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Diminishing Returns



If you’re in the ice cream game (as a consumer or a purveyor), you may think there’s no such thing as “too much” when it comes to frozen treats. I get that. I mean, while I’m not a huge sweets fan, I relate it talking.


I like to talk, so if someone asked me how much talking it too much talking, I’d probably say, “There is no such thing,” and then, I’d keep talking … and talking … and …


But even I, the excessive talker that am I (and one who completely understands and has often practiced the concept of “If some is good, more is better”), realize there’s a point of diminishing returns to everything: oratory, ice cream … you name it.


Recently, I witnessed excess at its finest in the form of a young family at a recent community event with what appeared to be three children. (Actually, they didn’t appear to be children; they were children who I presumed where all from the same family.) I estimated their ages at 12, 9(ish) and 6. They sat at a picnic table while their parents secured ice cream treats at a nearby stand.


As I carried on a conversation with a friend (I was, no doubt, doing most of the talking), I noticed the parents out of the corner of my eye (the “good eye,” the one with the intact peripheral vision) as they delivered various treats to their brood. It was an exciting time for all, especially the youngest, whose eyes lit up as his father handed him a triple-scoop waffle cone … with sprinkles.


Now, if you haven’t ordered a three-scoop ice cream cone or spent time with a run-of-the-mill six-year-old lately, let me tell, the two are similar in size.


Trying not to be nosy, I wondered (maybe aloud but who knows? As much as I talk, I don’t pay attention to what words are full-throated, under my breath or just thoughts racing and bouncing around in the circus that is my brain) how this kid was going to choke down what appeared to be half his body weight in ice cream on a warm summer afternoon (i.e., before it melted, which is never a good situation for kid or parent).


After all the treats had been delivered – a couple of cones, a sundae or two and a chocolate-covered ice cream bar for Mom – all dug in.


All except the six-year-old, who held his treat with two hands, his little forearms shaking under the weight and unbalanced load (a cone like that is mighty top-heavy). I’m not sure what he was waiting for, but he seemed deep in thought, and I’m wondering if he – or his parents – had bitten off more than they could chew.


I started thinking about what might have been going through my head at his age. Here’s a possible (though highly unlikely) inner monologue.


(Singing, maybe in his head, but maybe out loud)

I’m getting ice cream! I’m getting ice cream! This is gonna be AWESOME! Here it comes now. My mom and dad are the best ‘cuz they get us ice cream!


(Dad hands him his cone)

Holy s**t … what is this? Two scoops? Wait, no, it’s three! I didn’t think they’d get me this much ice cream. They must love me the most!


(The gravity of the situation begins to set in)

Can handle that much ice cream? I mean, it looks great, but I did have a hot dog and fries less than an hour ago …

(Rationalizing)

Yeah, it’s OK. I mean, they love me so much they got me three scoops, so they know I can handle it. I can’t let them down. OK, just relax and take it one lick at a time.


(Panic sets in as first drip of melted ice cream lands on his shirt)

Who am I kidding? This is too much. I can’t not let them down.


(Calculating, trying to be part of the solution)

OK, let’s weigh the options. I could try to eat it fast before it melts. But if I do that I’ll get a brain freeze, or worse, I’ll puke. I hate puking, and so does Dad because then, he thinks he’s going to puke. We can’t recreate the Six Flags saga right here in our hometown. We’d have to move.


On the other hand, if I take my time, it’ll melt all over everything, I’ll make a huge mess and Mom will have to grab a bunch of napkins just to reduce the damage. It'll look like a crime scene.


And what if it falls? I mean, this thing is far from structurally sound, and my arms are already getting tired. Geez, I don’t know what to do …


(Re-assessing)

Seriously, I was expecting one scoop, one little, six-year-old sized scoop, just a nice treat. But this? This is a snowman sitting on a waffle cone. They’ve never done this before. In fact, every time I ask for more, they dismiss me like, well, the six-year-old that I am, and get me what they think I can handle … BECAUSE THEY’RE ADULTS AND THAT’S WHAT ADULTS ARE SUPPOSED TO DO!


Maybe they’re punishing me for all those times I did ask for more, and now they’re saying, “OK, mister, put your money where your mouth is.” Oh my god, what have I done?


(Realization)

Wait, this isn’t my fault. I didn’t sign up for this. I mean, what are they trying to do … groom me as a competitive eater or something? I realize my soccer skills are sub-par, I’m not catching onto the piano like my brother and sister, and that last spelling test was a disaster but …


(The “Bad News” Theory)

Are they compensating for something, or maybe setting me up for bad news? Do they think a little extra ice cream will soften the load? And how bad is this news that it required two extra scoops?


(Full panic mode)

Oh no … it’s Orangy isn’t it? I love that goldfish. Please, please don’t tell me we’ve lost him! Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god …


(Frantically starts licking for reasons only he knows … stress? Grief? The eternal love and respect of his family?)


Fast forward to reality.


In the end, it appeared the kid got exactly what he wanted, and was simply taking a moment to determine the best plan of attack. From what I could tell, he went with the “Lick, lick, lick, take a bite” protocol, and like any dedicated aspiring competitive eater, had devoured his three scoops – and the waffle cone – long before either of his siblings or his parents had finished their treats.


No brain freeze, no puking, no panic, and with minimal “drip damage.” Channeling my inner six-year-old (who would have gone through the exact inner monologue I just fabricated, then devoured that monster just like he did), I was proud of his technique, his calmness under pressure, and for seizing the moment … his moment.


He’ll make one helluva competitive eater someday.


© 2022 David R. Haznaw








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Hi all (or some, or maybe just you, I never know who -- if anyone -- is reading this stuff), Taking this Monday off in honor of Labor Day. (That's my story anyway; you'll just have to take my word for