It happened this past weekend on a particularly warm and sunny Saturday afternoon in New York City — one of the first Mister Softee jingles of 2012 could be heard lilting through the warm air on a Lower East Side street. Given that the first day of spring is March 20, it might seem early for ice cream to be sold on New York City's streets, but it's been a mild winter, and soft serve in early March makes sense if you consider Mister Softee’s history.
In 1956, the Conway brothers took their first truck out on St. Patty’s Day, and gave out green-colored ice cream. March 17th will be the 56th anniversary of that outing. This early in the year, the Mister Softee jingle signifies that warm weather is near, but it’s also the beginning of the annual articles and local TV spots detailing how the jingle drives city-dwellers nuts. People have been hiding from the cold for so long, they forget they can actually leave their homes. So they take three months of cabin fever out on Mister Softee and his happy little song.
In the summer of 2004, Mayor Michael Bloomberg tried to stop the song from being played, but people came to Mister Softee's defense. As The New York Times reported, "Testimony was taken from Mister Softee executives, and several city lawmakers questioned the idea. 'You're going to traumatize a lot of children in this city,' one proclaimed." In the end, the jingle prevailed, but following years brought more attacks on Mister Softee.
In July 2007, New York City implemented a new noise code meant to stop Mister Softee from being able to park and play its catchy song. A few years later, in 2009, there was a report at the end of March in The Daily News about Inwood residents being driven mad by the constant jingle. The New York Post chimed in two months later, this time in Williamsburg and Greenpoint in Brooklyn, with residents complaining about the trucks that circle McCarren Park. And as The Wall Street Journal reported in 2010, the Mister Softee trucks again drew Bloomberg's ire. But even after all of this, Mister Softee has prevailed.
People might be better off redirecting their winter rage. If you hear Mister Softee's jingle over and over in your house, here's some advice: get outside and buy an ice cream. That's right, you're not powerless. You don't have to stay inside and listen to the jingle. You should probably go enjoy the warm weather and the ability to be outside anyway.