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The Mister Softee trucks have been rolling down my block for months, since well before it was even remotely summer (or perhaps more worrisomely, I've simply been hearing the song in my head). But now that we've reached Memorial Day weekend, the kick-off to the season and all of its sweaty flair, Mister Softee worship begins in full. And Mister Softee hate, as always, goes right along with it. Mister Softee, whether you consider him man or truck or jingle or ice cream or business model, is indeed a most polarizing creature of summer.

Let's start with the obvious. The song. The terrible, lovable song. Today the New York Daily News reminds us that the song has lyrics. Well, of course it does, Mister Softee would never leave a song undone without words, a half-eaten cone of music. The lyrics, penned back in 1960, are as follows: 

The creamiest dreamiest soft ice cream you get from Mister Softee.
For a refreshing delight supreme, look for Mister Softee
My milkshakes and my sundaes and my cones are such a treat.
Listen for my store on wheels ding-a-ling down the street.
The creamiest dreamiest soft ice cream you get from Mister Softee.
For a refreshing delight supreme, look for Mister Softee
S-O-F-T double E. Mister Softee!

Not everyone flocks to this ditty like dogs to a frozen yogurt truck. Some people, including NY1's Pat Kiernan, do not enjoy the tune, and in fact consider it "annoying." Or worse. In 2004, when City Hall was considering outlawing the jingle, Dan Barry wrote a very important piece in The New York Times after carrying out an "experiment." He found out that Mister Softee is divisive! "Some people consider the jingle to be part of summer's symphony, evoking fond memories of cones melting too quickly onto the grimy mitts of howling children. Others, though, hear the repetitive music as the melody of the mad, conjuring thoughts of ice-cream-man dismemberment. Among these critics are urban purists who say the jingle drowns out the sirens, screams and truck beeps that give them peace of mind." And for those unfortunate men and women who must drive the trucks, there is a numbing of the spirits and the brain — but, maybe, that's countered by an access to ice cream? Barry himself listened to the jingle to see how he would feel. And in the end, he wanted to eat ice cream.

The jingle is still here, and people still think many things about Mister Softee and his melody. Some find him a sign of summer. Others consider him a sign of terrible, sinister, bad things, thrown cones  and spilt sugar and broken dreams. I myself have questions about Mister Softee. Why does he insist on spelling out the "Mister" each and every time? Wouldn't "Mr." do? If one's head is an ice cream cone, does one suffer perpetual bain freeze? Does he feel at all morally responsible for America's obesity problem? What's his first name? What about all the fake Softees around town that his existence puts into legal peril, and what about the fact that he may or may not have something to do with the ice cream truck wars that seem to pop up every summer? Does he know about the Jewish Mister Softee? Would he be friends with a popsicle? Does he hurt from the criticisms of the many who find him annoying and want him to please just be quiet? Every summer while we're girding ourselves against the song of Softee, does Softee gird himself against us? Does Mister Softee feel pain? Can he love?

Softee is more than just creamy, dreamy ice cream, that's for sure. A lot more.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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