A fair experience
You know we’re approaching the latter part of summer in Vermont when the fairs begin. I view these events as a chance to eat entirely too much of food boiled in animal fat, get burned from hours in the sun, and spend time watching riveting entertainment like pig races and cowtail-braiding competitions. It is always a good time. When I was asked by a friend if I wanted to volunteer at the Addison County Field Days Maple Building, I readily jumped at the opportunity.
The Addison County Field Days is Vermont’s largest agricultural fair.
Started in 1948, it features such offerings as cattle judging, tractor pulls, exhibits, a midway, and a road rage demonstration cleverly disguised as a demolition derby.
The maple building where I was going to volunteer my services offered visitors to the fair all things maple, from maple cotton candy and maple creemees to maple candy and maple milkshakes. When I arrived to help, the assembled crew of two other workers, my friend and her son, assessed my multiple talents to determine my assignment in the operation. The in-depth interview went something like this:
“Can you hold this scoop?”
“Uh, I think so.”
“Great, you can scoop the ice cream.”
Little did I suspect that this job was on the absolute bottom of the maple building job roster based on tasks that make you lose all sensation in your forearms and cause severe carpal tunnel issues in the period of one three-hour shift.
I was to put three scoops of ice cream into a metal cup, which would then go to the milk shake preparer, who added whole milk and maple syrup and put it in a highly complicated mixer that had one button.
Once the finished product was poured into a tall paper cup and delivered to the customer, the metal cup came back to me for three more scoops of ice cream.
After receiving my instructions, I got down to the task at hand. With my first two scoops, it seemed my job was going to be quite easy. Of course, I suspect a convict cracking rocks in the prison yard experiences the same false sense of ease during the initial swings of his hammer.
The ice cream came in five gallon buckets. As I got deeper into the container, the sugary treat was literally frozen solid. It was like trying to get scoops from a glacier. And then it got even harder.
Before you could say Chubby Hubby I was rolling around on the floor bear hugging the container trying to execute a frozen dairy product extraction. It was so exhausting I couldn’t imagine what it was going to be like trying to prepare my second metal cup for a milkshake.
With three scoops under my belt I took a break to get my heart rate down under 400 beats per minute and catch my breath before going back to attack the rock hard dairy product.
I spent my short respite enjoying the customers who came to the counter. Some of these people had a hard time understanding the concept of a building with “all things maple.” Every so often the following type of conversation would take place:
“I’d like a milkshake. What flavors do you have?”
“What else do you have?”
“How about chocolate? If I wanted chocolate, could I have a chocolate milkshake?”
“Uh … no.”
“Because we only have maple.”
“But if I didn’t want maple, what other flavor could I have?”
In the name of job security I would resist the temptation to step up to the counter and give the customer a friendly rap on the forehead with my metal scoop to help him to see the error in his thinking.
Then it was back to hard labor. Three scoops, shake made, three more scoops, another shake. I would like to say that it eventually got easier. But I can’t lie. By scoop 547 I was weak and struggling. Then it happened. I leaned into the container, dug with all my might, and accidently flung a ball of ice cream at the speed of a meteor across the stand, where it smacked into the wall and slid to the floor. There was a collective gasp from the patrons in line, followed by a silence as all eyes followed the trajectory back to me holding the scoop.
“Five-second rule?” I asked lamely.
A short time later my shift ended, and I was forced to return my scoop.
As I left the stand, with a sore left arm and bruised ego, I decided to drown my sorrows in a frosty treat. So I went to a stand near the midway and got a chocolate shake.
Mark S. Albury lives in Northfield Falls.