So here I am on a very hot day in Princeton looking forward to some Thomas Sweet Ice Cream. After popping in and out of the stores on Nassau Street, I arrive at the shop, already with a flavor in mind.

Not surprisingly, the line is out the door. Maybe it won’t be so bad. After all, there appears to be couples and groups of families.

After half an hour, I feel like I’m sitting in Parkway traffic heading for the Jersey shore. As John Pinette, the late great comedian who poked fun at buffet lines would say, “What’s going on up there?”

I peek around to find one group hasn’t moved up. Why? Isn’t there a protocol for being in line? Don’t you notice how others give their order and move toward the cash register? Do we need directions at the door before entering?

When I’m about to pass out from food shakes, I’m one group from being waited on. Finally! (Or so I thought.)

The mother in front of me had three little kids with her. Jeffrey, Carl, and Lisa. I know their names because they tormented one another the entire time in line and their mother used their names constantly as if it would throw some fear of God into them. Apparently, that only worked with previous generations. Or maybe she didn’t use their full names, which usually includes a first, middle and last for emphasis.

When asked what she’d like, the mother decides it’s now a good time to look at the sign that’s been hanging on the wall in plain sight for the entire duration of our wait in line.

“Do you have boysenberry?” she asks.

I snort to myself. Do you see it up there?

“How about butter brickle?” she tries again.

I’m pretty sure that’s from my grandmother’s time.

“Well, what’s the triple chunky monkey like? Does it have nuts? Oh, it has nuts. No. How about the marshmallow triple chocolate with Oreos? Is that all natural? There’s nothing artificial, right? Can you check?”

The clerk returns momentarily, but is starting to break out in a sweat, which is hard to do in a store with heavy-duty refrigeration. The woman narrows down the flavors to three and asks for samples of each. Seriously?

I’m starting to get a headache, but I grit my teeth. After another litany of questions, the woman picks a flavor and after another half-minute of debate, chooses a cone over a cup. A sugar cone, not the waffle type.

But the real fun begins when she tries asking her kids what they want. If they could stand in one place long enough, this task might be accomplished, but they run amok and continue to poke one another into screams of laughter. Or annoyance. It’s hard to tell.

When she finally prods them enough into getting flavors, it’s round two for toppings.

My one leg is starting to go numb.

When I hear the register being rung up, I want to cheer! Then she says, “Oh wait. I have a coupon.” Her purse, being the size of Alaska, tells me it’s going to be awhile.

By now the cashier/clerk seems to have reached her breaking point as well since we exchange the Jersey eye roll. You know the one. You use it when you don’t want to risk getting shot on a long non-moving line (and with the size of that purse, I wasn’t taking any chances that she wasn’t carrying), or you’re taking notes to use this in a future story like a good writer does.

Chelle Martin loves books, dogs, and visiting ice cream parlors throughout New Jersey. She’s published in numerous anthologies, and is always writing mysteries, picture books, and humorous anecdotes.

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