Homemade ice cream from a factory.

That said, it was good ice cream. The owner may have been a complete asshole, but he did choose a decent ice cream supplier and he ordered good flavors. I really hated scooping it though.

At every job I have ever had (and Lord knows there have been many) there is always some task, some aspect of the job that I have hated beyond everything else. The one thing I hate about teaching is grading over 40 Freshman Composition papers at a time. At my last job I hated keeping track of code violations (so I didn't and ended up getting in trouble over it). At the pottery studio, I hated unloading cases of bisque (the dry, rough pottery made my skin crawl) and at the Bubblegum Kittikat I hated adding up the thousands of dollars I'd charged on men's credit cards in exchange for "Bubble Bucks" (which is fake strip club money) at four in the morning when I just wanted to get away from drunk, naked women. At the ice cream shop, the very first thing I ever hated in a job, was scooping ice cream. It was cold and sticky. The ice cream scoop sat in a little tray of grey water. It had a drain and a little faucet, so that the water was supposed to be constantly fresh, but it never looked like it was to me. It was gross. The ice cream was too hard and the case was so deep that I practically had to crawl inside of it to reach the tubs of ice cream. I didn't have the strength to pack the scoops into the scooper and I'd just scrape and scrape at the sides of the tubs trying to get something as customers grew impatient. I used to wish I had an icepick. Why didn't they keep the ice cream softer, I wondered. It was horrible. And just as bad was when the metal rim of the ice cream containers touched the backs of my arms. It was so sharp and cold it burned. I didn't mind filling the toppings, restocking, even mopping the floor, but I despised scooping ice cream.

I hadn't even been there two weeks when it went from bad to worse. The owner had ordered some newfangled machine that turned packed ice cream into soft serve. The way this idiotic contraption worked was that you scooped whatever flavors of hard ice cream into the top of it. Then you could add whichever combination of toppings you wanted on top of that. Then you pulled down on a lever which pressed the icecream and the toppings down into some sort of chute, smashed it flat and then extruded it, soft serve like, out of a tube and into a waiting dish or cone. It was awful. The machine made its operator do all the work and pushing that lever down required the strength of an Olympic weight lifter. It also required the use of both arms in my case, and still I'd pretty much be hanging off the machine, my feet dangling five inches off the floor, as I tried to use all one hundred and ten pounds of my body weight (God I wish I weighed that now) to get that stupid ice cream to come out of that tube. The problem was, you were supposed to use one arm to pull the lever down and one arm to hold the cone or cup steady under the dispenser. All of this required a level of strength and coordination that I just didn't have (and probably still don't).

This confounded machine. After it arrived, the owner got a new sign made for the front door that advertised some insane, ungodly number of ice cream flavors. I can't remember the exact number, but it was just ridiculous and the sign went something like this:


"We don't have fifteen thousand ice cream flavors," I said to the owner, "We just have twenty, like always."

"You are wrong, young lady."

The owner decided that because of this new machine, the combinations of flavors and toppings that could possibly result were probably well over fifteen thousand. He said he'd actually sat down and come up with a complex mathematical formula based on number of ice cream "bases" plus the number of toppings and come up with the number of possible combinations of bases and toppings which, if put through the machine, would result in new "flavors." To me, this was just some BS. They weren't really flavors. They were possibilities of things you could smash together. Again, false advertising. It annoyed me to no end. But every two weeks I was making sixty three dollars!!

And I was sneaking pumpkin ice cream.

Once I had that pumpkin ice cream it was all over for me. I could think of nothing else. Whenever I worked with Kayla the first thing I did was eat at least two scoops of it. Whenever I worked with the owner, I obsessed over the pumpkin ice cream. I'd look at it and try to plan ways to sneak just a tiny lick of it when he wasn't looking, but I never had the nerve. I'd mop the floor and refill the strawberry topping, scrub caramel off the counters and think of pumpkin ice cream. It was like being in love with a married man who has no interest in an affair.

