Mr. Softee Remember your favorite sound in elementary school? If it wasn’t the end of the day school bell, I’d bet my whole shoe collection guessing it was the sweet and happy melody of the ice cream man’s truck. Who doesn’t love the ice cream man? I still see grown adults chasing down his truck waving their dollars and purses in the air.
When I wasn’t chasing Mr. Softee, I had a habit of riding in the front of our mailman, Frosty’s mail truck. Ironically Frosty the mailman didn’t have ice cream, or even ate anything with sugar in it. Every day I brought him an apple for a free ride around the block. I used to get in trouble every now and then when my mom caught me jumping from the side of the mail truck and nose diving into her perfectly clipped shrubs. Frosty was almost seventy three, and he got a big kick out of seeing me do it.
Although this kept me partially entertained through out the long, hot, summer days, my real passion was ice cream. My neighbor friends and I would chase the truck as far as we could make it. As soon as Mr. Softee would see us huffing and crying because we missed him, he would laugh and stop the ice cream truck. Mr. Softee was quite the ball buster. He was an older man in his forties, and while he had a shiny bald head, a long greasy mullet ran down the back of his neck. I would order the same item every time I saw him, a banana split and every time I would ask the same thing, “Mr. Softee can I ride in the back of your truck?” “No, I’m the only one allowed in here,” was his answer every time as he quickly grabbed my money and shut the window. I didn’t understand what was so important that he couldn’t let me in the truck. Were their elves and fairies making the ice cream? Was it a cover for a secret ice cream gang, the black sprinkles, the ice men, the twisted, the shakers? I just had to know, even though his reasoning most likely revolved around the fact he didn’t want to be accused of being a pedophile. I prayed every night that I could ride with the ice cream man.
Years later I was all grown up and living in the Big Apple. I was now the one running away from men in automobiles. Some men in cars would give me a little toot of the horn so I would acknowledge they were checking me out. Others would hiss a cat call, as if I would really take to that. The Spanish men would lean out the windows of their work trucks and scream, “Hey Mama, you looking sexy. You want some fries with that shake?” Like what did they honestly expect me to do? Run up to their truck and say in a pleading horny moan, “Yeah Papi, I want it. I want the whole happy meal. Give it to me Papi. Take me for a ride.” Then I would purr and jump in their truck? There was no way in hell.
Sometimes I’d stop traffic, other times the way I walked provoked other drivers to offer me a ride. For the most part, I didn’t get into cars with strangers. My girlfriend Tiffany and I had a creepy experience once when we were only 19 and new to the city. We lived part of the time in Jackson Heights, Queens in between trips as flight attendants. It was a cold November night and we were itching to go to Manhattan. It was just a twenty minute walk to the subway, and twenty minute ride into the city with bright lights. As we were walking to the subway a Spanish couple pulled their SUV over and asked us where we were headed to. We told them Manhattan. “Well where in Manhattan?” the Spanish lady in the passenger seat asked. “We don’t know, somewhere …” I replied. The Spanish lady and her husband conversed in Spanish for a minute. The lady turned to us and said, “It is cold. You should come in. We are going to the city too, and we can give you a ride.” Tiffany and I looked at each other. It was pretty cold and we were wearing skirts. She gave me a shrug of the shoulders and look as if to say I’ll do it if you do it. Before we knew it the lady stepped out of the two doors SUV and pulled the seat up so we could hop in the back. It seemed like a good idea at the time. It was a warm free ride to the city. The couple began whispering in Spanish as if we knew what the hell they were saying. Needless to say my one year of Spanish in ninth grade didn’t help me out, but the tone of their voices seemed shady. I tugged at Tiffany’s coat. “Are you sure this is a good idea?” I asked. “I don’t know, why are they whispering?” The man looked at us through the rearview mirror and made a right turn down a dark street in Queens. I knew this wasn’t the way to the city. I could see the skyline in the opposite direction. “Where are we going?” I asked as I pointed to Manhattan. “The city is back there!” The Spanish couple looked at each other. “We just need to make a quick stop to pick up something,” said the lady. I didn’t like the situation one bit. I looked around the SUV for ways to escape if needed. Being that it was a two door vehicle our options were limited, the escape could get tricky. I looked to the back of the SUV, there was a black tarp and black glove. My stomach dropped. The man pulled the car to the side of the road and another Spanish man greeted him with a brick of twenties. It was definitely a transaction of some sorts that I was sure of, but for what I didn’t know. The man at the door peaked back at us and smiled. He nodded to the driver before he pulled away. The lady saw fear in our eyes and tried to sooth us saying, “Don’t worry, we won’t hurt you.” That only added to our gut feeling we were about to get kidnapped. Why would anyone say that unless it was already in the back of their mind? I had watched enough movies in my life to know this was a bad sign. After the quick ride over the bridge and into the city I now felt safer. They parked the car in the West Village and invited in for margaritas. They practically forced us into the bar and insisted we have a drink. Our margaritas arrived quickly and the man excused himself to the restroom. Tiffany and I quickly excused ourselves saying we had to get a tattoo and we would be right back. The lady tried to stop us but we ran out the door and down the street for our great escape.
