Pranksters in my neighborhood have just reached a new low. Someone TP’d a house—and did a pathetic job. First, they used heavy-duty paper towels, not the impossible-to-remove single-ply bargain-paper, and second they forgot to soap the windows.
Really, people? Is this what America’s youth has come to?
Realizing that valuable Halloween knowledge can be lost in just a single generation, I’m passing along some valuable pointers.
Regarding Costumes – Remember if you can’t find what you want in the store, you can always make your own. My wife, Karin, is the master of this. One year we went as a lumberjack and a tree. She borrowed one of my flannel shirts, a knit cap, and a saw. I wore earth-toned clothes, a few branches and ran from her all night as she seemed pretty intent on using that saw to amuse our friends. Frightening your partner, one prankster point.
Another time, right after we were first married, she decided we should be Ma and Pa Kettle. She bought some plain long-johns and dyed them red. She carefully followed all the steps, including the part where she “set” the dye by tossing them in the apartment’s dryer. What the instructions didn’t say was that the process involves a bonus-prank. The next person to use the dryer gets an indelible hot-pink tint to their laundry, Cat-In-The-Hat style. Three points.
Treats, The Gifts That Keeps Giving -Karin, as a nurse, has issues with handing out candy. So, years ago, we bought boxes and boxes of raisins to give out instead. This is a great idea, since trick-or-treaters invariable look at them, wrinkle their noses, and toss them back at you. P.S. Be prepared to wash your windows the next morning. One point for each box not returned.
Pumpkins and Jack-O-Lanterns – You can thank the Irish for the wonderful tradition of carving pumpkins into frightening faces. The basic idea, if you’re new to the planet, is Dad gives the kids an awkward, hard-to-handle gourd, a permanent marker, and a steak knife. Next, the kids scoop out the seeds and toast them in the oven. Set on broil until both smoke alarms sound off, then frost lightly with your fire extinguisher. Serves up two prankster points.
After the smoke clears, kids can then mutilate the poor pumpkin, using their parents’ faces as models for the grimace. Finally, Dad fires up a Bic, lights a candle, and stuffs it down into the Jack-O-Lantern. Score one point if you burn the hair off your arm, three points if you have a father-daughter trip to the ER. Take away a point if you use the nurse-recommended safe-carving-tools and battery-powered lights.
Out and About – Halloween is when your kids are told to forget all that “not taking candy from strangers” stuff because, after all, Mom and Dad are standing right there. The problem is, if you’re like us, you’ve probably caved and bought your tots the “hot” costume of the year. This means that there will be a dozen tiny Spidermen swarming on the porch like identical arachnids. So, when you return home, you may or may not have your own child. Think of it as an opportunity for a cultural exchange. Zero points for returning with your kids, two points each for the loaner-kids.
Candy – Worried that the idea of “free candy” sends the wrong message to little kids? Don’t be. It’s an opportunity to learn the power of bartering, when they have to trade four boxes of Good-And-Plenty for a Zagnut bar. It’s also your parental duty to carefully examine each piece of candy, taking those that look suspiciously tasty. Score one point for each box of Atomic Gobstoppers you filch, negative two points for each drum of Toxic Waste.
Parties and Other Distractions – Back in the day, when our parents wanted a break from hauling us around, they’d drop us off at our church for a “Youth-Group Activity.” This was like a regular Halloween party, but with the chance to give the pastor’s car a potato-in-the tailpipe. The coed event allowed us to discover the difference between a Hershey’s Kiss and a French kiss, and to see what other teens’ undergarments looked like under a black light. Games included that wholesome, traditional, activity using a barrel of water and a basket of apples—bobbing for mononucleosis. Two points for each kiss, negative five points for mono.
Too Old For T-O-T – My wife announced to the kids, when they reached high school, that they’d “aged out” of Trick-Or-Treating. This was rude shock. There was pouting, yelling and screaming, and the kids didn’t like it either. But they were shrewd and offered to take their younger siblings around, eliminating Mom and Dad’s burden. Big sisters did this, “to be helpful.” Then they smuggled out their own pillow cases, and managed to accumulate “payment-in-kind” carrying charges. Two points for ingenuity.
But then came the day when the music stopped. They were all too old to go. It wasn’t pretty. They sulked on the sofa, and stared out the window, scowling. When the bell rang, I’d answer the door. Occasionally, it would be one of their friends, and there would be a deep moan and a guttural cry.
“SEE MOM! STEVE GETS TREATS!”
Steve. I’d heard of him. He had been in high school long he had a reserved parking space. And there he stood, size 12 shoes, Levis, and a mangled shirt plastered with a bumper sticker that said: “Don’t laugh mister, your daughter is in the back seat.”
“Some costume,” I said.
He grinned and held out his bag.
“Trick or treat, dude.”
I dropped in a treat and slammed the door.
“IT’S NOT FAIR,” said the chorus on the couch.
“OK, OK. Point taken,” I said, firing a handful of goodies their direction. “Have some 20-year-old raisins.”
Four points for Dad.
Robb has enjoyed writing and performing since he was a child, and many of his earliest performances earned him a special recognition-reserved seating in the principal’s office at Highland Elementary. Since then, in addition to his weekly column on A News Cafe – “Or So it Seems™” – Robb has written news and features for The Bakersfield Californian, appeared on stage as an opening stand-up act in Reno, and his writing has been published in the Funny Times. His short stories have won honorable mention national competition. His screenplay, “One Little Indian,” Was a top-ten finalist in the Writer’s Digest competition. Robb presently lives, writes and teaches in Shasta County.