If you hear the familiar ring of the ice cream man's bell along Bellevue Street or any other thoroughfare in Metro Detroit, the purveyor of that ice cream cone is likely to be a Muslim Arab immigrant. According to a profile by Charlie LeDeuff in this morning's Detroit News, the life of the average Detroit ice cream truck driver manages to merge the experiences of the average immigrant (living with other immigrant men in an attempt to make money) and the average Detroit working class resident (not making much money). At the very least, they've found a job that's not likely to get outsourced. Times have been tough for ice cream men due to the sudden preponderance of competition, the downturn in the economy and the price of gas.
Indeed, the steel-panel truck that is rented for $225 per week has no air-conditioning and temperatures inside can reach a sultry 100 degrees. The refrigeration unit continually fouls out and water must be poured on the machine to revive it. And every day there seems to be one less person in Detroit who can afford to splurge on a sundae. Factories are shutting down. Homeowners are going belly-up. Unemployment is almost triple the national average. It makes more sense to move away and yet these immigrant brothers go on, trying to scratch out the American Dream one ice-cream cone at a time.
Next time you hear "The Entertainer" belting out of a steel-paneled truck along Woodward Ave, maybe slow down and grab a sundae. It's a cold world on those hot streets. [Detroit News , Photo: Max Ortiz/The Detroit News]