Joining the Wait For the Latest Scoop

This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.

The New York Sun

At this moment on a block of Broadway near 76th Street, at least a dozen New Yorkers have likely suspended their harried existence to stand on line for a half-hour and contemplate their need for expensive, imported ice cream — a need so powerful, so strong that it will keep them waiting despite delicious and far cheaper options available only a few feet away.

I’m talking about Grom–the latest milk fat Mecca imported from Italy for trendy New Yorkers who, notwithstanding their strong independent spirit and ridiculously crowded calendars, find 30 minutes to wait for the chance to pay $4.95 for an ice cream cone. I’m not knocking it. (The stuff tastes yummy. I checked.) But I’m wondering how overpriced products turn discerning foodies into slavish faddists. And it’s not limited to Grom, as regulars of Scoop du Jour, East Hampton’s reigning ice cream parlor, can attest: Even on relaxed summer weekends, New Yorkers don’t mind taking a break from their vacations to suffer through an excruciating wait for an absurdly marked-up cone. And for those in search of a trendy grocery store guaranteed to waste some valuable time and money, there’s always a line to stand in at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s.

“I have my BlackBerry, so it’s not like I’m missing anything,” a thirty-something real estate broker named Maryann said the other afternoon between licks of her peach-with-chocolate-pieces cone — which she enjoyed after a 20-minute wait on line. She asked for anonymity because she feared appearing silly. I granted it because I couldn’t blame her. Watching a woman eat ice cream and tap out e-mails at the same time isn’t pretty. Alongside her stood 15 others who’d stopped everything for the chance to sweat out the wait, their $20 and $50 bills securely in hand to pay for the privilege.

It might seem remarkable how fast Grom grew into a destination spot for those with money and calories to burn. But its success should surprise no one who has lived in New York long enough to observe the strange obsession with trendiness that tricks intelligent people into acting like lemmings. In fact, my research into lemmings shows that the vastly misrepresented rodents show far less willingness than New Yorkers to blindly follow the latest trend.

Some love the lure of the velvet rope, and when one isn’t in place they imagine it there anyway, and get willingly behind it. In a quarter-century of living in this city — filled with plenty of treats that cost next to nothing — only the choices and prices have changed; the lines have survived. I remember the crowds for now-defunct nightclubs like Limelight. I still witness the weekly Sunday morning traffic jam at H & H Bagels (at $1.10, New York’s priciest gluten for gluttons). I recall the frenzy for tickets to “Nicholas Nickleby,” the 1981 Royal Shakespeare Company adaptation of the Dickens novel that broke the $100 threshold for Broadway theater tickets. What draws us to stand on line at places like Grom is legitimate enough: a mix of passion for new experiences, and a sense of resignation that everything here costs more. But as a city of 8 million independent thinkers, we should really be sending a message to Italian ice cream makers that we’re not patsies. It’s not that we need to boycott Grom for the good of society; it’s more a matter of self-respect and pride, knowing that we won’t allow an economic principle — in this case, the so-called indifference curve, which is an economist’s term for knowing when something costs more than we want to pay — to override our awareness of bang for the buck. Eventually, the lines at Grom will go away. The weather will turn cold, and some new storefront will offer a new and exclusive sweet to lure us elsewhere. Soon it will no longer seem worth it to deduct a half-hour from our day for the Grom experience. (Better to save the money and go to Italy instead.) Years from now, when Grom loses its lease and the space becomes a dry cleaner or a North Fork Bank, we’ll laugh at the ludicrousness of our momentary addiction to fancy-schmancy ice cream in the summer of 2007. In the end, what will endure are the places — and prices — that appeal not only to our palates, but also to our sense of reason.

The New York Sun

© 2024 The New York Sun Company, LLC. All rights reserved.

Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. The material on this site is protected by copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used.

The New York Sun

Sign in or  Create a free account

By continuing you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use