The ice cream man has a funny way of describing what you and your friends look like when he plays his tinkly version of "Turkey in the Straw" and you race from the pool to his truck clutching damp dollar bills:
"Like ants!" said Fred Amini, grinning as he watched a bunch of kids in Potomac swarm around his truck on a recent steamy afternoon.
The swarm soon became a line, and each kid made his or her request: shave ice with purplish-red Tiger Blood syrup, bright yellow SpongeBob SquarePants popsicles, Tweety Pie popsicles (also yellow), green Incredible Hulk ice pops, and lots more shave ice.
"Anything I can get for 50 cents?" a worried-looking boy asked Amini, who has been driving ice cream trucks around the Washington area for 22 years.
"A fudgesicle," Amini told him.
"Never say 'no' to anybody," Amini whispered to a KidsPost reporter tagging along for the day. "That way, they will come back."
Amini gives kids breaks all the time, according to two of his fans, Sarah and Rachel Caplan, sisters who are 8 and 7.
"Fred's the best; he's nice," said Sarah. "Once, I only had a dollar for a Sno Biz," Rachel said, "and he let me have it anyway!" (They cost $2.)
Popsicles and Perfection
Luke Schneider, 10, and Josh Brenits, 9, got their ice cream but lingered, gawking at the bright-colored pictures of frozen treats on the side of Amini's vehicle. They then tried to explain the lure of the ice cream truck.
"I think it's because you're getting it yourself, from a truck -- you're choosing what you want," said Josh as he dipped into his cookies-and-cream ice cream cup with a wooden spoon. "There's some glory in getting it that way."
Luke slurped neon-green ice beads called Popsicle Shots. "I think it just tastes better from the truck," he said. "I've gotten Sno Biz at the grocery store and it's just not the same."
The Godfather of Ice Cream
Everybody seems to know Amini.
"Fred! Fred!" the kids yell as he drives up to pools, soccer games and elementary schools. The Caplan sisters love Amini's ice cream so much that their mother gives them "Fred Coupons," gift certificates for some of his ice cream. "We get them on Monday if we did our chores that week," Sarah said.
Once, to raise money, a group auctioned off an hour on Amini's truck, he said. The item went for $350 -- more than any other -- and the lucky kid who got to ride with Amini had him drive to all his friends' houses.
Over the years, Amini, 49 and the father of three, has acquired a few nicknames. His favorite: "The Godfather of Ice Cream."
Being your own boss, selling Choco Tacos to kids who worship you -- that may sound like a dream job. But Amini says he works really hard -- 12 to 16 hours a day, seven days a week, eight months a year.
Ice cream is a family business for Amini, who was born in Iran. His brothers and two sons drive his other three trucks. And his 14-year-old daughter, Natalie, looks forward to the day she can drive an ice cream truck, too.
"It's fun," said Natalie, tagging along with her dad. However, she will likely ditch "Turkey in the Straw."
"You get really sick of it!" Natalie said, rolling her eyes.
But she likes making money. And that's not the only benefit.
"Mmmm," she purred, chomping on a chocolate-chip-cookie ice cream sandwich. "The perks of the job!"
-- Fern Shen