Ollie’s Modern Life

This issue, Ollie Peart imagines a world where Amazon is replaced by ice cream vans and genial racists


Twister! No, wait… err, Cornetto… actually, a feast! Wait a minute, have you got any Magnums? Just dark chocolate? In that case a Solero and a Callipo. Great. Shit, I haven’t got any cash, do you take card?

Of course not, it’s a van in a location that has been intentionally chosen by thousands of people specifically because connectivity is next to nothing, so the chance of being bothered by John from work has been slashed and the chance of a remote card machine are none.

The Ice Cream Van is a mobile monument to a time long gone, a time where to buy stuff meant walking into a shop, speaking to human, and asking that human to get the thing that you wanted. A time when stuff cost a halfpenny, shilling or ‘thrupenny-bit’, when shopkeepers wore brown coats with pens in their top pocket, a time when a shop was what a supermarket aisle is now; butcher, baker, homeware; all shops, not aisles.

Sadly, I don’t really remember a time like that. There was a newsagent with penny sweets that had be weighed out by the quarter – a weight I still have no comprehension of – but for the most part, it was pretty much like it is now. The Ice Cream Van is a welcome departure from the click-and-collect, next day delivery to your door world we live in, but thank God it’s just ice cream and not anything else.

Imagine for a moment that your bluetooth keyboard has run out of batteries. Of course it has, it’s a Thursday afternoon (a day that just delays the weekend) and you’ve got a deadline to hit. You’re struggling to keep your eyes open and all you need is to get this one thing done as quickly as you can, without delay. So your batteries run out.

Today, you walk to a Tesco Metro or a Co-op, grab some batteries, scan them yourself, say no to a bag, tap your card and leave. Provided you’re in a relatively built up area and the self-service kiosk isn’t giving you that “unexpected item in the baggage area” bollocks, you’ll be done in minutes. You pop back to your desk, stick ‘em in your keyboard and get back to biz-niz. No chit-chat, no small talk, just a cold, hard, purchase.

Now let’s imagine a world where all shops are like ice cream vans. You pop to your local shop, shouldn’t be a problem, they were like fat kids are today: everywhere. You walk in, and what’s that, yup...a queue. A massive goddam queue. Why? Because there is only one person serving and you’ll wait your turn, that’s why!

You stand there, occasionally glancing at your watch, maybe throwing in the odd tut now and again on the off-chance someone hears you, turns around and whispers “they’re taking an awfully long time aren’t they”. You’ll nod in agreement, of course.

20 minutes pass and you’re at the front.

“Hello sir. Nice day today isn’t it sir, not a cloud in the sky.” “Yes, lovely. Can I get some batteries please?”

“What size?”

“Oh, I’m not sure, can I see them? I’ll know by looking at them.”

The shopkeeper pops out the back, because of course nothing is on display, rummaging around for a bit and yells out.

“Might rain later though”

You’re worried they’re thinking too much about the weather rather than finding your batteries, so you just pretend you didn’t hear anything.

They walk out and put a whole bunch of batteries on the counter. “There you go.”

“Erm, I think it’s these ones… yes, these ones thanks”.

They pop them in a brown paper bag (Attenborough would be proud) and tell you the price. It could be anything, they’re not marked, you’ll just have to trust them.

“That’ll be six ‘n half pence ‘a crown-thrupenny-bit me ol’ mucka.” Understandably, you’re confused.

“Do you take card?”

Of course they don’t. Because even though in our hypothetical world where shops haven’t moved on but technology has, this shopkeeper is cash-only because they likes it proper. None of this new-fangled tap and pin nonsense, no. They keep their takings under the bed because that’s where it’s safest, not with those bank bastards.

They go on for a bit about blue passports and immigration, and that honestly, they’re not racist… but. It didn’t matter; you’d already started walking out and had #Gammon punched into your Twitter feed’s “what’s happening?” box, so you politely ignore them. Anyway, you’ve got your batteries, you head back to your desk, pop them in and get back to biz-niz.

That’s a semi-accurate reconstruction of what it would have actually been like, probably, maybe, perhaps, and did you see how much longer that took? Imagine doing that for everything you have to buy? I don’t want to walk around a supermarket, I want food delivered to my door. I don’t want to walk around Ikea, I want furniture delivered to my door. Deliver it to my door or make it easy or I’m not interested; unless it’s ice cream.

You see, if you’re queuing at an Ice Cream Van, one or both of the following is happening.

1.        You’re on holiday

2.        It’s sunny

Also, you don’t want ice cream delivered. It’ll melt. Try pushing a Twister through your letterbox when you next have the chance and see what happens. It’s carnage and the bristly bits that are annoying at the best of times are now sticky.

My point is, when you’re queuing up for your ice cream this summer, getting a bit annoyed at how long it’s taking, just thank fuck you’re not buying batteries.

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