Saturday, May 24, 2008

the ben + jerry days

Many moons ago I worked at Ben + Jerry's and it was one of the best jobs I could have asked for. Ice cream is such a simple thing that always make people happy. I also loved my job because I was able to sample all of the new flavors and eat as much ice cream as I desired.

I knew certain customers and their preferred flavors, and could rattle off the flavors and ingredients without batting an eye. Other perks were being entertained by some of the strange characters that would come in. What's not to love?

One of my favorite people that would visit on occasion was 'The cab lady'. She was very particular. If she paid for anything she would want you to put her change on the counter, or sometimes she'd offer up 'I'll pay you later' (later never came). She often left her shoes outside on the step, although once she completely left them.

The real reason she came in was to ask if we would call a cab for her. The first time I encountered her I went into the back room and asked a coworker to deal with it because I was in tears from laughing about the fact she really did exist. I could hardly speak. The lore of the cab lady lived on.

Her cab was called and after she sat around for nearly an hour I called the company back. They responded that she was already picked up, to which I told them, 'If she was picked up she wouldn't still be sitting here waiting'. I knew they also had encountered 'The cab lady' and probably didn't take too well to her 'I'll pay you later' approach to doing business.

Finally a cabbie came in and said, 'Did someone order a cab?'

I said, 'She did', as I motioned in her direction.

The look on his face was priceless as he said, 'Oh shit.'

Another time there was 'the laughing lady'. She was laughing hysterically while she was standing in line and by the time I was trying to take her order she was still laughing. It was the kind of laugh that you wonder if something hilarious is going on around you, so you join in out of uncertainty. Except - it didn't stop. I stood there laughing with her until I realized she had some kind of problem. Somehow she was able to order what she wanted and then went to sit down continuing her laughing spell. If I had to have some kind of mental illness I'd take what she had.

Don't get me wrong - the job did have it's downsides, although they were usually over by the time the day ended. Unless a flavor was sent to the 'Flavor Graveyard', especially if I liked it.

One summer we did run into a bit of a problem because the man that had recently bought our Ben + Jerry's franchise decided he was going to invest as little as possible into the store. When the air conditioner went out the store was a sauna... especially with the large freezers working overdrive.

Other days I would worry about a regular that would come in with his walker and his slippers rubber banded onto his swollen feet. He always ordered 'Dilbert's World Totally Nuts' and had his $1.99 in his hand. I often gave it to him free. The days he didn't come I was worried he was no longer alive after he commented on his declining health. Not long after he stopped coming 'Dilbert's World' was retired.

Vermoster groups were also dreaded. They usually entailed many children surrounding a bucket of 20 scoops of ice cream and a myriad of other toppings that typically turned into a soupy mess. Excitable children, sticky things, and sugar mixed together are a force to be reckoned with.

Free Cone Day was also not my favorite, since the line wrapped around the block, but it was easy enough.

Another funny memory, was when I opened the store to learn that a cake order was not made ahead of time and we were supposed to also work at an Oktoberfest, make waffle cones, and the day's cookies + brownies. My parents came through to help and by noon we all felt like hell from racing around. We survived and can now laugh about how ridiculous it was.

Lately I have been craving an ice cream cake and I can never again think of ice cream cake without reminiscing about Ben + Jerry's and all of the cakes and obscure requests we worked to fulfill.

Tomorrow I am making mini chocolate chili ice cream cakes. I'd love to make them tonight, but let's be serious... I have an incredibly small freezer so I will have to make some space.


Caitlin said...

I've never been to a Ben & Jerry's (we had Cold Stone Creamery around us) and I think I would have a new favorite if we did. I have only tasted the small selection of flavors they have here in supermarkets. They always have Phish Food, which isn't my fav. Anyway, the cab lady story cracked me up. And I also have a ridiculously small freezer.

JoernandAllison said...

I hope your chocolate chili ice cream cakes turned out well. They sound incredible!
Ben + Jerry's must have been a pretty cool place to work! But I can see where the Vermonsters could be a bit draining!
Thanks for adding the personal memories, it made me think of our own unique stories from Starbucks :)

Emily said...

Caitlin -
I can't get over the fact you were never at Ben + Jerry's! Maybe I can send you some for a house warming... that is if you get a monster freezer as well!

You have to write about your Starbucks Days - I am sure you have some funny stories too!