One scoop or two?

As promised in my post "It's All About Me" here's more information about me being a jerk.

A soda jerk, that is.

According to Wikipedia, "A soda jerk (or soda jerker) was a person — typically a youth — who operated the soda fountain in a drugstore. The term refers to the person who made an ice cream soda. This was made by putting flavored syrup into a specially designed tall glass, adding carbonated water and, finally, one or two scoops of ice cream. ...The name soda jerk came from the jerking action the server would use on the soda fountain handle when adding the soda water, and not the temperament of the server.


My first job as a waitress lasted one week. It was at the corner restaurant. I had no clue what I was doing. I didn't know French dressing from Thousand Island dressing. The customer had to stand up and peek over the counter to point it out to me. How did I know the difference? We only used vinegar and oil at home. The customer took pity on the stupid waitress and gave me a dollar tip. (This was almost 40 years ago - so that was a LOT of money!) When it was slow I was supposed to clean, clean, clean while the other waitress sat, sat, sat! I didn't think that was fair. The final straw was when they left me all alone one evening with the Greek cook who didn't speak English. Even at 16 I knew that was being taken advantage of so I walked. Luckily I lived down the block so it was a short walk.

A couple of my friends were soda jerks at O'Hare Airport and told me of an opening there. I applied and got the job.

C'mon, who doesn't know ICE CREAM?

There were two ice cream shops - one in the United Terminal and one in the American Terminal. The passengers from American Airlines tended to tip better. I usually just worked in the American Terminal.

It was set up like this: (don't laugh at my primitive drawing - plus I'm using Paint and I don't know what I'm doing.)

Let me explain the drawing. One counter was shaped like a "U" and had 12 seats; the other was half of a "U" and had 6 seats. I usually worked the smaller counter. We served ice cream and we had donuts. You could also order carry out and stand in line next to the "U". The skinny aisle in the back was where the freezers full of ice cream were kept, plus the dishwasher, and dishes. It was pretty tight back there. One or two of us could slip by each other if we stood sideways. But not if Curtis was coming.

Curtis was our dishwasher. And he was big.

And when I say big, I mean BIG. (WIDE) And he was BLACK. As black as night. But he was a teddy bear. So if Curtis was walking down the back aisle, we had to go into our counter area so he could get by.

He liked to play games on us. Sometimes he would put a rubber spider on the cash register. Then wait quietly and watch for the fireworks to happen. He would love to hear us scream! He would laugh and laugh!

I loved making up the ice cream concoctions in the back. The best part was putting on the whipped cream. It came in these huge pressurized canisters. One day while making a sundae I was gleefully spraying on the whipped cream when I noticed that that it wouldn't stop coming out when I stopped pressing on the end. It was out of control! It had a mind of it's own. I yelled for help and a co-worker joined me in the back. She tried to wrestle the canister down, but to no avail. That sucker was shooting cream all over the place! It was like a scene from I Love Lucy! We laughed so hard! I think it finally quit when it was empty!

Did I tell you that I am a klutz? Yes. I think it was worse when I was a teenager. I remember when someone wanted coffee and I went to grab a cup - they were stacked one on top of another - I grabbed the cup and poured the coffee, trying to ignore TWO WHOLE STACKS of coffee cups tumbling over and crashing to the ground.

If the customer wanted a sundae, or dish of ice cream, it always had to be served with a small plate underneath it. These were stacked along the wall. The more experienced waitresses would take the finished sundae and place it on the stack of dishes, then separate the plate from the rest without spilling anything. Got the picture?

I couldn't do this. Usually I would take the serving plates and set them in the back next to the sundaes, then place the finished sundaes on the plate, then serve them. But one day I was feeling adventurous. I took the finished sundae over to the stacked plates. I placed it on there. I lifted. And then......

The whole thing tumbled over, I got hot fudge up my arms, it splashed into my eyes and I ran screaming like a banshee to the bathroom.

It wasn't pretty.

I had a lot of fun working at the airport. I met all kinds of people. I saw two movie stars -

Buffy St. Marie (singer)

image courtesy of (from 1970's)

and James Brolin (actor)

image courtesy of Wikipedia (from 1981)

Neither stopped in for ice cream, but they both walked by and it was enough to set my heart beating faster!

I was a somewhat naive 16 year-old who just got contact lenses. My eyes teared a lot when I wore the lenses. One day when I was working, I served a customer who looked like she was crying. I said, "Oh, did you just get contacts? Because that's what happens to me when I wear mine. It takes awhile for my eyes to adjust to the lenses!" The customer just game me a weak smile.

After they left, a man at the next counter called me over.

"Do you know why she was crying?"


"Because I'm her neighbor."


"And that's NOT her husband sitting next to her."



They were probably flying off to a secret rendezvous only to find out that it wasn't too secret even before the plane left the ground!

One time a customer was an underwear salesman and tipped the other waitress with a pair of underwear. True Story.

I guess the best klutz story would be this - there was a big stack of doughnuts stacked up on a cake plate, with a clear plastic lid on top. Sitting right next to this was a gentleman reading his book that was cracked open on the counter.

You know what happened.

I lifted the lid off of the doughnuts when I went to serve someone, and a nice fat chocolate covered doughnut fell icing down right onto the open pages of this man's book!

"I am SO SORRY!" I exclaimed, quickly picking up the doughnut.

I flipped it over and offered it to him.

"Would you like coffee with this?"
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