Being an ice cream man ain't that sweet, but I'd do it again.
I love ice cream.
One of my fondest childhood memories includes stuffing chocolate ice cream into my face as I tried to “aim” for my mouth. It’s something my family teases me about then and again.
But when I was asked to be a traditional ice cream man for a day, I was sceptical.
Can I actually sell ice cream successfully? Will I be able to stand for long hours under the scorching sun? And most importantly, will my makeup last in the sweltering heat?
Despite my initial doubts, I decided to take bull by the horns…or at least I tried to.
I had two tasks: To take orders (in English or Mandarin) from customers, and prepare two cups of ice cream. Not a big deal, right?
80-year-old Auntie Feng and her husband, Uncle Yang, has spent the last 12 years selling ice cream outside Fullerton Hotel, along the Singapore River.
While neither spoke English, I was greeted with a warm welcome when I arrived at their pushcart ice cream stall. They were both amicable, and possessed a very loving energy, which reminded me a lot of my late great-grandmother.
Before I started my shift, Auntie Feng warned me about the influx of tourists that may approach her stall, especially when the large tour groups stop nearby. She explained that she would have to work doubly fast and couldn’t risk messing up.
She was kind enough to show me how things worked. She told me to shadow her a few times until I was ready to try it on my own.
Once a customer places an order, she takes the ice cream flavour out of the freezer, cuts a thick block, scoops it in a plastic cup or on a slice of bread, and serves it to them. Sounds simple enough, right?
Auntie Feng may be 80, but she works faster than Speedy Gonzales when it comes to selling ice cream! She took about 30 seconds for each order, which is faster than the time I usually take to heat up my food in the microwave.
“I can do this,” I reassured myself.
After observing Auntie Feng a few times, I was ready to take the wheel. I was excited about showing off my not so impressive skills.
As Auntie Feng passed me a block of yam ice cream, I felt an immense amount of pressure. I reminded myself to follow in Auntie Feng’s steps, and that things will be fine.
I wondered why it took me a while to pull the ice cream out of its packaging and place it in the cup, when Auntie Feng could do it so effortlessly.
After completing my first order, Auntie Feng let out a small giggle. She told me that I worked very slowly and it was probably because I was inexperienced. Ah, that explains.
I took about four orders and served two customers during the hour that I spent with Auntie Feng and Uncle Yang. It was a little scary at first, but I had fun!
Though taking orders and serving ice cream was overwhelming, even the customers were pretty curious to see how I would fare. While I had a little trouble with speaking Chinese at first, thankfully, the customers were patient with me.
I’d like to think I did a fairly decent job with serving ice cream.
I only spent an hour with the couple, but I was already tired from all the standing. I wondered how Auntie Feng and Uncle Yang do it on a daily basis. My biggest takeaway from the whole experience? Auntie Feng and Uncle Yang’s determination to be independent.
I was curious as to why Auntie Feng and Uncle Yang decided to work in this line, despite their old age. They also have six children and 10 grandchildren, who could easily support them.
Auntie Feng said in Mandarin: “We just want to make a living for ourselves. We [may] earn less than $100 in a day, but it’s enough for us to get by.”
This is part four of ‘For A Day’, a new series that features underrated jobs in Singapore. In this series:
Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition coming to the Science Centre Singapore this June
Food stall at Telok Blangah Food Centre and VivoCity among locations visited by COVID-19 cases
Takashimaya Shopping Centre and The Clementi Mall among locations visited by COVID-19 cases
Fu Lu Shou Complex, Chinatown Complex and Night Safari among locations visited by COVID-19 cases
ION Orchard and Peninsula Plaza among locations visited by COVID-19 cases
St Leaven Bakery at Takashimaya, Woodlands Galaxy Community Centre among places visited by COVID-19 cases
Youth react to COVID-19 vaccine application for Singaporeans aged 12 to 39
ArtScience Museum’s exhibition The Virtual Realms: Videogames Transformed reimagines video games as creative exhibits
BTS and McDonald’s to launch second merchandise collection on Jun 17
Retro Nutz in Sim Lim Square sells old-school games and consoles