By Dylan Gates
I got my first summer job because the coach of my middle school wrestling team owned a food company at my local amusement park. At the end of each season, he offered a spot to any of his wrestlers who wanted to work for him. So before summer started, I took him up on the offer.
There were several food booths positioned around the park. Funnel cakes, fried-everything, and ice cream. I should have been concerned when the sum total of my training was being handed a bright blue shirt to wear at the main office and given a wrinkled map with my station for the day circled in red. Ice cream. How hard could that be? Also, I was told as I headed out that my partner for the day was a no-show. This meant I would work the shift by myself (that sounded bad but I had no idea it would get so much worse). The ice cream booth specialized in soft serve dipped, cone and all, in different flavored candy shells. Again, sounds easy right? Well, I will tell you it was absolutely not.
The first issue came from actually entering the booth. When I arrived at the large white box that would be my home for the next eight hours, there was no way to enter the shop. I had been given a key but I could not find a door. I spent twenty minutes knocking and pushing on the sides. Was it some kind of a trap door? I circled the entire structure over and over with no luck. I didn’t want to ask for help because I didn’t want to cause trouble on my first day. Obviously there was a way in, why couldn’t I find it. The stand had two windows (both shuttered) one for ordering and another for picking up the order. By some dumb luck I finally found a hole resembling a keyhole in the middle of the eye of the penguin painted on the side of the building. Penguin because ice cream? The entire wall was the door and had to be slid open. It was heavy and creaked resisting each push but I got in. Now opening a good twenty five minutes late I ran into my second problem; I had no idea how to use the ice cream machines.
I decided to use the vague instructions on the side of the huge metal contraption, half of which were in Spanish, and poured what I thought to be an appropriate amount of each ingredient into the machine. This would be a horrible choice. I also had to prepare the candy. The flavored shells are made by melting down a hard candy-like substance using small heaters. Again, there were no instructions on how hot to set the heaters, so I decided to go with the max heat.
Before I knew it, I had my first customers and to this day I can still remember them. It was a father and his son who requested a vanilla ice cream with a blue raspberry shell. When I went to fill the cone with the ice cream the machine made a horrible noise that can only be described as one hundred cats being tortured. The most vile and lumpy white chunks began to ooze out of the machine; I was horror struck. I tasted it myself and it left a grainy texture in my mouth, something close to eating sand. Luckily the machine was positioned in a way that my back was to the customers covering my abomination. I thought the alien looking clump sitting on my cone would be covered by the bright blue shell, but that's where it got worse.
Because I set the temperature too high, when I went to dip the ice cream it just disappeared into the steaming blue vat. I now had a slightly blue and empty cone in my hand. I froze, my mind began to race for a solution. I got another cone filled up and grabbed a spoon and began to spoon the shell onto the ice cream. The cone was now a dripping mound covered in steaming blue shell bits that were melting the ice cream in my hand. I grabbed a napkin and hastily wiped away the cream and shell dregs dripping down the cone. When I gave it to them they looked like I was giving them roadkill. Obviously they requested a refund, and that's when it hit me. To this day I shiver at that moment of realization, I had no idea how to give a refund.