The Line Dance of the Pandemic

The Line Dance of the Pandemic


On a late-August Friday evening, as the sun set on a nearly 100-degree day, the line at Betty Rae’s Ice Cream in the River Market neighborhood was moving quickly. A cup of lavender honey for her. A waffle cone perfectly overflowing with rocky road for him. A sugar cone of peach pie for Mom. Masks were worn by all inside, but quickly removed to dig into purchased confections in the open air.

“Lines have become more of a thing,” said Caleb Presley, 24. He and his wife, Paige, live two blocks up and are regulars at Betty Rae’s. The shop has temporarily closed twice because of Covid scares. Both times, all employees returned negative tests and the shop reopened.

“We’ve just been trying to keep our favorite restaurants open,” Ms. Presley, 25, said. “The town has really rallied.”

There are no samples this season and fewer customers than Betty Rae’s would expect in a normal summer. But that isn’t stopping customers from lining up in a queue that goes out the rainbow entryway and around the block — socially distanced of course. HANNAH WISE

For weeks, the parking lot at Iced Cube, a shop serving Mexican shaved ice treats known as raspas, has been filled with vehicles waiting for a Mangonada: mango sorbet topped with mango, drenched in sweet and spicy red chamoy sauce, dusted with Tajín and garnished with a tamarind straw.

“I like to make them as big and as pretty as I can,” said the shop’s acting manager, Riena Scott, her hands stained red. “They’ve been here so long, they deserve to get what they waited for.”

Also on the menu are the Parti With Cardi, which features Flaming Hot Cheetos and sour strings, and the A$AP Rocky, a raspa topped with bananas, strawberries, whipped cream and a whole ice cream sandwich. Many visitors admit to being enticed by photos of the elaborate desserts on Instagram and Facebook.

Javier and Monica Gomez ventured out from nearby Annaville in their SUV, seeking some brightly colored edible excitement.

“There’s not much to do nowadays,” Mr. Gomez said. The couple had passed by Iced Cube a few times before but kept driving, discouraged by the long line.

“I was like, ‘Nah, I can’t wait. I have kids in the car,’” Mr. Gomez said.

This time they lucked out with about a 30-minute wait, during which Mr. Gomez contemplated the menu. “I’m feeling like a little spice, so I’ll probably get the one with Hot Cheetos,” he said. MARINA TRAHAN MARTINEZ

There’s a line every summer at the Juice Bar, a homemade ice cream shop across the street from the Whaling Museum, but this summer there’s also a rope divider and a QR code that points to a digital menu. On a Wednesday night in late August, the line stretched to the end of the block and across the street, where one employee took orders while another reminded customers to wear masks and keep six feet apart.

Danielle Shreck, 29, who was visiting from Cambridge, Mass., on her honeymoon, estimated the line was about twice as long as when she visited last summer. But the wait is worth it, she said.

“I will do a lot to get a good scoop of ice cream,” Ms. Shreck said.

“It’s been pretty easygoing,” her husband Matt Leibowitz, 29, said. It was their third consecutive night waiting in the line. “People don’t always follow the marks, but I feel like people are pretty well aware and trying to do their best.”

Marc Berman, 52, who was visiting Nantucket with his family from Westchester County, N.Y., thought the longer lines had actually improved the customer experience.

“We were just saying we actually like what the Juice Bar is doing. They’ve actually made it easier to order,” he said. His son Noah, 13, agreed.

Pajorn Drysdale, 16, a seasonal employee, has been working hard to keep customers safe. “They gave us a quick scenario of what we’re supposed to do, and we watched a few videos and stuff like that, we saw it, we embraced it,” he said.

He said he does occasionally face customers who try to defy the store’s rules. If that’s the case, he said, “I’m not going to assist you with anything.” EMMA GRILLO



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