I learned my lesson after that, I only get in cars with strangers of a profession. Traffic in New York is as pleasant as running your hand up and down a cactus. Commuting can be a bitch, there is an art and craft to making it to work on time, so sometimes I took my commute to the next level. I was a pretty girl, not yet completely jaded from city life, and had a way of meeting people. I made friends with the UPS man, subway conductor, the Chinese man who passed out flyers on the street, you name it. I loved the attention I got everywhere I went. Scoring rides became a sport for me. I had a cab driver, Abdul, who let me drive to my destination. I couldn’t complain about the cab fare because I was the one driving. I once drove a horse and buggy in five inch Tommy Hilfiger snake skin heels and a mini dress. I once got a ride from a cop, and he let me ride in the front seat and turned on the sirens. The look on my doorman’s face was priceless when I jumped out and gave the cop a kiss on the cheek. After work one night I hopped on the back of a paving truck that was rolling the street. “How far you going?” asked one of the men. “I’m going to 14th Street.” “Well we are only going down to 27th but feel free to hop on for a ride.”
I had a few more rides to claim. 1)Garbage truck 2)Subway conductor car 3) Fire engine truck 4)Parade float 5) Mr. Softee truck 6) Back seat of a sedan with Mr. Big.
It was a hot summer night. I had spent the whole day in my bikini and heels sipping down bellini’s at a hip hotel rooftop party at the Rivington Hotel on the Lower East Side. I stumbled in my baby blue sundress up Third Avenue on my way home thinking to myself things just aren’t as fun as they used to be. Every week was the same, work, party, dinners, work, sleep, party. I missed the simple things in life that I had growing up. I reminisced of summer by the pool, lemonade stands, friendship bracelets, and Mr. Softee. I heard a truck slow down. There wasn’t much street traffic for a Sunday at 10 pm, so I figured he was trying to get my attention. “You want a ride?” A guy from the truck screamed. Just as I was about to yell no, I looked up to see the bright lights of a Mr. Softee truck.
A good looking Italian guy in his twenties waved at me. His name was Pauli, and he was a real treat. He was like none of the Mr. Softee men I had seen before. His big, brown, puppy dog eyes sparkled in the moonlight. His slicked back hair was kind of messy. His strong body fit his height at 6'2. Little did I know my childhood dream was about to come true. “Hop on in,” he said as he extended out his tan arm. I rubbed my eyes and squinted to make sure my bellini’s weren’t playing tricks on me in the summer heat. After confirming he was indeed delicious, he had sprayed ice cream speckles all over his arms and shirt, I decided to jump on board. “Sure,” I said as I fell into his arms. He smelled of bananas and sugar, my favorite treat. Little did I know Mr. Softee wanted to split me open like a banana split. He slowly drove away as I held onto the side of his truck. He tossed me onto his lap and said, “Hold on, here we go!” I felt like a child all over again. “Can I drive?” I asked. “Can I drive, please?” I pleaded. “Ok for a minute.” I sat on his strong legs as he let me steer. “Where do you live?” He asked. “73rd and York.” “You might want to get in the back, it’s safer for you.” I jumped off his lap as he patted me on the butt and winked at me. What was a guy like him doing in a Mr. Softee truck? “So this is what you do?” I asked as I played around with the machines. “Yeah pretty much,” he replied. “I serve kids ice cream. It makes me feel good.” “Who is your boss, Mr. Softee?” he chuckled, “I am my own boss. I own this truck.”
