When you were young, did you ever lay your big wheel* or bicycle, preferably big wheel, on its side, spin one of the wheels around using the pedal, and tell a friend that the ice cream store was open for business, or some shit?
I thought this was just something we did on our block, maybe due to all the led paint we ingested, but I came to find out people from other suburbs of Chicago and surrounding Midwestern cities also ran imaginary ice cream shops. Then, just today, I was IM'ing with SO@24 and Laughing Through My Chardonay, and they were both proprietors of big wheel ice cream joints in parts of California and Kansas, or wherever Chardsy is originally from.
This blew my mind, because the whole game is just a dumb concept. What does a spinning plastic wheel have to do with ice cream? Every 31 Flavors I've been to has a long, but not at all round, counter where people select the flavor on the other side of the glass that they want on top of their cone, bubblegum perhaps.** I know not of spinning wheels of flavors, do you? Who was the cool kid on the block who started doing this, and how did it take off nationwide? If I recall, it was not a game I'd play long, as it would usually play out something like this.
Neighbor: Around it goes . . . and you get . . . Mint Chocolate Chip!
A Young Dr. Ken: Uh, great. This is dumb. Let's go dine on some delicious paint chips.
The game's tendency to be over soon after it starts is kind of like when you grabbed a dandelion and said, "Momma had a baby and her head popped off," as you "popped" the flowery part of the weed off with your thumb. Once the head popped off, you were off to find another baby or do something else, perhaps something a little less sick and twisted. I mean, come on, popping baby heads off? I really shouldn't make off like I wasn't a little twisted too, since a neighbor and I used to play Lightning Bug Home Run Derby with those fat, red wiffle ball bats. Those poor little guys just kept lighting up and giving away their position. They didn't stand a chance against Ryne Sandberg and Jody Davis***. At least nobody got hurt at the ice cream parlor. Not mine, anyway.
I poked around the Internet a little on this matter, and it is speculated that grabbing that big wheel pedal and turning it is to signify cranking an old fashioned ice cream maker. Others believe the spinning wheel of flavors is an homage to some shop in San Francisco that had a wheel customers could spin, and on it were the titles of fifty flavors available daily. If you ask me, even if one or both of these facts are true, it still doesn't explain how something so darned stupid made its way across the country.
Readers, please tell me in your comments if you did or did not play the Big Wheel Ice Cream Parlor Game. Also, for extra credit, drive your bike to work, get down on the floor with it, spin the wheel, and say, "Ice cream! Get your ice cream here . . ." See who laughs, who gets nostalgic, who looks at you like you're nuttier than squirrel poop, who fires you on the spot, and let me know that too.
* I was thinking that someone should come out with Big Wheels for adults, but instead of in the style of A Team, Transformers, or G.I. Joe, have them decorated for Grey's Anatomy, The English Patient, Brokeback Mountain, or whatever else adults watch.
** I remember getting bubble gum ice cream and thinking it was so cool, even though the frozen, hardened collection of gum bits I had accumulated were giving me lock jaw. My parents would always say how gross and stupid it was, and now, as an adult, I see the light.
*** He and I are still Cub fans, and those are still our favorite players of all time. I can't speak for him, but for me it has to be the Lightning Bug Home run Derby connection. Jody was a lifetime .245 hitter, so how else do you explain how this scrub remains so near and dear to my heart?