What is up with this creepy ice cream truck?
August 9, 2013 11:23 PM   Subscribe

Outside my house, at this very moment (11pm) there is a noise that sounds like a movie submarine sonar ping (like this, but slightly lower and with a longer interval between pings). It is coming from an ice cream truck that comes around my neighborhood at various times of day (and, apparently, night). There are no children around, because it's 11 o'clock at night, and frankly even during the day, the sound is eerie. Is this. .. a common thing for ice cream trucks? I'm used to annoying music in the afternoon. Is there some rational explanation as to why this truck plays this super creepy noise in the middle of the night? Because it seems like an odd business decision on both counts.
posted by insufficient data to Grab Bag (14 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
you are apparently not the only one to witness this phenomenon, so i'm assuming you also live in LA:

third comment here
comment on this youtube video
a comment on this fark thread from 2005

my best guess is that it's a way to get around possible noise ordinances, since there were apparently complaints in long beach about the tinkly music from the trucks. it may also be a reverse UK-mosquito-to-keep-kids-from-loitering thing, although that's kind of a shot in the dark. it may be as simple as trying to set himself apart from the competition.

i'm crazy curious now though, so if you find out for sure, report back.
posted by koroshiya at 12:03 AM on August 10, 2013

I live in Los Angeles. WeHo now, but used to live in Korea Town.

I was told that sometimes the vegetable and ice cream vendor trucks in my old Korea Town neighborhood sold drugs.

I don't know where you are, but there ya go.
posted by jbenben at 12:13 AM on August 10, 2013 [5 favorites]

I was just gonna say it sounds like they're selling drugs.
posted by tel3path at 3:08 AM on August 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yep, I was gonna say drugs, too. The truck in my old neighborhood was known for selling them.
posted by MexicanYenta at 4:24 AM on August 10, 2013

It's not an MDC chirp, is it? I've heard parked emergency/security vehicles make it.
posted by scruss at 5:34 AM on August 10, 2013

Ice cream trucks have taken a turn for the weird in the 21st century. My local truck plays a sort of tinkly version of Turkey in the Straw, followed by a couple seconds of silence, followed by a digital voice that says "Hello!" in a tone of voice that is almost exactly half way between "Welcome to the first day on kindergarten!" and "Can's sleep! Clowns will eat me!"

Low frequency sound isn't blocked as easily in an urban or suburban environment so I suspect that there is an element of giving kids time to beg their parents for a couple bucks before the ice cream man comes and goes.

Selling drugs from an ice cream truck late at night while playing a noise that is going to generate complaints and likely attract police interaction doesn't sound like much of a long term business model. I'd be willing to bet it has more to do with someone paying their drivers on commission and it being a slow day or someone really needing the money.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:41 AM on August 10, 2013 [11 favorites]

The late-night ice-cream trucks in my neighborhood have been raided, questioned, searched, and harassed for years, and, really, truly, they're totally legit. Annoying as hell at 11:30 at night, yes, but legit.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:12 AM on August 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Our local ice cream truck has a faded, bad paint job and plays Christmas carols. Around here they seem to be completely independent. Anybody with a few thousand for a beat up old delivery truck and some inventory can go into the ice cream truck business. They creep me out too. Also, the guys driving them always look like the worst stereotype of a child predator, which isn't fair because I'm sure 99% of them are perfectly fine people trying to make a living. But they should shave and dress a little nicer if they want to make the parents feel more comfortable

The drug thing sounds a little bold to me. Unless maybe its a really dumb drug dealer, announcing your presence that way at night seems like the easiest bust in history for the local police.
posted by COD at 6:18 AM on August 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Things in Scotland may have calmed down somewhat since the Glasgow Ice Cream Wars, but I would certainly still expect any ice cream van operating after 9pm at night to at the very least be selling smuggled cigarettes.
posted by Coobeastie at 7:07 AM on August 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Selling drugs from an ice cream truck late at night while playing a noise that is going to generate complaints and likely attract police interaction doesn't sound like much of a long term business model.

You wouldn't think! But the (admitted) dealers across the street from me decided to have a music party at 5:15 this morning, not for the first time. I would not assume that the trick to selling drugs is going unnoticed by police, as my Oakland experience suggests otherwise.
posted by slidell at 9:34 AM on August 10, 2013

Do you live in a neighborhood full of younger adults, or even college-aged people? I could see a legitimate business plan for ice cream sales late at night to the tipsy/stoned crowd. You wouldn't need tinkly music to excite the kids, just something people would hear and say "Dudes! It's the ice cream man!"
posted by OHSnap at 9:45 AM on August 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's probably drugs or late night entrepreneurs. But I wonder if there's no way to completely shut off the music in some models of ice cream truck? Maybe the eerie beep is the quietest it gets.
posted by blnkfrnk at 3:02 PM on August 10, 2013

I'm not saying drug dealers are our best and brightest or anything. But the pros have actually put some thought into this and do things like compartmentalize the transaction. Also, searching a house or apartment generally takes a warrant while a vehicle only requires probably cause.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:27 AM on August 11, 2013

An ice cream truck in Pittsburgh that's been operating for probably 30 years has that beat to shit, hand-painted and rusty nightmare look, and for a while back in the '90s it didn't play music (it does now, though), but had a buzzer. Like a Buffalo Bill's doorbell buzzer, but really loud. It's a totally legit ice cream truck, even if it comes across like something out of a Rob Zombie movie. I commented to my ex about its creepiness, and she laughed and told me that "George" had driven that thing forever, and later, that his son took over when he retired.
So yeah, yours could be straightforward but weird, too, I suppose.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 3:28 PM on August 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

« Older What do I say?   |   What's a giftable home/apartment security upgrade? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.