It was never supposed to have happened. No one predicted it. In statistics, an event like this would be called a Black Swan.
We were the first to see it, the four of us. Four guys full of fraternal feeling and the energy of youth, riding back from Carl’s Jr. in my ’06 midnight blue Mazda-rati; we just assumed that our burgers would be the highlight of our lunch hour. We were so naïve then. Those days are over.
James had brought up the idea of the road trip; he was always down for heading out and picking up a greasy lunch. David Lord was the oldest of the group. He’d been growing his hair out all summer, but it was clear by his suits and button-down shirts he wore that he was slowly growing away from us and into an adult life full of spread sheets and juice diets. We liked to tease Dave. I was the sensitive, bookish guy with the sweet car, the “Miracle Whip,” the kind of guy who would use words like “abattoir” in a sentence, but in a tolerable way, at least according to James. And David Little, well he was the new guy, coming in after Mikey left us. We don’t talk about that much. I thought it would be a good idea to bring David along. “He’s got a long way to go before becoming a Jet, though” James cautioned, guarding the sanctity of the group.
“I came in from the East with the sun in my eyes…”
Bob Dylan’s Isis was playing on the car stereo, heavy on the violin. It was a tale of a man who heads out to the mountains with a shadowy prospector; but it’s really about him washing away his sins and youthful immaturity, before heading back to seek a second chance with his ex-wife.
Pulling back into the Santa Fe Plaza parking lot at a quarter past noon, we saw it standing there, somewhat surreal by itself on the asphalt: a long blue alloy box, propped up on thin metal legs. It was like seeing your childhood sports hero in public, but everyone was too unsure to approach him, preserving a radius of awe as he went about his grocery shopping.
“A food truck!”
It was. It was as if a little piece of Portland had fallen from the heavens, as though coming unattached from a celestial trailer hitch.
“I think it’s…ice cream. It’s ice cream!” said James.
“No way! Our little office park has really hit the big leagues,” added David Little. “You know, having a food truck permanently stationed at lunch hour.”
He was right. This did feel like life was going on a bit of an upswing. Maybe we’d head out later in the afternoon and buy a cone, too. It now felt like one of those days.
Three of us took our brown bags back and headed back towards the main door of the brick office. But David Lord stayed back. He was walking towards the truck.
An office is a strange place when you really think about it. People just deciding to wake up each morning, put on clothes, and synchronise their travels to show up at the same place and sit in the same chair, day after day, then go home to their other familiar spaces before starting the whole cycle over again the next morning. Maybe that was just my sensitivity talking. Fall was coming soon. Then one day we’d be gone like Mikey.
I can’t remember with perfect fidelity all that happened from that point sitting on the edge of my desk, dropping off my car keys. I just remember D-Lord coming back in:
“Hey guys, our kind and generous landlords, Matthew Giuffre and Matthew Woolsey of York Realty Inc., brought in a food truck. Free ice cream for everyone. Go now!” We knew what he meant by those last two words: Run, you fools!
Already I could feel the first rumblings of a mass migration towards the front entrance. Nothing like this had ever happened before. It would have been impossible to predict. And to think of any of the 365 days of the year that an ice cream truck would set up shop in our lot, most of which are frozen and snowy, that free ice cream day would happen on a hot, 28-degree Celsius summer afternoon. How lucky! Dave Little and I got on our way.
But before I got to the break room door, I managed to catch one last look at David Lord, heading back and away from the free dessert, spreading the news throughout the office. Looking around corners, checking under desks, leaving no man behind, he moved with the thoroughness of Paul Revere galloping through the New England twilight. I never told him this, but it was at that moment that I realized that he was the kind of guy you wanted around on the day when that fire alarm was pulled.
Strathcommers finally at the front of the line
There isn’t much to say from here. One by one, group by group, we wandered our way outside, pilgrims of the parking lot, congregating to our sacred land like hippies to Woodstock. The food truck no longer stood alone; it was now met with a long channel of strangers, each seeming content to just stand out in the sun and be a part of something greater than all of us, if only for a few minutes. I saw the web designers standing in a group outside the front door. Even Maurice was back in the circle, after having recently left for the CMS team and another side of the building, another way of life. Free ice cream at work does that to people.
And soon it was our turn, too. When we finally made it to the front of the line, we were greeted by three sun-kissed 20-somethings, kids who seemed like we just made their day when we ordered a pistachio cone or a chocolate-and-peanut-butter bowl. And why not? Weren’t they just on another leg of another Endless Summer, chasing after the elusive promise of eternal youth and rebirth, but chasing anyway? What a life, handing a scoop of joy to a total stranger and seeing a bit of the mid-day weariness melt away from their eyes. Some of these people might have been waiting for that for a long time. And then they’d pack up and go off with the sun. Soon they’d be off to Melbourne, Fort Lauderdale, or Panama City. But today, it was Keilan’s Creamery at Strathcom.
David Little (left) and myself, Boys of Summer