“Here, if you have a milkshake, and I have a milkshake, and I have a straw. There it is, that's a straw, you see? You watching? And my straw reaches across the room, and starts to drink your milkshake... I... drink... your... milkshake!”
-Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood
In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been looking for work as of late. In the past, I’ve compared my experiences in the job market to my experiences in the dating market, but it seems that those days are long over because I am now a resounding success in one of those two categories. Which one is it? Here, I’ll give you a hint: Both of my condoms are still safely tucked away in my desk drawer. Yes, I’m just as disappointed as you are.
I’ve been doubly successful in my job hunt, because I’ve not only been hired as a busboy at a local fine dining establishment (which, for confidentiality’s sake, we will call Bella Fresca – the only two Italian words I know), but also as a front staff member at a local diner (which we will call Carl’s). Let me tell you, without working a day at Bella Fresca yet and having only worked two days at Carl’s, that these are the best two jobs I’ve ever had in my life, and that’s counting my partnership in the failed lemonade stand venture when I was 9 as well as the afternoon when I was 5 that my friend’s mom paid me $1 to tear up confidential documents because her shredder was broken. Sure, work at Carl’s is sticky, humid, and exhausting, but I get paid for it, and it sure beats getting kicked in the head for a few hours every day. Incidentally, being kicked in the head for a few hours every day is horrible, but it sure beats pressure washing Chevies at a car dealership with three mouth breathers, which, as it happens, was my job last summer.
Carl’s is a neighborhood staple, a burger joint that, in all honesty, serves some of the most ridiculously delicious food in the universe. Of course, until they start serving hummus burgers there’s not going to be any completely healthy way to enjoy a slab of beef with deep fried potatoes and mayonnaise somewhere in the picture, but Carl’s, God bless it, sort of goes the extra mile. They serve a bacon cheeseburger with a fried egg on it, which is sort of like screaming, “YOU’RE NOT MY REAL DAD!” at your arteries and then riding off on your newly purchased dirtbike. That being said, the burger of which I speak is fucking tasty.
So about half of the menu at Carl’s is various permutations on red meat, cheese, and boiling hot fat – that’s fine. I am in no way saying that’s a bad thing. I think if more people had access to this kind of food, there’d be fewer wars, if for no other reason than that most people would be too fat and lazy to fight anymore. However, the other half of the menu is dedicated to various permutations of ice cream, syrup, and cup. Carl’s serves ice cream sundaes. Carl’s serves banana splits. Carl’s serves ice cream cones (in two sizes). Carl’s serves waffle cones (in two sizes). Carl’s serves root beer floats. Carl’s serves malts. And Carl’s serves milkshakes.
Oh, how Carl’s serves milkshakes.
Dear readers, for past two days, it is I, Truman S. Capps, who has been slaving over a hot ice cream machine to make milkshakes.
Maybe you’ve made a lot of milkshakes in your life. Maybe you’re just an old hand at it by now. Maybe you don’t understand why my terminology seems so bleak. Here’s the deal: I have never made a milkshake before, because I’m lactose intolerant, and for me drinking anything with “milk” in its name is sort of like hitting the panic button on my intestines. If you don’t believe me, I have documents and witnesses to back my claims. Just understand that, when I arrived at work and my coworker pointed to the countertop where mere mortals tame the savage elements of Soft-Serve and malt flavoring, I was going in with far less experience than an ordinary, lactose tolerant individual.
You put the cup under the Soft-Serve machine and pull the crank, and you let it fill most of the way with vanilla ice cream*, at which point you add whatever flavor the milkshake is supposed to be along with some arbitrary amount of milk. Let’s say you’re making a medium sized blackberry milkshake – at this point, you’ve got a cup filled to the brim with slowly melting ice cream, three scoops of very juicy blackberries, and a fresh coating of milk. It’s sort of precarious, and you’ve got to hold the cup very carefully lest some of its sticky contents spill over the edge onto your hand. It is at this point that you take this concoction over to a small blender like apparatus mounted behind a clear plastic screen. You stick the cup behind the screen and submerge the blades into the goopy mixture, and then you push a button that makes those blades start spinning really fast. And if they’re not going fast enough, you can adjust a dial to make them go even faster. The disaster potential in this sort of operation runs disturbingly high, as does the potential for loud and colorful language within earshot of the family-friendly restaurant’s clientele.
