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I scream, you scream, a writer screams against ice cream

This summer while everyone else I knew either was working at a cool job that paid well or was off building an impressive résumé, I was slaving away for $8.00 an hour as an illustrious scooper at a Ben & Jerry's stand at Dulles International Airport.

My friends put on skirts, dresses, suits and ties so they could go network, and I put on a t-shirt with cows on the front and a baseball cap so I could be abused by impatient travelers demanding to know why Ben & Jerry's didn't sell orange sherbet or cake cones.

After work, they would talk about the Web site they helped design, or about the tête-à-tête they had with Senator ___. When it was finally my turn to speak I would complain about burning myself with hot fudge, or describing this horribly evil phenomenon that occurs when there's a long line of customers and one person asks for a milkshake, and suddenly everyone else in line wants a milkshake too.

I spent most of my summer getting strange looks from my friends. By the end of August, I was ready to turn in my ice cream scooper.

Sure I'd perfected the art of making a solid two-dip cone. And sure, I knew that Virgin Atlantic's London-Heathrow flight leaves from the B Terminal every evening at 7 p.m. But the smell of Cherry Garcia nauseated me. I'd become so apathetic that when I would slam the freezer doors on my fingers making them bleed, I'd tell customers as I handed them their ice cream not to worry -- the dark stuff running down my arm was the swirl from the Black Raspberry.

I was finished with ice cream. Forever. Or so I thought.

I'd been back in Charlottesville for less than a week when some friends decided to go out for something to eat. They suggested we go to Barracks Road and check out Ben & Jerry's. My voice shook as I asked just how long there had been a Ben & Jerry's in Charlottesville. Not long, they said, but it's very popular and we absolutely have to go there.

I was so brave as I stood in a 20-minute line with my friends as they waited to place their orders. People ahead of us wondered aloud about the contents of Phish Food. I couldn't stop myself from telling them that Phish Food was chocolate ice cream, with a marshmallow nougat, caramel swirl and little fudge fish, and that I didn't recommend they get it on a cone because it tends to be a little soft due to the swirls. I told my friends I was never going back to Barracks for ice cream. No more ice cream for me.

A few days later I was in the Pav when I noticed some people with mint chocolate chip ice cream cones. It seems the Freshens stand had been expanded to include an assortment of hard ice cream flavors, in addition to their standard frozen yogurt fare. They even offered waffle cones, which brought back horrible flashbacks of my attempts to make waffle cones that resulted in second-degree burns and wasted batter.

My horror was not to end there. Even the library wasn't sacred anymore. When I went to meet with a teaching assistant at the Alderman Café, he ordered himself a Java Shake! Ice cream is inescapable.

As the millennium approaches, ice cream has become chic. It's as if people no longer care about counting calories and watching their fat intake. For some reason the pendulum has swung, and the obsession with weight watching and eating healthy that made frozen yogurt the preferred frozen dessert alternative for a decade, has given way to a no-holds-barred attitude when it comes to food. No one wants fro-yo anymore; they want the real thing. There's no longer shame attached to two scoops of chocolate chip with crushed Oreo's on top.

A decade ago the coffee craze slowly began to infiltrate mainstream society and coffeehouses began popping up everywhere. Coffee was trendy, and establishments and companies that sold the stuff really cashed in. The term espresso shot entered the mainstream lexicon.

Now it's ice cream's turn. Notice that Starbucks recently introduced an ice cream line. Even Espresso Corner displays a neon sign in their window announcing that they too sell ice cream.

People everywhere are eating ice cream. It's no longer a treat reserved for children in the summer, or families on weekend evenings. Men and women in business suits have a sundae for lunch.

Coffeehouse groupies discuss Nietzsche over a scoop of White Russian. Students eagerly mix it with caffeine in a shake before heading off for an afternoon of reading in Alderman's stacks.

Everyone wants ice cream, and there's no shortage of vendors willing to sell it.

I don't know what I'm going to do while ice cream enjoys its moment. Who's even to say how long it will last, this national obsession with flavored frozen milk? Maybe one day I'll be able to have a healthy relationship with cookie dough. Perhaps the fear instilled in me by the thought of any flavor featuring a caramel or fudge swirl eventually will vanish.

In time I may be able to think about milkshakes without crying. Until then, I guess I'll be spending a lot of time alone, because evidently ice cream is here to stay.


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