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16 Degrees Fahrenheit: The Temperature At Which Commonsense Deepfreezes (6.28.04)

This weekend I bought an ice cream cone. The ice cream cone: one of summer’s simple pleasures, until now. DC just got its first Cold Stone Creamery, and like everything else that gets loads of hype, it was the thing to go and stand in line for this weekend. The “creamery” title should have tipped me off that we have entered the new millennium, the brave new world, of ice cream marketing. No more is the stuff the straightforward frosty treat provided by ye olde 31 flavors or the classic, tacky Americana of the Blizzard at Dairy Queen. We now ask more of our ice cream. We ask more of it and we pay more for it, apparently.

Cold Stone Creamery is based on the idea that if you make your ice cream out of naturally rich cream and tasty sugar, people will not give a shit. What people really want, nay need, is to have this premium quality ice cream set on an Italian marble slab that is always kept at a temperature of 16 degrees Fahrenheit and watch as any imaginable combination of candy, cookies, pie fillings, fudges, etc. are mushed up into it—all before your very eyes. It is concept ice cream.

Now the end result is tasty. I don’t want to be misleading. The problem is the process. First of all, there’s the annoying gamut of cutesy, punning names of Cold Stone favorites to peruse. The pushy sounding “Cookie Doughn’t You Want Some” and the unforgivingly umlaut-afflicted “Germanchokolatkake” are particularly troubling. But you don’t have to stick to these scripted classics. You are invited to be your own ice creamery maverick and choose any combination of chunks, goops, and gobs you can think of and have at it. Sometimes this works out; sometimes this is disastrous. A youthful customer behind me in line insisted on a strawberry, hot fudge, Heath bar, candy cane concoction, and each patient, “Are you suuuurre that’s what you want, honey?” from her dad elicited only higher pitched shrieks in the affirmative. Was it wrong that I lingered outside to watch her take the first intrepid licks only to watch the inevitable pause, down turned mouth, and upturned, almost teary and utterly disappointed, eyes?

No, it was not wrong. Because I had just been through 35 minutes of hell and I deserved some harmless amusement. The problem with providing today’s already overloaded and option-addled consumer with a virtually unlimited series of choices is that they too easily become mentally saturated. Then, the process of actually enacting their inaliable consumerist right comes at the great cost of my valuable time. But the Cold Stone Creamery is no place for feeling high and mighty about oneself, despite the chichi lengths you are going to in order to purchase an ice cream cone. Das Creamery beats you down in the end, because the worst part is that when you have FINALLY decided what you want and list it out for the beleagured CREAMER behind the counter, you have then to order it in the Cold Stone language. Yes!!! As if Starbucks and Ikea were not enough, we now have yet another franchised and incorporated glossary of terms to master! I will select books from my Flarke, I will sit on my Ektorp, and then I will sip my VENTE latte while wondering (really) what it all means, but now (oh yes) I will also order my ice cream in graduating sizes of “like it,” “love it, “ gotta have it.” AAAhhrg.

And then because it’s so important to have the contents of each cone HAND CRAFTED before your discerning eye, you have to stand in a big, long line peering over glass cabinets holding a ridiculously over the top selection of candy and other ice cream garnishes that make Wonka’s acid-house factory look downright shabby. Finally, when you are starting to wonder why (in a real existential, staring into the void kind of way) you are handed your Creamery creation and have earned the honor of shelling out, like, six bucks for a fucking lousy ice cream cone. For crying out loud. But out on the street, strolling along in the sun and licking the nut-laden scoops, it felt alright again. The ice cream was cold and good.

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