Mister Softee

There are only a handful of things in this world that I would label as pet-peeves. Wearing wet socks. Tinfoil touching my teeth. Celine Dion. Soggy bread, especially white bread. And the scream-soliciting seasonal song of the Mister Softee truck.

I think that something might have happened when I was a kid. Maybe it was the day that my grandma gave me some Washingtons to get a treat from the truck. I chose a Snow Cone over my usual Candy Center Crunch orChocolate Eclair. This was the first mistake. Once in the house, I promptly dropped it on the floor. My grandmother, beloved germophobe that she was, tried to rinse it in the sink. It promptly melted. I mean, promptly. As in, it touched water and was gone. No ice cream for me that day. Lots of tears for grandma.

Anyway, years later, I fucking hate that jingle. I hate jingles in general, but the Mister Softee hymn just freaks me out. To add insult to injury, there’s a hell-on-wheels that parks right outside of my yoga studio. Try taking a “corpse pose” when the shrill trill of the truck rolls up. Makes me want to put the om in homocide.

This being said, I wondered what would prompt a person to drive an ice cream truck. After all, it seems to be a pretty thankless job. Roll around in what can only be described as a mail truck’s ugly cousin, brave the heat and other elements to sell sticky tooth-rot, and deal with screaming, whining, crying, snotty, dirty, bratty children and their anything-but-calm parents. That sounds like a rehabilitation program, not a job.

It turns out that in some areas of the country, ice cream truck drivers aren’t feeling the heat from the economy. InSalt Lake City, for example, it seems as though people who are looking for a way to supplement their income are turning to the wheel of a Good Humor mobile. Other areas, like Los Angeles, have found that the economic downturn has led to a meltdown, nearly a 25% decrease when it comes to sales. Penny-pinching means sweet-skimping in La-La Land.

There still are drivers. Drivers who operate whatever godforsaken button controls the song.

If you want to get started in the world of mobile ice cream vending, my best advice for you is don’t search for information on the Internet. I typed a simple Google query, using the words “ice cream truck driver work,” and the first ten pages that came up included Ice cream truck driver attackedIce cream truck driver beatenIce cream truck driver arrested after asking women to expose their breasts, and Ice cream truck driver accused of selling crack cocaine. I am not kidding.

You can contact the International Association of Ice Cream Distributors and Vendors and ask for advice, or you can take a seminar from Ice Cream University Seminars, which include such hot topics as “Cool Cakes 101″ and “Breaking Into The Ice Cream And Gelato Business.” But it seems that the easiest, most direct route to becoming a cone clerk is to do it on your own.

All drivers need a license, obviously, and in many states you’d need a food vendor’s permit, so check with your local government for the low-down on the legality of driving some dairy. Of course, if you have a sullied past and a criminal record, perhaps this isn’t the career path for you. The next step is to check for jobs, you can do this online, or by calling ice cream vendors in your neighborhood and asking if they’re looking for another peddler. You can always purchase your own franchise, but, really, if you had the money to be doing that why would you be driving an ice cream truck?

Once you have your truck and route, you can start working. Make sure that you stock up in your vendor’s garage when you start your shift. While on your route, take note of locations with a high number of breeders and strollers. Make it a point to remember what streets give you the most sales, and what streets are deserted and most likely to be the ones where you’ll be robbed at screwdriver-point. At the end of your workday, when that song is tattooed into each cochlea and your tears taste like King Kones, turn in your receipts and cash out. When you count out keep in mind that the average driver takes in 10-25% of his sales. I’m sure that gas money isn’t covered, so one has to wonder, again, why would anybody willingly do this? It makes those behind the wheel seem that much more potentially malevolent and foreboding.

Some simple advice: don’t give away ice cream to your friends. Free stuff only attracts more people looking for free stuff. Don’t poach other trucks’ routes. As was stated in the article in the Los Angeles Times, “Sometimes they return [the trucks] with graffiti or other damage inflicted by competing vendors angry over a perceived invasion of turf. Competition from newcomers is not appreciated.” You do not want to start an ice cream truck gang war.

So if this sort of thing is your bag, godspeed. I still don’t understand the why that lurks behind the sticky residue of the how. But apparently ice cream truck driving is a point of pride. A family of an ice cream vendor in Massachusetts arranged for the truck to lead his funeral procession, and afterward post-burial Popsicles were handed out. You can check out proof at the most amazingly named website I have ever come across, The Daily Undertaker.

And to start you on your new jingle-fueled job, here’s a link to Mister Softee’s own job listings, as well as a link to the Ice Cream Truck Super Store , where they’re having a sale called a “Meltdown!” There’s also this independently-owned ice cream truck that’s for sale. The owner is getting rid of it for “health reasons.” Draw your own conclusions.

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