Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Humor Me: Soft-serve ice cream and Wal-Mart greeters

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve written a humor column. A few months, actually, but you know how it goes. You get busy, you get tired, you get to thinking about everything that needs to be done … and then you get asked by a 2-year-old to play with the trains upstairs.

With three sons, I usually have a lot to write about and little time to write. I’m also committed to finishing a novel this year -- the working title is “Novel to be Rejected by Publishers” -- and I’m still doing promotions for The Great American Staycation, which came out last year. (I’ll be interviewed next week for Fox News’ Strategy Room show. I’ll be the guy wearing a blue shirt and sweating a lot.)

All the promotion is worth it, of course, because of the financial gusher that the book has provided. In fact, a month ago I pushed forward my retirement age from 65 to 64 years, 9 months. Unfortunately, my 7-year-old then told me he would like to attend a college where “it either snows or there is a beach,” which pretty much rules out in-state tuition. So I moved retirement back to age 67.

And now the stock market has become a “Biggest Loser” spinoff. If the swan dive continues, I expect to retire at age 80. I’ll be semi-retired, anyway, because I’ll need to supplement my income by working a couple days each week as a Wal-Mart greeter.

Anyway, let’s get to the main, or at least final, topic of this column:

How to save money this summer by finding free entertainment.

The economy is still reeling, so it’s a timely subject. And with some smart financial decisions now, you’ll reap the benefits later. Most importantly, you’ll be less likely to compete with me for a Wal-Mart greeter position in 2050.

(Don’t bother competing for that job, by the way, because I’ve got it down … “Hello” … “Thanks for shopping with us” ... “Does your little one want a sticker?” … “Firearms are in the back corner, near the liquor” … “Don’t worry about the inventory-control alarm, it always goes off. You paid for that, right?”)

OK, enough with all of that. Here’s the tip for some free fun:

Do-it-yourself ice cream.

I don’t mean for you to create ice cream at home. You’ll definitely want to avoid that. My parents used to make homemade ice cream with my brother, sister and I, and although I appreciate their effort to create a family-bonding moment, it was a gawd-awful mess. Or in my dad’s words, a g-damn mess, g-dammit. The ice cream wasn’t that great, either, and ice cream cones at the nearby Thrifty drug store were about 35 cents. Oh well.

The do-it-yourself ice cream I’m talking about is the free soft-serve dessert that some restaurants now offer. You can get yourself a little treat and then sit back and watch as people attempt to pile half a gallon of ice cream into a small cone or bowl.

It’s really a great show. People try to swirl the ice cream evenly so it can rise six inches above the cone, and when the ice cream starts falling on to their hands or the floor, they give this disgusted look like, “What is wrong with this thing?” And even after the ice cream load is centered, there is work to do. The ice-cream glutton must balance his tower of dessert as he navigates back to his seat. He'll need a steady hand and the burning concentration of a tight-rope walker to keep his ice cream off the floor.

Check it out sometime. You’ll see most people go easy on the ice cream, realizing that it’s intended to be a little topper on the meal, but eventually a person will try to max out. And maybe that person has the right idea. Yes, he will sacrifice his pride by standing at the soft-serve station filling a 20-ounce drink cup with ice cream, but ...

It could be best to seize the opportunity now. After all, who knows how long the ice cream will be available? Times are tough for restaurants, too. They could take the ice cream away at any moment or start charging for it. Forty years from now, we might be talking about how great it was when restaurants offered free ice cream.

Hey, do you remember the good old days? Restaurants gave away ice cream for free, gas was less than three dollars per gallon and kids still respected their elders!

What? You just need a cart? Oh, I’m sorry about going on like that. Thanks for shopping at Wal-Mart.