I’ve found that trying to be zen is more stressful than not, so I have learned to just let myself be me and roll with the punches. The truth is that the more I may try to get through a day without some kind of silly mishap, the more the mischief gods notice me and decide to have some fun – it’s just easier to let them laugh versus try to change their script.
To wit: the ice-cream-cone incident. Not just any ice-cream-cone debacle, mind you. No scoop of ice cream falling off the cone and landing – splat! – at my feet, as if I were a five-year-old. Not even the slightly more sophisticated, sophomoric humor of the bottom of the cone breaking off and the ice cream running down my shirt and onto my toes without my noticing until it was too late. Nope. That would be too ordinary, too “seen it before,” too easily unnoticed by the surrounding public. No, when I have an ice-cream fiasco, it’s big, it’s embarrassing, and it’s sitcom worthy.
There we were on vacation last week in the Bay Area. (If you’re a regular reader, you already know that San Francisco is my favorite place in the world and that visiting there each year is like coming home – even though I’m originally from that other coast and have been living in Southern California for over 25 years. Wow – where did that time go?). In my mind, San Francisco has some of the best, if not the best, food in the entire country. While many in Los Angeles might disagree (how novel, LA and San Francisco competing over something), to me, San Francisco outright wins (yes, I’ll give New York its due, but the City by the Bay still has my heart – and tummy).
Anyway, after a week of great eats, including Chinese, Italian, French bistro, All-American burgers, and Turkish cuisine (kebabs that I’m still dreaming about), I decided that the one thing missing was ice cream. While strolling through B.’s old neighborhood (did I mention that he lived in San Francisco more than 30 years ago?), we passed a place selling soft-serve ice cream. Soft-serve ice cream with a hard chocolate topping. I was a goner.
I need to preface the rest of this account by saying that I am no stranger to chocolate-dipped soft-serve ice cream. Growing up in the shadow of a Carvel store (or two or three), I had more than a passing acquaintance with that chain’s Brown Bonnet. So I knew what I was asking for. Or so I thought.
My cone arrived in my eager little hands perfectly swirled and dipped, and we sat down to enjoy a few minutes of ice cream nirvana. Except. While B.’s non-dipped cone behaved perfectly, my cone turned into, shall we say, a Bellagio-Hotel-like fountain of ice cream. For some reason (maybe the ice cream wasn’t cold enough to be dipped, maybe the dip was too hot, maybe the folks behind the counter didn’t know what they were doing), the hardened dip sprang first one hole, then another, and then another, and the ice cream started spurting out, first in one spot, then in another, and then in another. As soon as I thought I had one spot licked (literally) two more opened up.
Me: Napkins, I need more napkins.
He: Yup. Just a sec. Let me get my credit card back in my wal –
Me: Now! This is a mess!
He: Okay, hang on just a sec.
Me: (a Great Lake of ice cream forming on the table) I don’t have a sec!
He: (actually looking at me) Got it.
Hearing a giggle, I tore my eyes away from my cone drama to see an adorable little girl, maybe about two years old, trying to eat probably her first-ever cone and covered in ice cream from head to toe, pointing at me and cracking up. The more the ice cream spurted from my cone, the louder she giggled. And the louder she giggled, the more people looked over at her – and then at me. She had an excuse for her mess, though. She was two.
Disappearing wasn’t an option, so I grabbed the new supply of napkins and continued to try to catch the non-stop drips while eating the ice cream as quickly as possible. Suddenly, conquering the cone had become a competition. The cone was winning. And I was not happy.
He: (finishing his cone without an issue and watching me frantically attempting to finish mine, all the while trying really hard not to laugh) You could just break off the chocolate.
Me: (barely avoiding getting melted ice cream and topping on my new sneakers) Huh?
He: Just break off the hard chocolate. It should come off in in big pieces. Then you’ll be eating a regular ice cream cone.
Me: (staring at him suspiciously as the ice cream continued to leak) Really?
He: Trust me.
Figuring that I had nothing to lose (at this point the two-year-old was chortling hysterically – I’m sure the late-afternoon sugar high wasn’t helping things), I broke off the hard topping. Voilà! The leaking stopped, and I was able to gain control of my ice cream cone like a normal adult.
I’m not sure what I was more embarrassed about, the spectacle I had created or the fact that the solution was so simple yet had never occurred to me. Okay, I’m sure – it was the spectacle.
He: All good now?
Me: I guess.
Me: I just feel like that two-year-old enjoyed her ice cream a whole lot more that I enjoyed mine.
He: Honey, she’s wearing most of it.
Me: I know. But still. She’s over there giggling uncontrollably and I’m kind of humiliated.
He: Look at the bright side. You made a little kid laugh.
Me: (cheering up slightly) Really?
He: Sure. And look at all the calories you saved by having all the ice cream drip onto the table.
Me: (eyes narrowing) Are you saying I need to lose weight?
He: No, I – (stopping because he knows that whatever he says now will get him into trouble)
Me: (voice rising a bit) Then what?
He: I meant, by not filling up on ice cream, you’ve saved room for a great dinner. What do you feel like?
Me: (rallying, visions of garlic bread dancing in my head) Maybe … Italian again?
He: (reaching over to wipe a dab of chocolate off the tip of my nose) You got it.
©2022 Claudia Grossman