The Ice Cream Man Who Braved the…Tornado?

8 06 2011

I’ve lived in St. Louis for nearly three years now, and I can say with all honesty that some of the strangest weather imaginable occurs here.

In the last year alone, I’ve experienced excessive heat, freezing cold, ice storms, snowstorms, flash floods, and lots of hail. I’ve seen thundersnow (lightning and thunder in the middle of a snowstorm), and last night I woke up to a rumbling earthquake in the middle of the night.

In my opinion, they should fire all the weathermen who serve in Southern California newsrooms and give their salaries to the St. Louis weathermen, who actually do something other than accurately predict a “beautiful 72 degree day again”.

Most peculiar, I think, are the number of tornadoes we’ve had in the last year. I read an article a few months ago about how St. Louis had already had over five times the normal amount of tornadoes hit here in just four months before this summer–traditionally, “tornado season”–even started.

We had a tornado scare a few weeks ago, and Tyler and I opted to get out of our third-story matchstick apartment and rushed to the church basement for cover–with images of the devastating Joplin tornado damage fresh in our minds.

Not looking good...

As we watched the radar with its ominous red and green swirls and heard the sirens shriek, I hurriedly leashed up the dogs, packed up my purse with food and water (just in case! Always be prepared!), grabbed our laptops and phones, and several pieces of my favorite jewelry.

In the span of two minutes, I was packed and ready to survive the end of the world.

Tyler, on the other hand, put his shoes on.

We sped to the church just in time to beat the hefty hail that started pouring out of the sky. Within minutes, the sky was roiling and a funnel cloud drifted just feet past the church and down the road, towards the river. We sat in the basement for nearly an hour and a half, waiting out one storm cell after another after another and peering at the tiny radar images on our phones and laptops.

After sitting in a small interior room with two hyperactive Australian Shepherds and one hyperactive husband for that long, I was ready to brave the last storm cell and get home.

My desperate thought at that point was, “Heck, if it’s my time to go, I shouldn’t fight it.”

We piled into the car and drove home amid the pelting rain and howling winds. The sky was still ominously dark, and hardly anyone else was on the road.

As I pulled into the apartment complex, that’s where I saw one of the strangest sights I’ve ever seen in my life (even better than the squirrel eating a full-sized Snickers bar last week):

The ice cream man.

Yep.

The ice cream man, rolling around in his ice cream truck, playing his little ice cream man jingle.

I couldn’t help but wonder if the mind-numbing cartoonish music had affected his hearing. Maybe he couldn’t actually hear the tornado sirens screaming their warnings to “take cover immediately”?

And maybe years of him crouching behind the grimy window of his beat-up old truck with the decrepit, peeling pictures of ice cream bars had blinded him from actually seeing the massive funnel cloud in the distance?

Our view of the funnel cloud as it passed our church hideout...

I wondered if he had been doing loops around our apartment complex through the entire storm, sadly wondering to himself why none of the neighborhood children would leave their bathtubs and interior closets.

I really feel like there should be some deep, meaningful insight in this story. Like I should write a moving and elegantly worded analogy relating how the brave ice cream man forged into the heart of the storm against all odds, just to bring a small amount of happiness into the lives of the destitute children of the world. A sweeping story about how he sacrificed his own safety just to offer the world his own paltry gift.

It’d be like the time in high school English that I forgot that I was presenting a comprehensive essay on the hidden meaning behind a classical painting of a fruit basket. I faced the class and spun the most beautiful tapestry of completely fabricated insights into one of the most boring paintings you’ve ever seen in your life. I probably would’ve made the artist cry as he marveled at the sheer genius and depth of his simple painting.

But, however good I may be at fabricating analogies between renaissance art and life, I can’t seem to craft a feel-good story about the tornado and the ice cream man who appears to have a brain just about the size of that tiny sliver of chocolate at the bottom of a Drumstick.

So the simple–and true–moral of the story is if you’re looking for ice cream in the middle of the tornado, you know where to find one.

Just make sure you buy me an ice cream sandwich, too.

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18 07 2011
The Ice Cream Man Who Braved the…Tornado? >>Welcome to Badoenk's Blogs

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