Q: You drove an ice cream truck. How did that start?
A: Well, I’m in university right now. Last summer when I came back home, I was looking for some extra pocket cash. I found the job on Craigslist and sent them an email.
I didn’t know what to expect. I went in for the interview at this depot in between two suburbs where the owner kept all the trucks.
Q: Was it some kind of industrial area? I’m picturing big abandoned warehouses or something.
A: It definitely had a sketchy vibe. There were two other people my age there and we were all kind of wandering around, waiting for the owner.
Q: How many trucks were there?
A: Quite a lot. I was impressed. Maybe 15 trucks—like FedEx style trucks.
Q: Did you know how to drive a truck like this?
A: No. During the first interview I told them I’d never driven anything like this and they said it was OK.
Some of the trucks were really run down. One had a seat belt with the buckle missing, so I had to tie myself in. One had a wonky transmission you had to brace for going into third gear. And twice I had trucks that had their freezers fail overnight, so I had to start the day replacing these melted syrupy bags before hitting the road.
Q: OK, so you went to the depot and met with the boss.
A: Yeah. He asked us about our availability and we filled out some paperwork. Then we had a training day, which was unpaid; you essentially stood in the back of the truck and rode with one of the older drivers as they did their route and shared their tips.
Early on in the day, we went through the back alleys of warehouses. The working guys in the industrial areas were always happy to see you and no one tried to shoo you away.
Q: I guess that means there were places where they did try to get rid of you?
A: Yeah. We went through the parks and by schools, but they didn’t appreciate us being around.
At the parks, they had guys who followed us around—like the municipality guys—who would make us leave if we were caught. They weren’t around too much, so it was OK. But if we saw one coming we’d have to wrap up our sales and take off.
When we went to the schools at 3 o’clock the teachers and principals would complain but the kids absolutely wanted us there.
Q: So you were driving by schools, trying to lure kids to your truck. Did you ever feel creepy?
A: Yeah. I remember during my training we were in a neighborhood area and there was an 8- or 9-year-old girl walking down the street. The driver had sold her ice cream before and she obviously knew him. He asked her, “Do you need a ride back to your house?” and she said, “Sure,” and got in.
Q: I guess her parents didn’t tell her not to get into ice cream trucks with strangers.
A: Yeah. But I mean nothing happened—I was there the whole time, it was a pretty innocent and friendly situation. But from an outside observer’s point of view, pretty creepy.
Q: I believe you. But it must have been strange doing a job when people don’t want you around.
A: It was kind of stressful, watching over your shoulder. I have to admit I was a little bit out of my comfort zone.
Q: Did the truck have music?
A: It did indeed. There was like this music box thing with dials with anywhere from 8-20 songs you could choose from.
It was electronic, like video game music. Some songs had added sound effects in there, like dogs barking and children laughing in rhythm of the music, that kind of thing.
Q: And what kind of ice cream did you sell?
A: We had about 20-30 kinds of things. I think when I was a kid I pictured soft-serve ice cream machines but it was just two freezers plugged in, filled with boxes of creamsicles, things like that.
Q: Did you eat any of them?
A: It came out of your check if you ate them so I only had the broken ones.
Q: Was the pay decent?
A: It was all by commission. My rate was 30 percent, so on a good day, if I did $500 in sales I could take home $200.
Q: Was there competition with other ice cream trucks who were working in the area?
After the third shift, my boss said he liked me, and he said the next day I’d get to work one of the beaches. He told me before I went, “We’re the biggest ice cream truck company in the city, and we’re the only one with licenses to work in that area. If you see any other trucks else trying to sell ice cream, you write down their license plate number and call me right away.”
He gave me a few tips too—to avoid being kicked out, you don’t technically drive on the property—you park halfway on the curb so they can’t do anything to make you leave. Especially at the beaches, they’re pretty strict.
The day started out well. I was parked in a prime spot making plenty of sales, when I started hearing this ice cream truck music behind me. I looked and saw one of our competitor’s trucks drive past, smiling as he went by. But I knew he wasn’t supposed to be there so I shot him a semi-angry look. I think he knew too.
He parked up ahead of me and started making some sales. So I started my truck, turned on my music and started driving up to him. He started to drive away, so I ended up chasing him down the street at 30 kilometers per hour, since that was as fast as these things could safely go. I chased him until we were off the beach, and got close enough to read his license plate. I called my boss to tell him what happened, and he was pretty pleased.
The guy tried coming back once or twice, but I shot him enough dirty looks and rude gestures that he eventually left.
Q: Would you recommend this job to friends?
A: I did actually, although I don’t think any of them took me up on the offer. It was a quirky summer job, with a mixture of fun, stress and freedom. Just take a truck for a day, come back with less ice cream, and don’t get into too much trouble.