When we moved into our first house, I was 5 and three quarters, and excited for myriad reasons. Obviously, there was more space in a house than a one-bedroom apartment. But there was also treasure at every turn. The place we’d moved into had not been very well cleaned out, in the good way, so there was a Mr. Potato Head and Toss Across upstairs, and a fairy costume in the basement!
But what really got me excited was the garage. Oh, the garage. Everything had a potential purpose; every newly acquired discovery was a great summer day waiting to happen. Shovels = countless hours digging a hole, because I really did think I could reach China. Seeds = not actually planting anything, more just being obsessed with seeds because they were so cool and full of possibility. So on, so forth.
You can understand then, the logical conclusion that I must build an ice cream truck. Because I found a red wagon. It made perfect sense. Borrow a friend’s Hot Wheels, hitch it up to the wagon, get some ice cream, and go!
Problem One: My friends thought it was a dumb idea and would not lend me their Hot Wheels. So I had to make do with Ollie. I don’t know if anyone out there knows what I’m talking about, but he was a ’70s staple, basically a U-shaped yellow piece of plastic, with wheels, cartoon eyes, a tuft of red hair, and a red nose. Not that easy to navigate, but Ollie was loyal and I loved him and decided I was better off sharing my amazing idea with him instead of some unappreciative Hot Wheels. Some twine and a jump rope, and Ollie was all hitched up to the wagon. Problem solved.
Now that I had transportation, I set into what was really important to me: making the signs and drawing the pictures. This was pre-cheerleading, so I hadn’t quite mastered the paint marker/glitter art of it all, but I was intensely committed to this project. Every piece of ice cream must look just right. Eventually, it was just perfect, and I affixed it to the wagon.
Problem Two: I didn’t know how much to charge for everything. Much effort and time was spent consulting people for pricing opinions. All anyone really said was, “I don’t think this is going to work.” Useless. Not constructive at all.
Until Problem Three: One of my neighbors actually seemed interested in my project, and thought it was cool that I was so ambitious. Curiously, he asked, “How are you going to keep the ice cream cold?”
I figured out a way, think double-boiler setup but with ice cubes, to keep the ice cream cold for a while. I wouldn’t be able to venture out for the entire day as I had hoped, but wait until I started making money and the neighborhood caught on – then I’d be able to work out a more efficient system.
Problem Four: I had no ice cream, and no money.
This was a bit of a setback, but I decided that I’d done a lot of work for the day and had perhaps reached the point of diminishing returns. The next day, I would figure out a way to get investors, then hit up the inexplicably cheap dairy a few blocks away. Everything would work out. I’d get up bright and early and ride off in my newly constructed vehicle.
Which I left outside. That night, it rained. My beautiful cardboard sign was destroyed. The twine and jump rope were tight and twisted, made angry and more powerful by the rain. And Ollie’s little tuft of hair was soaked beyond repair, in that way only old yarn can get.
Of course I was distraught, and knew I had only myself to blame for leaving it outside. Everyone comforted me though, by saying that it probably wouldn’t have worked, anyway. At all. What a bad idea.
I’d rather have failed, found that out on my own. Ridden until the truck fell apart or the ice cream melted. Just so long as I’d tried.
©April 28, 2008