WATERTOWN — He’s a soldier at Fort Drum and was getting ice cream with his wife and son one recent evening. They weren’t wearing masks — not a political choice by them — when they were waiting in line. Customers took notice and a verbal altercation escalated to the family leaving without ice cream and getting spit at as they got in their car.
The soldier, whose name is Steve, asked that his last name remain anonymous due to his occupation and clearance level at Fort Drum. He was at the Cowlick Ice Cream shop one evening last week with his wife, Kelsey, and their son. They had been there a few days before as it’s their favorite ice cream spot. There were no lines, he said, and they didn’t see a sign asking people to wear masks, so a few days later on Friday, July 24, they went back without them.
“We thought because we were outside, as long as we stayed away from people we wouldn’t have to wear a mask,” Steve said. “When we went back, there was a family at the window and we thought we’d keep our distance.”
That’s when Kelsey noticed the sign that asks customers to wear masks. Steve said their plan was to wait for the family in front of them to get their ice cream and then ask the employees about the sign.
“And if they didn’t want to serve us that’s their right as a business,” he said. “We would have gone back to our house to grab our masks or we would have come back another day.”
But when they were waiting in line, a member of the family in front of them began complaining.
“We could tell she was obviously upset that we weren’t wearing masks,” Steve said, “and then she gave me a mean look.”
Steve decided to say something, which, if he could, he would take back.
“I said something like ‘Oh no, we’re not wearing masks. It’s the end of the world,’” he said. “Looking back now on everything, I would not have made that comment. I could definitely tell she was angry about that, so maybe if I hadn’t have said anything, it wouldn’t have blown up. Other than that, we wouldn’t have done anything differently.”
Steve alleges the woman became verbally “nasty” after he made the comment. Kelsey suggested they leave so they started heading toward the parking lot.
Steve said he was putting his son into his car seat when another member of the complaining family took her mask off and spit in his direction.
“I just kind of laughed,” Steve said. “If you’re trying to look big and bad, you’re not doing a good job.”
When it comes to wearing masks, Steve said he doesn’t like them but he won’t hesitate to wear them where it is required.
“I’m not pro mask. I’m not anti mask,” he said. “I am just for giving people the right to do whatever they want to do. So if a company wants to enforce wearing masks, I’m going to wear a mask.”
And he’s happy about whereever he doesn’t have to wear a mask.
“I’m not trying to upset anyone,” he said. “I’m really not. Whether you’re pro mask or anti mask, with everything that’s going on right now, there is no reason for anybody to rude or mean.”
Jennifer Hilpl, who helps run the shop and is daughter of the owner, Barbara Speary, said she was pulling into the parking shortly before the customer spit in Steve’s direction. She witnessed it and decided she would start looking for Steve and his family.
“We just want to make it right,” she said earlier this week. “She was doing this to a family with a young child, which to me is completely inappropriate.”
It took less than a week for the shop to track down the family. Ms. Hilpl invited them back to the shop on Friday, where the family-owned shop gave them gift certificates and a gift basket.
“I think it says a lot about them and how much they were trying to make it right, and we just appreciate it,” Steve said on Friday. “We enjoy going there. And now that we know they are requiring people wear masks, tonight when we go we are going to be wearing masks.”