am an actor living in LA and, like almost every other actor in LA, I
have a day job. Mine is working at an ice cream shop.
are always asking me what it’s like to work in an ice cream
shop. They ask “how do you not eat ice cream all the time?”
My answer to that question is, “I do eat ice cream all the
time.” They say “it smells so good in here! Do you ever
get sick of it?” I answer, “not really, just get used to
it.” But, the most frequent thing people say to me is, “your
customers must always be so happy. Do you just love working here?”
is a much more difficult question to answer.
have worked many customer service jobs in my life in some very
high-end, affluent areas such as Beverly Hills and Santa Monica, with
customers so horrendous you’d think that they only exist in the
movies. Yes, our customers at the ice cream shop are generally in
happier spirits, but customer service is still customer service.
other factor that gives me pause is that my job at the ice cream shop
more often than not takes on the role of therapist for the majority
of my customers. What people don’t think about when they ask me
questions about how much I love my job is the reasons why people go
out for ice cream. Sometimes it’s for celebratory purposes; for
most others, it’s for consolation. I have, on countless
occasions, been the shoulder on which customers literally cry, the
one who bears the brunt of their anger, or the one who is chosen to
calm anxiety. I am known among my coworkers as the one employee at
the shop who gets all the cryers, the ones who are all having a bad
day. Yes, I am cursed with a friendly face and the compulsive need to
be there for everyone.
interactions can take a toll on my mental and emotional well-being,
but I have had some truly life-changing interactions with some very
special customers, due to how personal I often get with them. There
is one man in particular who changed everything for me, and I will
never forget him.
walked into the shop, swathed in the bright backlighting of the sun,
looking ethereal and angelic. At first, I wasn’t quite sure
who, or even what, I was looking at. He walked further into the
relative darkness of the shop, and I was able to see his face. It was
the face of a middle-aged man, gaunt, with shadows under his eyes and
stubble on his chin, but none of it could dim the sparkle in his eye
nor his enthusiasm of a child.
happily offered him samples, and he took every, single one, savoring
each individual ingredient, celebrating the apparent explosion of
flavors in his mouth in each spoonful. Every sensation delighted him,
with each taste his appreciation grew, even in the flavors he didn’t
like. It was some of the most fun I’d ever had with any
was one thing that was distracting me, however, from which I could
not tear my eyes. Dangling on the very tip of his nose was a little
ball of mucus, threatening to fall right onto the counter. Every time
he moved his head, this clear drop of snot prepared to make it’s
departure onto a surface that I would most likely have to clean. I
didn’t know if I should say something or not; I had no desire
to interrupt the great time he was having, nor did I want to
embarrass him. Just as the situation was getting dire and I was
opening my mouth to say something, I don’t know what, but
something, he seemed to sense what was amiss. With the slightest bit
of embarrassment, he pulled a crumpled up tissue from inside his
pocket, dabbed at the tip of his nose, and said “I’m
sorry. I’m going through chemotherapy right now, and my nose
dripping is one of the side effects.”
felt my heart starting to break as he put his tissue back into his
pocket and, forcing himself to reignite his excitement for the ice
cream, he asked for another sample. I put on a happy face again,
blinking back the memories of all of the friends and family that I’ve
had, as do so many other people, who’ve been subject to the
aggressive beating of cancer.
curiosity getting the better of me, I gently inquired further as to
his situation, and he told me that it was his second battle with
cancer, and this time it was stage four.
did my best not to go over in my head the categories of people I’ve
known who have survived, who have died, what kinds of cancer, who’s
been on chemotherapy and for whom surgery was enough, as I scooped
him a split scoop of our almond flavor and lavender honey.
brought him to the register, while he apologized for giving me the
details of what he was going through.
never tell people about my situation, so I’m surprised that
I’ve told you as much as I have.”
happens all the time”, I told him, with a smile.
he reached into his pocket for money, I said “this one is on me
today.” He stopped, and looked at me with genuine shock in his
eyes. He then enveloped me in a giant bear hug, thanking me
incessantly for the gift. I told him truthfully that it was the least
I could do, and how grateful I was to him for confiding in me. Then
he said the words that I will never forget.
know that I shouldn’t be happy at this time in my life, but,
for some reason, I’ve never been happier. I feel so free.”
what catalyzed my mission in life to not have one wasted moment, to
be grateful for everything I have, both good and bad. I felt my hands
starting to shake as he turned around with his cup of ice cream and
exited the shop, turning his face towards the sky, towards the warmth
of the sun, and all I could think to myself was that if he could be
having the best time of his life during a time of severe sickness,
pain, and grief, then why can’t I, a healthy woman in her 20s,
be in the best time of my life?
thought about him at least once a day from that point on, wondering
if he was ever able to recover.
two years later, I clocked in at work, and as I walked to the lobby
of the shop, a man came through the front door, once again bathed in
a halo of the sun. He walked quickly into the shop, and I could see
that he was wearing a “cuck fancer” shirt. I did not
recognize him by his face, nor did he recognize me by mine. But, as
our eyes met, we saw past each other's exteriors, I into his very
being and he into mine, and I knew exactly who he was and he knew me.
it you?” He asked, just as I said, “it’s you! It’s
was just as shocked that I remembered him as I was that he remembered
don’t want any ice cream today. I just wanted to come in and
tell you how much it meant to me when you gave me my ice cream two
years ago. It’s those little things that make all the
difference, more than anything else. I’m cancer-free now, and
participating in the fight against cancer.”
told him how much his words touched my life, and how I’ve never
as he once again walked out through the doors, I was filled to
bursting from this beautiful gift I was given. Even now, two years
after that experience, I still make choices influenced by the lessons
he taught me. Wherever he is, I hope that he is living a healthy and
happy life, fighting the good fight, and changing more lives for the
is a native Los Angeleno. She started off with music, with the piano
at age five, and then singing and acting when she turned 11. She has
spent most of her professional life pursuing acting, while working at
an ice cream shop on the side. Also, she makes the best baklava.
of the message
won't know where to send it.)
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