Summer always makes me think of ice cream. Well, okay, realistically speaking I can probably say that just about anything can make me think of ice cream.
To clarify: summer has a way of reminding me that it’s “ice cream season.” The sweaty, sticky days that beckon us to do nothing but squint and search for shade are here. Days that inevitably have a way of driving everyone in our town to the one location that serves the best ice cream around. You know its really good ice cream when perfectly sane neighbors (including yourself) tote the whole family along to wait in line (out the door, through the parking lot) in the blazing heat for a milkshake. Definitely putting themselves at risk for heat stroke or at the very least, sweat stains.
In any case, summer will always make me remember my days waiting on those such customers when I worked at Holy Cow. A good 4 summers of memories. Some very, funny, memories.
One such story is what I now call “The Legend of the Bands”. For it is quite simply the short summary of my awkward teen years and all its embarrassing moments wrapped up in a tiny nutshell topped with whipped cream and a cherry. It goes like this:
Holy Cow is the best ice cream in town. The best. The prices are insanely cheap, and the ice cream is so delicious that the place is open all year round (even on holidays!) minus two days.
To work at Holy Cow is probably one of the most prestigious jobs a teen around here can hold.It practically warrants celeb status. To this day, people will come up to you and expect you to remember them, or worse, their usual orders. If they don’t recognize you from the store, you can reference working there in pretty much any circumstance (like getting out of a ticket or meeting new friends) and you instantly move up on the awesome ladder.
Typically, the girls who worked at HC were the high school field hockey team. Gorgeous girls who had straight teeth, nice figures and boyfriends. Popular girls, in short. I, however, was not on the field hockey team. I did not have anything resembling a figure and I certainly did not have a boyfriends, or boys who were my friends. Heck, I didn’t even go to the public high school. I was a homeschooled, knobby kneed, braces wearing, overly exuberant teenager who was somehow hired.
I was also very skinny. So the “small” shirt I was given to wear sat on me like a loose sheet totally killing any chance of emphasizing the imaginary figure I wished I had. And I didn’t have contacts yet, so I wore “attitude glasses”. And I had some crazy cases of acne. So, in short as one employee dubbed me, I was a “funny dork”.
Lucky for me, I was confident in my dorkiness. The one thing I had going for me was that I was super friendly. Sometimes this aided my situation and sometimes it entirely destroyed my self esteem, as in this case (and in the Christmas tree nose hair case, but that’s another story).
It was a piping hot June day. I had just undergone oral surgery a few days prior, for which one of my upper incisors (aka front tooth’s neighbor) had to be “lassoed” from the roof of my mouth (for whence it decided to settle instead of my gums) and be dragged down to the front of my mouth. The end result consisted of a silver linked chain with one end attached to the roof tooth and the other end attached to the front tooth. Totally insanely gross & weird, and completely would figure to be just my luck as I entered my 16th year of life. I definitely kissed all prospects of attracting boys goodbye. I did come to terms with the surgery rather quickly though, especially when the alternative was a tooth which potentially would settle in the roof of my mouth, near the nasal cavity. Now that would definitely have been special. No nose-tooth for me, give me the silver chained lasso.
In addition to the bling and my usual fully loaded metal mouth, I had been assigned to wear “rubberbands” which helped pull the top teeth lower by anchoring them with a teeny tiny rubber band to the bottom teeth. So, pretty much I could only open my mouth as far as the tension on the very visible rubber bands would allow before they snapped or before I was in pain. Something usually gave.
As I stood at the dull ice cream counter, waiting for the customers to pour in, I pitied myself in my baggy shirt, gawky glasses, and the fact that when I spoke it looked like I was choking on a necklace.
People began to flood the store in search of decadent sundaes and cones. I blinked comatosely through my smudged glasses and convinced myself to be the best ice cream waitress possible, to be friendly and get the order right. I coached myself that people would be so caught off guard by my helpfulness & cheer that they couldn’t possibly have a chance to notice my war zone mouth.
“Can I help who’s next?”
I shouted out to the masses, lunging my body up higher by standing on my toes to get people’s attention.
More people poured in, the chatter between people created a cicada-like hum and the heat grew stickier, no one stepped forward to my line.
I tried again, pushing my glasses up my nose with a sigh.
I looked around at the other girls serving customers, hastily dashing between the milkshake machine and the ice cream freezer, dousing cones with sprinkles, filling dishes with strawberries and dollops of whipped cream. Sweating buckets as they heard the front door jingle over, and over, and over again as more, and more, and more people stuffed themselves into the store.
I smiled hugely and tried an approach that was sure to work: speaking up.
Again I went up on my toes, gripping the counter for stability with my bony fingers.
My baggy shirt swayed in the motion.
“Can I please help who’s next?!”
As my mouth widened to finish the “ex” part of next, something gave.
My rubberbands snapped, spit splattered and so did my self image for that month.
I watched in that slow-motion like in movies where the people inwardly shout “noooooooooo”
as my rubberbands flew out of my mouth and into the sea of customers. All of whom were staring at me; the girl who was supposed to fix their ice cream which they wanted to eat. Even though I looked like I was trying to swallow a tiny tennis bracelet. And now all they knew was that something flew out of my mouth all slimy at a most abrupt rate and landed somewhere in their midst, but because it was “clear” colored it wasn’t going to be located too easily.
I cringed and made a mortified mad dash to the bathroom where I locked myself in there to “fix” my rubberbands or really, wait until the crowd left so I wouldn’t have to face my victims.
I’m pretty sure for the rest of my shift, I tried to find everything imaginable to do that wouldn’t require interaction with customers.
Although it was the one of the most embarrassing days of my fragile teenage life, I can’t help but laugh about it now.I also can’t help but be super skeptical of who’s serving me food.Especially when it’s ice cream season and I’m the one on the other side of the counter.