Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Ice Cream Music

During the summer months in Kabul, street food is available in large quantities on many major roads. In addition to the fixed stalls and shops, wandering vendors push carts of fruit, vegetables and nuts through every neighborhood. Some of the more ubiquitous vendors are the ice cream men.*

*Although it's not technically ice cream in the sense that most Westerners understand it. It's more like really cold yogurt. Tasty, especially the pistachio flavored, but not entirely safe from a hygeine point of view.

Most of the ice cream vendors advertise their wares by means of a small bullhorn taped to the push-bar of the cart. Situated right next to the mouthpiece is a tape recorder which plays a simple tune over and over again, much like ice cream trucks in the States.* The intent is the same, to bring crowds of children scurrying from homes on every street, waving handfuls of change or the occasional bill.

*Do they still have ice cream trucks in the States? The last time I remember actually seeing one in operation was around 1979. Blow-Pops. Outstanding.

I say the intent is the same, becase the effect is not. In fact, although I've seen some locals eating Afghan ice cream, I don't recall that I've ever seen one of these vendors actually make a sale. I'm not sure how they manage to survive, much less make a profit.

Anyway, the point of all of this is the music that is played repeatedly ad nauseum over the loudspeaker. Just like traditional ice cream trucks in the States, the musics is designed to be penetrating, pervasive and mildly annoying, the better to attract the customers. Fortunately, even with the traditional slow pace of an ice cream truck, one has to endure only a few minutes of this music while the truck passes. When the source of the music is mounted on a pushcart operated by typical Afghan, not exactly a paragon of fitness, the exposure tends to last upwards of twenty minutes. Even once it fades into the distance, it is soon replaced by another cart with equally annoying music.

For the last month or so, the local vendor in the neighborhood where I live has made his rounds approximately once an hour, all day, every day except Fridays. His particular choice of music was even more grating than most, but I couldn't quite put my finger on why. That is until this morning when, in a flash of insight, it came to me. The tune which I had been suffering at regular intervals for several weeks was a badly-rendered electronic version of this.*

*Note that I take no responsibility for anyone having that piece of tripe stuck in their head for the next week or two. Click on that link at your own risk.

I'm considering buying all of his ice cream tomorrow in exchange for him leaving the neighborhood permanently. Failing that, I may finally crack and shoot him. I'm pretty sure that exposure to that song over and over again rises to the level of a crime against humanity. I'll take my chances with the Afghan justice system.


Anonymous said...

Yes, we still have lots of ice cream trucks in the Chicago burbs, playing the same tunes we grew up too and yes, little kids come running. Hope you are doing well - stay safe!

C said...

here in Springfield IL we also have the ice cream trucks....and it plays the same song over and over but every 30 seconds a female voice yells "HELLO".
sad part is i have arrested most of the ice cream truck drivers so it's off limits for my son.

PaladinSix said...

And why would one want to arrest an ice cream truck driver in Springfield?

C said...

i would never want to arrest an ice cream guy....but when they deal dope out of the ice cream truck sometimes you have to.

PaladinSix said...

Good point.