Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Sunday Memory Drawer - "Most Kids Your Age Work During the Summer"

Today's title include the immortal words of my father when I turned 16.   That was an indirect way of saying I needed to find a job.   In reality, I didn't have to look far.

This nondescript street corner in Mount Vernon was the site of a monumental moment in my history.   Yes, the first time a kid my age worked during the summer.  

My first employment ever was literally around the corner. In the winter before my neighborhood chums and I all hit the 16 digit in age, we were excited to see a huge job opportunity start to get erected within a block of our homes. A Carvel Ice Cream store was going up on the property of the local car wash. As a matter of fact, it was a business expansion for the car wash's owner, some ugly creep named Jerry Rattner (he's got to be long dead, so I have no worries using his name). Jerry had the physical appearance of Frankenstein's monster with a personality to match. He probably fancied himself as this big business tycoon. And perhaps he was if you considered that one city block to be the entire universe.

Despite the ultra scary nature of Jerry, the local kids, including my good friend Leo and I, started to stalk him about when the store would be open. Jerry would always grunt the same reply.

"This summer. Come back then."

We chased this dude like showgirls would pursue Flo Ziegfeld. And, always the same garbled answer from the guy with bolts in his neck.

"This summer. Come back then."

Gotcha, Mr. Tall, Dark, and Gruesome.

Eventually, summer on schedule came. And most of us got hired to be the store's staff. I remember the very hot July night when the store first opened. We were decked out in Carvel whites with those stupid paper hats. And the place was packed to the seams as if nobody had ever seen before a two-scoop ice cream cone. One customer blended into another and we were all dizzy by the end. All the while, we had our Incredible Hulk of an employer standing nearby to critique our work. And concentrate on our mistakes.

"Whoa, that's too much whipped cream on there!"

"Whoa, cut the banana in quarters!"

"Whoa, stop giving all the pretty girls extra stuff!"

I wanted to say, whoa, fuck off, you bastard.

Amid all this hubbub, I developed a very real fear in working up one item for sale. It ultimately became a phobia that I needed to conquer and fast.

I was absolutely petrified if anybody ordered a Brown Bonnet.

You might remember that particular treat. A soft ice cream cone which is covered in this chocolate sauce that hardens on contact. You can actually buy the junk now in supermarkets under the brand name "Magic Shell." Well, Brown Bonnets were a very tricky thing to make. First, you swirl the soft ice cream onto a cone. And then you quickly dunk it in the sauce. Except I would always lose the ice cream in the mix. The cone came out without the custard. And this pretty much screwed up the sauce as there was now this glob of ice cream in the can.

"Whoa, that stuff is expensive. You're killing me here!"

Whoa, if only I could kill you right here...

The whole experience for me was torturous. Hours before the store would open to the public each day, you were on duty making all the "fresh" products that were sold in the freezer case. Parfaits, Flying Saucers, the 32 or so flavors of ice cream that were in vats displayed to customers. You'd stand with a tub in front of one of the custard machines. As vanilla ice cream dripped into the vat, you would periodically spoon something else in to create all the wonderful Carvel variations. Spooning in cherries. Voila, Cherry Vanilla. Spooning in chocolate syrup. Voila, Vanilla Fudge Swirl. Spooning in chocolate chips. Voila, Chocolate Chip.

"Whoa, that's way too many chocolate chips in there!"

Fuck off, shithead.

You'd go home at the end of the day, smelling like chocolate. You'd lay in bed at night and dream of the repetitive motion needed to make a cone. Over and over and over. And, throughout your sleep, you'd hear Jerry's voice telling you how you just screwed up one more time.

I lasted only the summer and no more. While my friend Leo actually thrived there as a manager and essentially funded his college education right through grad school, I realized that I was much better off on the other side of the counter. Licking the cone and wondering why there weren't more chocolate chips in the ice cream.

The following year, I moved onto another summer job. But, you will simply have to wait one week to hear all about it.  

Because, after all, kids my age needed to work during the summer.

Dinner last night:  Hamburger.

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