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Here in Old Town the Ice Cream Wars have been waged for years as the tussle over tourist dollars reaches a fever (yet cool and creamy) pitch come springtime. No fewer than three ice cream shops battle for the right to challenge your lactose tolerance at the end of King Street by the water. There is Pops with it’s Presidential seal of approval and attachment to the Fish Market, home of the schooner of dishwater beer. Across the street is the venerable Scoop, where the tubs of homemade goodness can vary with the owners whim (Guinness ice cream anyone?) and they are so set in tradition that when the place was swept up in the flood a few years back they re-built it EXACTLY like it was despite all of the seating issues and the long narrow line to pay. You can’t argue with that!

The interloper in this historic triangle is Vermont’s favorite peaceniks Ben and Jerry’s. Just around the corner from the other two, they trade on their well known brand and the ability to deliver ice cream cakes for birthdays and special occasions. Everyone in Old Town has their favorite and it can be almost comical to see lunch groups split up after leaving a restaurant to go their separate ways to grab a scoop and then meet back up. One of the highlights of the area is the kooky dogwalker. A woman with ten or more poochies that she takes down for ice cream every day as she rotates between the shops picking up three cones and then dragging them down the line of wagging tongues until they are bone dry. Simply has to be seen. She even does it in the rain with a truck and the back hatch open to keep the dogs (but not her) dry.

There is only one day when the entire city makes it’s way past the other shops to crowd a battalion of green clad, dairy covered teenagers armed with metal scoops. The triumphant “Free Cone Day” at Ben and Jerry’s. Our office is a mix of bringers and buyers – but on this day we all head out together to bond over goatee-coating ice cream goodness!

This is the breakdown of Cone Day 08:

We gather the troops to make the brisk walk of several blocks down to the Potomac and enjoy the streets before the water taxis from National Harbor ensure that they are overrun with a quarter of the citizens of Kansas on any given day. We debate having ice cream before lunch (I will regret this decision later…) Lunch first wins. We head out.

As we get closer to B+J one of the pleasant parts of Free Cone Day starts to emerge. We keep walking past people lapping up cones of their very own. First a few stragglers but then wave after wave of groups of proud cone-waving folks. I annoying add “they know what time it is” every time this occurs. Luckily I work with a bunch that is pretty tolerant of my shenanigans.

As we get to the “ice cream war zone” we splinter as the bringers have already eaten and make their way towards scoopapalozza. I endure a horrible lunch just biding my time and calories before getting my mitts on that freebie. When the time comes, the line is long (I knew it I knew it!) but it moves smoothly. It’s not like anyone is ordering a shake to gum up the works. I am not sure if it is a comment on the Old Town workforce or ice cream lovers or both but the line is made up of 80 percent women. The bulk dressed professionally. I am neither but I am getting ice cream anyway dadgummit!

I walk up to order and I desperately want to try one of the new flavors. Yet, from my mouth comes old faithful. “Coffee please.”

I pause and savor the moment when they awkwardly hand it to you and no exchange of money takes place. I place my tongue on this cool sphere of joy with the anticipation of a first-grader. (No dirty comments smut minds!!!) Somehow it tastes better than any of the previous times I have ordered it.

A sprinkling of “free” will do that for you.

Now hurry out and get your scoop of joy!!!!

Post your flavors in the comments.