Keeping with the trend of most young adults in the summer between freshman and sophomore years of high school, I spent all of my earnings on an iPod Video. This meant that I had zero money to my name, and I needed a summer job.
There was just one snag: I had no manual labor skills; would never even consider babysitting; nor could I answer the telephone in an adequate and articulate manner, let alone work in some cubicle as a receptionist.
Luckily I was saved by my mother’s friend, Ms. Kimble, who ran a mom-and-pop ice cream shop.
On my third day of work, Ms. Kimble waltzed through the front door with a stride like that of a crippled gazelle, and bellowed: “I got it, I got it … you have to sing.”
I foremost questioned her sanity. Then I offered her a sample of Choco-Loco just in case she felt a little loopy from the heat outside and needed a blood sugar boost. I concluded that her managerial methods were dubious and flat out idiosyncratic.
She stifled my scooping and whispered to me: “No, no, see … those corporate ice cream whores like Marble Slab and Ben & Jerry’s are on the outs. This new place, Cold Stone, they’re climbing up the rankings. And how do they do it? They sing!”
Just the name Cold Stone scared me. It sounds like some sort of torture device: the cold stone.
She continued: “Over at Cold Stone, they make their employees sing whenever people give them tips. People love it! And that’s exactly what I want you to do.”
Ms. Kimble stapled a set list to the wall like the manager of some sort of freak cover band, with songs that had fair resemblance and rhyme to the ice cream flavors. This included such hits as “Cherry [Won’t You Come Out Tonight],” by The Four Seasons and “Vanilla Thrilla,” by the late Michael Jackson. This wasn’t what I signed up for, I told myself.
I asked her: “Even if they tip me one penny, do I have to sing?”
Ms. Kimble gave me bleary version of the longstanding “there comes a time in every man’s life when…” speech.
Confused, and now with unadulterated stage fright, I deemed this the worst idea in the history of ideas.
So my first customer under the new tip-me-anything-and-watch-an-awkward-Jewish-teenager-sing-an equally-awkward-pop-song decree just happened to be a grumpy, 70-something-year-old man. He ordered a scoop of Cherry and Choco-Loco.
Did this mean that I had to sing two songs?
Fuck no. I gave him horrible service, skimping him on scoops, hoping he wouldn’t tip. I practically chucked his change at his chest to get him out of the shop. But then he eyed the tip jar, complete with bedazzled lettering that read “See What Happens When You Tip.”
I looked over to Ms. Kimble’s back office where she sat there knitting, and she gave me the stink eye for my overly inauspicious service. Just then I heard an echoed “clink, clink.”
I almost chuck-o-locoed all over the counter.
Just as he was about to sit down to eat, I said: “Um, wait sir. You forgot your, uh, song.”
With a look of vehement annoyance, he would retort: “My what?”
I looked in the jar like a dog without food in his bowl; there were only two nickels.
But for fear of unemployment, I proceeded with “Cherry Baby,” and when I finished my awful ten-second rendition, he handed me his untouched Cherry/Choco combo and said: “I think I’ll get a to-go cup.”
And that is why one should never tip at an ice cream shop.