Was I in heaven? I asked myself as I put my mouth under the ice cream spout and pulled the handle down. He owned the Mr. Softee truck! Apparently Mr. Softee had a winter job, when spring time came around he collected unemployment and served ice cream cones under the table. It was a brilliant plan. I wanted him to make me his protégée. He continued to speed up as he passed my street. “Where are we going?” I asked. I could never imagine being kidnapped in a Mr. Softee truck, but at least I wouldn’t be hungry. He smiled back at me and said, “Just up the street cupcake. I’m taking you out for a drink.” I calmed down a bit as I thought, he was the coolest Mr. Softee in the book. He smoked joints in the truck, and wasn’t afraid to drink and drive. We pulled up to a pub not far from my apartment. “This is where we hang out every night after work,” He said as he parked behind another Mr. Softee truck. Three more trucks pulled up behind him. They double parked outside of the pub and across the street. These Mr. Softee men had no fear, they owned the street. The more I hung out with him, the more I was intrigued by the secret world of Mr. Softees. “Can I serve some ice cream?” “Sure,” he said laughing as I bent over the window. He put his strong hands on the back of my hips as I held out a sloppy half melted cone and chanted, “Come and get some ice cream!” A few younger pedestrians did a double take of me in my sun dress and continued walking. I was insulted. “They don’t like me,” I said defeated. “I like you,” Mr. Softee said as he grazed my neck with his sticky hand. He let his hand slide down my torso and made it's way to my thigh. I got a chill. When I opened my mouth I could see my breath in his truck. I could have given into the moment and straddled him against the slushy machine, but I was determined to make him money. “What can I say to these people?” I asked. “Anything you want, I don’t care.” It was just the answer I was looking for. I tossed the first cone away and made two giant cones smothered in sprinkles. I waved the cones in the air, “Who wants ice cream? Come on guys it is only a dollar. Two for one! Don’t be cheap!” I grabbed one guy’s attention as he gave me a buck for the two cones. I took off my dress only sporting my bikini and held more cones out the window. “Get your ice cream! Get your fucking desert you annoying snobby Upper East Side brats!” Mr. Softee was laughing as he smoked a joint. I took a hit and continued my job. “Ice cream?” I asked a fat Jewish man. He looked at me as if I wasn’t Kosher and walked away. “Well you don’t need it anyway Tubby!” I screamed as I tossed the ice cream cone down at the ground at him. After that I started giving out free ice cream cones. I couldn’t remember the last time I had so much fun. Mr. Softee handed me my dress. “Time for a drink sugar,” he said as he licked his lips. He kept calling me types of food and condiments, I guess it was what he knew best, and it added to his charm. He held my hand as he led me to a table full of guys watching the baseball game drinking beer. He introduced the team of Mr. Softees to me. They all looked like pretty normal guys outside of the truck. “Hi, I’m cherry,” I said jokingly with a grin. Mr. Softee held out the chair for me and bought me a beer.
After hanging for an hour we decided it was time to go home. Mr. Softee didn’t want to take me home right away, but I insisted. “I promise we’ll hang out soon,” I said. “I’ll look for you.” He looked sad, but drove me home. He pulled in front of my apartment. I lived on a one way side street so it was quiet and private. “Do you have to leave now?” He winced with a pout as he went up my dress. “Mr. Softee I must,” I said as I inched away from his eager fingers. I took a deep breath as he pulled my bikini bottom aside. He pulled me in closer to him. I looked up at him breathing slowly and heavily. Before I knew it Mr. Softee had his tongue down my throat. He pushed me against the horn as he passionately kissed me. His kiss was surprisingly good and tasted of mint and chocolate. I pushed him off of me. I couldn’t attract attention, and would be ashamed if my neighbors saw me getting it on with the Mr. Softee who fed their children cones. I could just imagine the glares and stares of the jealous mothers. I stood up against him for a moment before I pulled him to the back of the truck by the collar of his shirt. We steamed up the icebox making out for ten minutes. Sprinkles were flying, ice cream was all over our backs, whip cream was stuck to my matted hair. He pulled me onto the floor on top of him as he tore of his swooshy pants revealing silk boxers. I saw a few people trying to peak in to see what was going on. Maybe they just wanted a cone, maybe they wanted a piece of the action. As my bellini’s wore off reality hit me hard, I had stooped from kissing baseball players and rocker boys to getting it on with Mr. Softee. It was a sobering thought. He looked up at me as I pulled away from his kiss. “What? Why did you stop?” He asked. “I don’t know. I don’t think I can do this,” I said exhausted. I told him I’d see him around. I didn’t want to totally cut Mr. Softee out of my life, but there was no way in hell I was getting saucy in the back of an ice cream truck with him. As I stood up and collected myself Mr. Softee rose up and grabbed my wrist. He looked me straight in the eyes and asked, “Are you sure you want to go?” I nodded yes. He pulled my hand to his manhood and smiled. “Are you sure you don’t want some of this?” My mouth dropped open in shock. Mr. Softee had turned into Mr. Hardee! He grazed my hand over his boxers and confidently smiled knowing the package was huge. I was compelled to jump on his cone. All the things we could do with his endless supplies, but I pulled my hand away.
There was no way Mr. Hardee was making it on my lover list. I thanked him for the ride and wrote down his number on a Mr. Softee napkin just in case I ever wanted to meet Mr. Hardee. I’ll never be able to eat a Mr. Softee ice cream the same way again. Word of advice, if you get Mr. Softee, get it in a cup because I know where those hands have been.