That pumpkin ice cream was special. Basically I think all it was, was pumpkin pie filling folded into a vanilla base. It was orange and speckled with spices. It tasted like a cold Thanksgiving, heavy on the cinnamon and there was no other ice cream anywhere else like it. They didn't sell pumpkin ice cream in the grocery store, and twenty years later they still don't. It was rare and unusual. Since I was a child I have always loved the things that were the hardest to find. It's as if what I truly love is longing and I loved longing for the pumpkin ice cream.

But the job was getting more and more miserable. Kayla quit, so there was never any possibility for fun anymore. The owner was still convinced that I was stoned and he began to nag and criticize me more than ever. I was too slow. I was too weak to scoop and operate the soft serve 15,000 flavor machine. Finally, he told me it wasn't working out.

"You weren't meant for ice cream," he said, "Takes a lot of strength. Ice cream is man's work. You're too little."

He'd hired a pair of brothers, boys from his church. They were on the wrestling team, and really, I was relieved to be let go. I hadn't been there long and hadn't made that much money, but I had bought some tapes and I did get that book on love spells along with the ballet slippers that made my feet ache when I wore them to school. It hadn't been all for naught and maybe I just wasn't meant to work for other people. I came from a long line of entrepreneurs, which I liked.

It was a year before I got another job. My second job was a lot better. I conducted telephone surveys for a marketing research company. There was no pumpkin ice cream there though and I have never found it again, at least not one that compares to my first, but every Fall I keep looking and hoping.


Rich said...

Wondering: Is sherbet ice cream, or something else?

Wide Lawns said...

Something else, but in the same category. When I was little I preferred lime sherbet to anything else. Now when I'm sick I like orange sherbet mixed with 7-Up.

Nanci said...

I LOVE Pumpkin ice cream!!! Mixing in graham cracker crust and whipped topping is THE best! =) In the fall you can find it at Cold Stone Creamery! I used to work there and actually make the ice cream! This story makes me laugh and remember the times I spent at the ice cream shoppe!

Marisa said...

There are several places in Philly that serve pumpkin ice cream or gelato during the fall months.

Just sayin'

Laura said...

This brings back not so fond memories of working in an ice cream shop. By the end of the summer I swear my right arm resembled that of Popeye from scooping that stuff.

athens said...

Amy's Ice Cream in Austin sells an amazing pumpkin ice cream.

Matt said...

The grocery stores around here (MO) carry pumpkin ice cream near Halloween or Thanksgiving but they usually only order it once and all you pumpkin ice freaks buy it all up and you never see it again, I hear it is good but haven't had it.

Devi said...

baskin robins also carries pumpkin ice cream starting october or so through thanksgiving. and they sell it in pints..... it is so evil, i too have a PI(pumpkin icecream) problem

Nicole said...

Pumpkin ice cream is the best, and now you're making me wish it was fall so I could go get some!

I also really like cantelope ice cream but that's almost impossible to find anywhere. I had it at a local dairy here in PA when I was a teenager and haven't found it since. God, it was delicious.

Anonymous said...

Dreyer's (or Edy's) comes out with a great pumpkin ice cream every fall. It's really, really good.

I scooped ice cream for one summer and I remember how tough it was!

Tamarillicent said...

I have to say that so far, Cold Stone Cremery makes the BEST pumpkin ice cream. Edies makes it, too but I like Cold Stone's is better. As far as I'm concerned, anyway. :)

Chelsea said...

I live in Oregon and we have 'pumpkin pie' ice cream every year. It's Umpqua brand but I'm pretty sure it's more local-ish and probably nowhere else would have it.

if you think it's just pumpkin pie filling and vanilla ice cream why not just mix some together and add cinnamon and stuff? Same dif

picnpec said...

Publix in the fall

Anonymous said...

yeah ... you brought back the horrifying memories of my one and only experience working in an "Ice Cream Shoppe." I also did not have the strength to scoop out the ice cream. To reach into the freezer was a horrible fiasco because my hands and wrists got covered with ice cream stickiness and I was kind of short, almost had to crawl in there to reach the tubs in the back. I got "let go" after a week and a half...was too slow, Thank Goodness because it was a torturous experience.

K said...

