The Ice Cream Truck People

Whence cometh the ice cream trucks of summer,
And whither goest they,
When the cold rains of winter fall?

No  really.  Do they migrate south?  Seattle’s ten-month-long winter can’t be so good for business.

Such an odd, yet remarkably persistent commercial enterprise.  Many of the trucks and jeeps look like the same ones I chased down growing up in a suburban Boston subdivision. The ice cream truck people are like Cubans in how resourceful they must be to keep those clunkers running.  And that scratchy, warbly music blaring from cold war-era loudspeakers, so instantly recognizable by young and old alike.

But then, who are these ice cream truck people who dole out all that industrial ice cream product to our precious children?  I suspect most parents find themselves feeling at least a minor, temporary flash of paranoia about pedophiles as they eye the mysterious countenance taking their money.

In Seattle, the ice cream truck people are largely self-employed.  Anyone with a driver’s license can have a go at it, though not surprisingly, during this past recession-baked summer, the supply of drivers outstripped demand for product.  And if you ever wondered where all that product comes from—Safeway?  Costco?—the power of the free market has seen to it that there are dedicated distributors, such as Georgetown’s Mel-O-Dee Ice Cream that supplies over 200 drivers.

Which raises another curiosity:  Why haven’t the usual “free-market” forces resulted in domination of the ice cream truck business by corporate chains?  You’d think that by now there would be a fleet of shiny green and white Starbucks ice cream trucks hitting the park and playground circuit every summer.

And hey, this is Seattle, so what the hell is taking so long for someone to propose a green ice cream truck business?  Local, organic ice cream from Molly Moon’s.  Biodiesel trucks with rooftop photovoltaic panels that power the on-board refrigerators.  You heard it here first:  this is a service for which Seattle’s Keen-wearing, Maclaren stroller-pushing parent demographic is eager to pay a premium.  Even though any normal kid would much rather have a artificial-coloring-drenched Bomb Pop.