*Every milkshake at Carl’s is made with vanilla ice cream. Even chocolate. This knowledge sort of takes the fun out of what little dairy I can safely eat, because whenever I would risk it and order a small root beer milkshake, I’d assume that they were making it with some sort of root beer flavored ice cream, as opposed to root beer, vanilla ice cream, and root beer flavoring. Fact: A root beer float is a root beer milkshake, only with less ice cream.
I spent four hours making milkshakes yesterday, and just about every moment was pretty intense. When you get that blender thing going and crank the dial up to about 60, it’s really something to behold. The engine is just chugging right away, and the blades are splattering against the ice cream and grinding against the cup, and you’re worried that at any minute they might burst through and suddenly your hand is part of the milkshake (don’t worry Mom; I’ve checked and this is actually impossible). Sometimes it’s pretty simple – the toppings mix easily with the ice cream and everyone goes home happy. Other times, it’s what could be charitably described as a nightmare. Sometimes, those Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups just don’t want to get mixed up with that vanilla ice cream and milk, and so they’ll try to escape by jumping out of the cup and dumping filthy lactose all over your hands. Sometimes the ice cream will decide against being blended, and suddenly the cup is spinning in circles, not the ice cream inside it, and you’re trying to keep a hold of the cup without breaking your wrist (again, Mom, I’ve actually got a better chance of meeting a nice girl who’s interested in me than I do of breaking my wrist making a milkshake). You can never tell which milkshake will be problematic – a hot fudge banana malt could blend without issue, and yet even the simplest flavor can strike when you least expect it. I learned this the hard way.
Someone ordered a large vanilla shake toward the end of my shift, which is about the easiest thing to make outside of a small cup of water. Since every shake is made with vanilla, all I had to do was fill a cup with ice cream, pour some milk in there, and blend the two together. It’s basically a cup of vanilla ice cream, the vanilla shake. However, somewhere in my preparations, something went wrong. Perhaps I used too much ice cream. Perhaps I used too much milk. Perhaps I just really suck at my job. But as soon as I flipped the blender on, I knew that this was The Perfect Storm. Of milkshakes.
“BATTEN DOWN THE HATCHES, YOU BASTARDS, THIS ONE’S A FIGHTER!” I screamed, cranking the blades up to 100 with my free hand as I struggled to keep control of the cup with the other. Geysers of milk and creamy Soft-Serve lava floes spewed forth from the top of the cup, splattering the plastic safety screen and obscuring my view. At this point a coward would have let the cup go and given the ice cream and milk the escape they so desired; a sane man would fetch the nearest handgun and execute the rebellious confectionary. I was certainly not a coward, because cowards do not last long in the milkshake industry, and I wasn’t sane either. However, by the time the blades had stopped, I was considerably less sane than I had been before. Who knows how long it took me – ten minutes, the entire summer – but eventually my endurance was greater than that of the milkshake, and it solemnly submitted to blending, having already sprayed itself around most of the kitchen before giving up.
If you’re out there, you, the one who ordered that large cup of vanilla hell, I hope you enjoyed it. Because I sure as hell enjoyed making it. Unlike my previous jobs, where my work usually went either ridiculed or unnoticed, at Carl’s my actions have a direct influence on other people. It is this sort of responsibility that I like – it keeps me sharp. Also, I’m making bank off of that tip jar.
Truman Capps would like the customer who ordered the vanilla shake to beware – in the middle of the night it might try to burrow out of your stomach, sort of like in Alien.