page three Scene and Heard
A Rocky Road to Ice Cream Parity
A s our mother told it, the very first time we were offered ice cream, we rejected it suspiciously. We've never gotten independent confirmation of Mom's story, but we've gotten our own kids to sample an enormous variety of foods simply by saying, "Remember: Dad refused to try ice cream!"
My first week of unemployment passed quietly and quickly as I spent most of it sprawled across my mattress rereading old novels. But by the third week, the increasing heat of Washington in my un-air-conditioned apartment started chasing me and my paperbacks outside, until it was even too hot out there.
Luckily, there was a small supermarket down the street from me, and I started escaping the hottest part of the afternoon in the magazine and greeting card aisle. I always walked through the frozen-food aisle first, perusing the vast ice cream selection and blasting myself with cold air on my way to the magazines.
My favorite ice cream is Rocky Road. This supermarket did not carry Rocky Road ice cream.
At first I thought they were just out of stock. But since I went in every day, I quickly realized they just didn't sell Rocky Road. Initially, I was just slightly irritated and would disappear into the magazine aisle to catch up on the latest celebrity gossip. But eventually I started to linger in the ice cream aisle, annoyed.
How was it possible this store had an entire freezer section devoted to Chunky Monkey ice cream -- a silly banana and walnut ice cream concoction -- instead of a reliable chocolate, almond and marshmallow standard like Rocky Road?
I started filling out comment cards next to the store's exit. At first, my comment cards were polite: "Could you please order Rocky Road ice cream? The Edy's brand. Thank you."
And later: "Dear Manager, I would appreciate it greatly if you could add Edy's Original Rocky Road to your ice cream supply."
It was the first grass-roots campaign I'd ever been involved in, and I became more and more excited. Being unemployed didn't bother me so much now that my job was to walk briskly into the store and check the freezer aisle several times a day.
My comment cards started getting curt: "Order Rocky Road ice cream."
And then accusatory: "Why don't you sell Rocky Road ice cream?"
After a month, I decided to step it up a notch and discuss the situation with the cashier. The cashier seemed annoyed, even though I was the only customer in the store and she had no reason to be so unhelpful.