That familiar, nostalgic jingle that signals the ice cream truck has sent kids running for money for decades and has resulted in maddening searches by harried mothers for loose change under the couch cushions. Attempting to "beat the bell" while being the kid to snag the last Nutty Buddy was the epitome of summer and spoke volumes about parental supervision and trust for strangers peddling sweets among the young. "Yep, Junior, here's a pocketful of nickels. Run to the street and chase the mustached stranger who wants to give you some frozen candy. It's the 70's and, with any luck, he might let you pet the little puppy in the back." Call it paranoia mixed with a little cynicism, but that same jingle now assumes a more sinister tone as the clinky high notes send moms everywhere into a panic. "Jane, you grab the kids and head inside. I'll get the tag number and alert the cops that we have a perp trolling for kids." Sorry, but if your plan is to list your occupation as the driver of the local ice cream truck in your e-harmony profile, you'll have every single mom out there running for the hills. There does seem to be something a bit shady about the "ice cream guy," who never is the "ice cream lady." Coincidence? Perhaps. But, peddling frozen confections to youngsters in their bathing suits on a hot summer day is simply over the top. Trust me, people will assume that you are over the age of forty, live with your mother, and keep corpses in the basement. When mama starts chasing your truck down the street, she's not looking to get an ice cream sandwich. She's got your license tag jotted on a sticky and, if so much as one kid goes missing in the cul-de-sac, you're going straight to the pokey. Case solved. Fluffy the cat missing? Bets are on that Edwin the ice cream guy did it.
It doesn't help that the ice cream guy on my street ignores my nonverbals. There's no love lost between us, believe me. As soon as those beady eyeballs make contact with mine, it's on. The game sounds something like this:
"Mom, do you hear it? It's the ice cream truck. I need moneeeeeeyyyyyyy. Nowwwwwww."
"No, dear, I can't hear a thing. Ooooopsie. It's already 2:00. Time for dinner and I'll even let you eat the whole chocolate cake by yourself. Won't that be simply delish? Go. Now. Run. Cover yourself!"
"I need ice creeeeeaaaaaaam." (foot stomp for effect)
"But, we have neopolitan in the freezer. You can eat the whole carton right now if you hurry inside."
"I want THAT (points to probable perp) ice creeeeeaaaaaammmmmm."
Perhaps its the guilt of keeping your kid from enjoying one of the last vestiges of 1950's sit-com nostalgia, but you cave and think that maybe THIS ice cream guy is on the up-and-up. Gee, he's simply trying, in his own self-sacrficing way, to preserve a rite of summer. Heck, he probably helps boy scouts build tree houses and runs his very own lemonade stand on the side. Either way, you find yourself digging in the bottom of your purse for some sticky quarters.
But, then you make eye contact. A mutual and unspoken agreement forms between you and "ice cream guy". It screams, "You don't kidnap my little Johnny and I'll continue to patronize your mobile Dairy Queen." With squinted eyes, you flash that all too familiar "I'm watching you" signal as the jack-in-the box theme song fades in the distance.