Several of the people I know have a certain trait in common. When someone proposes a suitably intriguing question, no matter how rhetorical or frivolous, we will investigate it vigorously. Many such questions have been addressed in these rants, such as virtually everything in the campfire discussions, but some require a far deeper analysis. Thus, submitted for your edification, I present to you our considered musings on two very important topics. And a word of warning. If you aren’t a fan of the topic of dead babies, skip the second topic.
The Ice Cream Truck Conundrum
We all know that there are ice cream trucks, and we all know that there are hot dog trucks. The question is, why is it that an ice cream truck brings its delicious goodness to YOU, while a hot dog truck makes you go to IT? Seriously! There are hot dog trucks, taco trucks, sandwich trucks, and veritable diners on wheels*, and yet only ice cream trucks actually make the effort to hunt down prospective customers. The consensus we came to is that aside from being targeted at children, who are much more impulsive and thus an easier sale, ice cream is also fairly inert. It is inside a machine or freezer until it is being served, and a relatively small number of ingredients can be combined in a number of ways to produce a large menu. Most of the aforementioned trucks would require either boiling water, boiling oil, or a lit grill to do any serious cooking, which would get pretty exciting in a moving vehicle. Mexican food is still a valid choice, though. A couple of types of meat, a few sauces, tortillas, lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese in various permutations can produce virtually everything on a Mexican menu. To a lesser degree, hot dogs produced on the reasonably secure hot rollers could be served up quickly with a variety of toppings, and thus remain valid as well. I know that some of these trucks have established routes, moving from place to place at regular intervals on a set schedule, so they ALMOST do what an ice cream truck does, but they are lacking two key aspects. They don’t cater to impulse, and they don’t play music.
The music is crucial! I know for a fact that, during warm weather, there will be a hot dog truck parked outside the playground down the block from my house for most of the day. You know how many times I’ve run out to get a dog? Zero. Meanwhile, I have on more than one occasion run out to get a shake from Mister Softee. Why? The jingle. It is positively Pavlovian. If that wiener wagon wants me to head on down more often, not only does it have to stop in front of my house, it needs to pipe a catchy tune through the loudspeakers to trigger a conditioned response. The intriguing question is, what song? Ice Cream trucks tend to use nursery rhymes or, in my area, the iconic “Mr. Softee” theme song. It works for sweet treats, I guess, but tinkling bells don’t conjure to mind a nice steamy red hot piled with sour kraut and mustard. The Oscar Meyer Wiener Song is the obvious choice, but that limits you to just the one brand, lest you risk the wrath of the wiener patrol. If bratwursts are on the menu, some oompah music seems appropriate, but I’m pretty sure it is against the law to play polka music in public without offering selling beer, too. I guess you could sell beer out of the hot dog truck, but considering the trouble you get in for drinking and driving, selling alcohol and driving would probably be frowned upon. Mexican food is easy enough, though. The Mexican Hat dance, no question.** So, there you go. There’s nothing stopping you from getting a fleet of taco trucks out on the road to provide a lunchtime counterpart to the ice cream trucks. Get to work!
* We call them “Roach Coaches” or “Grease Trucks” around here. How about you?
** I know, I know, La Cucaracha seems like a good idea, but since that translates to The Cockroach, it might evoke hygiene concerns.
The Practicality of King Solomon’s Solution
I was actually certain that I’d gone over this before, but since I couldn’t find it, I might as well discuss it here. King Solomon, of bible fame, was acclaimed for his wisdom. In perhaps the most famous instance of his superior dispute settlement skills, and by that I mean the only example I know, King Solomon helped identify the true mother of a baby claimed by two women. These days a simple blood test would put that to rest, but King Sol lived in the olden times, prior to maternity tests***. His plan was to cut the baby in half and give each person half of it. Naturally the mother of the child wasn’t a terribly big fan of this idea, and was willing to lose the baby rather than see it killed. Solomon thus awarded her the baby, reasoning only the true mother would be so compassionate. My first thought is that Solomon was taking a pretty big gamble here. I guess things could have been different back then, but I’d like to think if you suggested to a woman that you were going to cut a baby in half, she would object regardless of whether or not it was hers. Am I to believe that the false mother shrugged and said , “Well, half a baby is better than none”? The more interesting question, though, is if it came to it, how would they cut the baby in half?
The natural inclination is to cut it at the waist, but that’s a flawed solution. Solomon was interested in fairness, after all, and cutting at the waist produces two unequal halves. It wouldn’t solve anything. Instead, it would just change the argument into one about who gets which half. Clearly the part with the head would be the more desirable part. The other side just has feet and ass, which is a hardly worth displaying in a playpen.To be truly fair, you’d need to cut it in half vertically, taking advantage of a baby’s bilateral symmetry. This presents its own challenges,though. A vertical bisection of a human is a pretty tricky cut, particularly considering the tools he had available. Chances are he would have been making the cut with an ax, which has precision issues, or a knife, which would have trouble with the bones. Ideally you’d want to freeze the baby in a neutral position and then cut it with a band saw, but Solomon didn’t have access to a refrigeration OR high speed, thin gauge cutting tools. Frankly, he was producing an unworkable solution, and any mechanically inclined would-be baby stealer probably would have called his bluff.
*** They exist, I assure you. Funny how you always hear about paternity tests, but almost never maternity tests. I guess it is easier to keep track of your relationship to a child when it has physically fallen out of your body. In defense of fathers, they WERE rather distracted at the moment they were making their contribution to the birth.
Well, That’ll do for now. Some may say that the logistics of baby portioning and the appropriate jingle for a wiener mobile aren’t the sorts of things we need to be spending brain power on, but I’m of the opinion that thinking is fun. Rooting out the nuances of a problem in order to determine the reasoning behind it, and potentially its solution, is worth doing whether the issue at hand is global warming or the relative dearth of ambulatory eateries. If anyone out there has any similar topics, I’d love to hear them. Until then, I’m if to tackle the mysteries of the necktie…