My first job was in an ice cream shop too. My bosses were philandering lecherous old men. I don't recall racism, but I do recall them paying cash out of the till... I think that they were skimming and evading taxes.

The ice cream was good and I really packed on the weight that summer.

Anonymous said...

I spent the first 3 years of my working life in a restaurant/ice cream stand that had 20 flavors of hard ice cream, 3 flavors of soft serve (that later turned into "Over 40 flavors of soft serve!" via a contraption that was not nearly as terrible to operate as yours, milkshakes, flurries (Blizzards called something else so Dairy Queen wouldn't sue us), sundaes, pies and banana splits. It also sold food--hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken sandwiches, hoagies, anything fried you could imagine (including fried macaroni and cheese bites), and a variety of homemade loosemeat sandwiches and soups. It was the opposite of your experience in that the owners were wonderful people who were truly caring and treated me like I was one of their children. They're still very close to my heart.

Anyway, my point: They sold Hershey's hard ice cream, and Hershey's sold pumpkin ice cream every fall. I don't know if they sell that brand in Florida, but in Pennsylvania, in the fall, Ben & Jerry's sells a Pumpkin Cheesecake ice cream, and Edy's (I think I've seen the same brand called Dreyer's? On the west coast, maybe?) sells Pumpkin ice cream as well. Omg. So good.

Chiada said...

Once again, Trader Joe's has pumpkin ice cream in the Fall. They carry the Double Rainbow brand. Not sure if you can get that ice cream anywhere else. I love pumpkin ice cream, too. There is a sandwich shop where I live that makes smoothies and around Thanksgiving they have a pumpkin pie smoothie that is so delicous I could almost die. They top it with whipped cream, a sprinkle of nutmeg, and a swirl of caramel sauce. Oh man... there I go.

sadi said...

Come to Wisconsin in the fall. Enjoy the changing leaves and some frozen custard.

We have a local frozen custard place that has pumpkin custard for Halloween and for Thanksgiving. It is outstanding! The first time I tried it, I was hooked.

I look forward to it every year.

Anonymous said...

Pimkin ice cream at home.

Take 1 Quart of ice cream, let it go soft
Puree 1 3/4 cups pumpkin purée (1 15-ounce can pumpkin purée) with 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves. Now this recipie usually involves making your own ice cream, so you're going to have to adjust it to taste since I'm changing it so you're using pre-made vanilla ice cream unless you want to get your own ice cream blender.

But basically let your ice cream melt, not so it's soupy but so it's soft enough you can blend it, mix all the pumpkin stuff togeather into a smooth puree first and then shove it into a blender with the soft vanilla ice cream, then re-freeze it for about a 1/2 hr to an hour and go at er. Hopefully it turns out okay. Then it's just a matter of having the pumpkin mix on hand and making yourself a pumpkin pie smoothy.

Get some already cooked pie crusts and let the ice cream be a little harder when you blend it and you could make yourself some frozen pumpkin ice cream pies.

sha said...

Come to Port Townsend and the Elevated Ice Cream Company. They truly make all their own ice creams and they have awesome pumpkin ice cream. I also had homemade pumpkin fudge at the local candy store. Oh man...

And for the lady from Oregon. I miss Umpqua! We can get it up here at certain small c-stores, but it's hard to find and I haven't seen any pumpkin flavored. I miss the trips to Eugene and Portland and stopping at Rice Hill for Umpqua ice cream!

Klaire said...

MonteLago at Lake Las Vegas has really great pumkin gelato all year heaven on Earth!

Green said...

Just need to say that I lived in NY for 20 years, and the towns did NOT have "Main Street" or downtowns.

The only ice cream place I went to in Coral Springs was the Carvel on Sample Road that was ... I think near a Publix.

When I was 15, I worked at a HD shopPE, and we were allowed to eat the mistake ice creams. We took home a lot of cakes. And yeah, it was REALLY easy to break the damn cones - those things are hella fragile.

Robin said...

I'm from Oregon too and I'll third the Umpqua pumpkin ice cream. The ice cream shop I worked at in High School had both Pumpkin and Licorice ice cream for October and November every year.

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