Monday, June 4, 2012

The White Pickup Gang


            For the past two summers I have had the pleasure of working at a snowball stand.  I get paid minimum wage (plus tips) to read, listen to music, eat free snowballs, and occasionally serve a few customers.  Over this time, I have truly come to appreciate the subtleties of the famous Baltimore dessert.
            For a long time I was a casual snowball fan.  I stuck to my usual skylite, occasionally branching out to strawberry, watermelon, or—perhaps my favorite—cola flavored.  I never even considered trying egg custard or marshmallow on my snowball.
            But, as an official snowball stand employee, it was recommended that I try all of the flavors.  I needed to be educated enough to make decent recommendations to customers.  So I spent my first few weeks on the job eating a lot of snowballs…after all, who can argue with free snowballs?  Raspberry, peach, and even cotton candy were surprisingly delicious.  Blood orange, peppermint, and fireball were not so much.  I even tried chocolate—something I swore I’d never do—and threw some marshmallow on top for good measure.  Surprise, surprise, they weren’t kidding when they said I’d been missing out for years.  Soon I came up with my own specialties: root beer float was my new favorite, consisting of root beer flavor with crème poured on top.
            Working at a snowball stand does come with a little bit of excitement.  The people you meet are always interesting.  From flustered babysitters dealing with one too many kids, to local construction workers, you meet all sorts of people.  My personal favorites are some of my most loyal customers.  A man and a woman, probably in their mid-forties, they always pull up in this old white pick-up truck.  The first time it was just the two of them.  The guy had a lot of difficulty ordering their snowballs, fumbling over his thoughts, and asking way too many questions for an order that is as simple as size and flavor.  My first thought was that he must be drunk, but it was a recurring theme, and always in the middle of the day.
            They came back at least a few times a week, but each time they brought one more person in their truck.  First just the two of them, then one of their friends, then another, until one day they showed up with a whopping party of seven in the rusted old pickup.  Finally I got the guy’s order down; he liked a jumbo grape with marshmallow in the middle and on top, sometimes with a dash of lemon to complement the flavor.  I was really starting to like the group when one day I finished with their orders, the truck pulled away, and I looked in my tip jar.  I could’ve sworn there were a couple more dollars in there before, but I didn’t think twice about it.
            Then, a couple days later the white truck rolled back up to the stand.  The lady hopped out, but this time she wasn’t wearing her usual smile.  She approached and began to explain how sorry she was.  At first I didn’t understand, but then she pulled out my three dollars that her husband had stolen from the jar.  She apologized profusely and I thanked her for returning my tips, promising that I wasn’t angry.  After that I didn’t see the white truck for a while.  But a few weeks later my friends from the pickup finally returned, and I couldn’t help but smile.  They’re welcome at my snowball stand any day… but from now on I’ll be keeping a closer eye on my tips.