They say you understand someone the best when you both bear the same sufferings. In my current situation, that was the Charleston heat. Having lived in Charleston all of my life, I suspected I was used to its nonexistent up-breeze. However, this was not the case when I began my summer work as a “pop slinger” on the searing streets of my humid hometown.
One thing I quickly learned about the popsicle business was that “cool” comes in three different forms: liquid, solid, and personal. I took note of this when I headed for the streets to mingle amongst the tourists, locals, and popsicle connoisseurs. In interacting with these people I learned more about the beauty of the human personality. Regardless of their popsicle preference, each customer had the same effect on me: they taught me about the treasures in momentary friendship. With that being said, I have listed eight fascinating people who were pleasures to meet and know during their purchase of my popsicles.
1. Dick Tracy
I had been selling by the communal fountain on the corner of Calhoun and King at an art festival, when a little old lady approached me rather surreptitiously and asked me if I sold “pop”. In her defense, the cart did read “King Of Pops”. However, it did not have the carbonated pop that she had been looking for—I found that this was a popular mistake among men and women over the age of 60. Without a moment’s notice, she continued to tell me her life story, beginning when she dropped out of college to “hit the road”. “My heart was just a bird trying to chirp, and I had to let it sing” she said to me while she flapped her arms. Towards the tail end of her monologue, she asked me my name. I answered accordingly. And she explained that in order to remember someone’s name she had to match the first letter of the first name with something memorable. I then became “Sardine Sam.” And she too reintroduced herself as Tracy, or “Dick Tracy,” before carrying on to interrogate someone else.
2. Mike aka “Chocolate Big Daddy”
Although he introduced himself as Mike, he later explained that he is locally known as “Chocolate Big Daddy”. This unusual surname fully came to life when he negotiated his way into a discount price on all the Chocolate Sea Salt pops. Once the deal was done, he handed me a rather random item of trade: his chain. “Here, hold my chain. I gotta go see boo,” he said as he rode off on his hover board with 78 fudgesicles. Quite enthusiastically, I wore his chain until hours later, when he returned to pay for my services and retrieve his surprisingly heavy talisman. This exchange of goods was memorable to say the least, but it was also the end of business with the renowned Chocolate Big Daddy.
3. Henry Morris Gunther
Repeat this name five times fast. Though it’s a challenging task, it’s one to remember because this 13-year-old whizkid may be one of our next presidents. I was selling near the U.S.S. Yorktown when he gave his rather miraculous spiel on how the global climate can be saved by magnetic engineers. All this time he was explaining the mechanics of a magnetic engineer, he played with a nail clipper which he claimed helped him think. I honestly do not know whether these engineers exist, but if they don’t already, then I fully support his idea. Henry Morris Gunther: a name to remember.
My friend, neighbor, and fellow salesmen. Daveon was selling palmetto roses—roses made from the leaves of palmetto trees—in my designated spot one day when I appeared for work. I let him stay and sell alongside me, while we chatted about our similar interests in Kodak Black’s music, Nike Air Force Ones, and his trip to Orlando with his baseball team. Now every time I show up at my shift on Anson street, Daveon is there to greet me, and every other passerby, with a palmetto rose and a good story.
5. The birdfeeder
I don't know this man’s name because I could only understand a couple words he said in our hour long discussion: “Social security, hotel, and birds.” When I asked about the birds, he held up a bag full of crumpled bread which he tossed to the pigeons hovering around. This kind and homeless man worries more about the birds getting fed than himself. That is why every Monday morning he gives the birds their breakfast.
6. Brenda the medical student
The shift was at the Medical University of South Carolina where I pensively read the lines of a good book. When a rather enthusiastic student approached and asked for a Blueberry Lemongrass, I handed her the pop, and, in turn, she asked me what I was reading. I told her that the book was about a fictional group of children that “unzip” themselves in order to donate their organs. After I thought it was impossible for her to get more excited, she proceeded to do so, and showed me her new, and accidental might I add, belly button piercing. Brenda enjoyed her pop as she left, while I turned back to my book in a new light.
7. The carriage driver from Hamden County
Down by the market there is a series of carriage companies, with a number of carriage drivers, one of which has a watermelon enigma. Though he never leaves his horse, every time I scribble the flavors “Salted Watermelon” or “Watermelon Mojito” on my chalkboard, he calls out for me to toss him one. And each time I do so, he continues to explain that he is from The Watermelon Capital of The World in Hamden County, South Carolina. If you wish to learn about the counties of South Carolina, or the history of the watermelon, then you can find this man on the top of his carriage. If he isn’t already repeating things like, “putting that watermelon in that mojito, what do they think they’re doing?” then I am sure he will be of great service.
8. A man with a fist
I was selling on King Street when a man, wearing a shirt that depicted a fist and the words “Black Lives Matter,” asked me for three Strawberry Lemonades. I handed him the popsicles and was counting his cash when the former youth director from my church put me in a friendly chokehold. “Look who finally got a job,” my friend said before walking away. After he was gone I said to the man, “Gosh, he’s been doing that to me since I was 10.” The customer asked if that was my brother. I told him no and that he was just someone I grew up with. He proceeded with saying, “Well then he’s your brother.”
In meeting these eight different people, I was able to see through the glass ceiling of stereotypes and labels, in order to learn that everyone is different and that everyone has a story. I leave you with two last pieces of advice: 1. Eat more popsicles and 2. Access the treasures of a momentary friendship.
Keep it cool ya’ll.