“Do you get many kids for Halloween?”
“No, we don’t get many kids. We get ALL OF THEM.”
A typical post-Halloween exchange. This query often comes from friends in Halloween-candy dead zones. You know those neighbourhoods that go dark when the costumed critters come looking for handouts. Such areas, notorious for being the Samhain Scrooges, are avoided by the kids like they’re quarantined, leaving the smattering of jack-o-lanterned, candy-laden households wondering where all the children went.
They went to my neighbourhood.
The area I’m in is known as a Halloween hotspot. Lots of houses give out candy, so kids are assured to get more bang for their buck, scoring sacks of loot without having to cover too much ground. Parents from the dead zones bus them in by the carload, filling our streets with ghost and goblins who only haunt our end of N.D.G. on this one night of the year. They never set foot here otherwise.
As a result, willingness to give out the goods can turn into quite an investment. Every year we buy boxes upon boxes of sugary shit, concerned we’ll never be able to give it all away, and ultimately surprised by how fast it goes. My stated policy remains: Two pieces per kid, smartasses get one. Hardly a generous amount, I know, but even with all those hundreds of individually wrapped sweets, we were cleaned out by quarter past seven, with trick-or-treaters still roaming the street till damn near nine.
Despite the hassle and expense, I always keep the door open on Halloween. Not because I love kids – I don’t – but because I find the occasion to be an indispensable annual survey of the popular mind set. It’s kind of like my version of a government census without anyone having to fill out any annoying forms under legal threat.
There’s much to be gleaned from tallying and gauging the costumes and demographics that arrive at my door. This is how I read our society’s tea leaves once a year. Sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised, sometimes I’m terribly disappointed. For example, despite my threat to punch any kid who showed up dressed as Miley Cyrus square in the face, no such assault was required. I’m still trying to determine if that falls into the “pleasantly surprised” or “terribly disappointed” catagory.
Just as telling as what the children are choosing as their costumes is what they’re not choosing. For example, there were no Batmen or Spidermen this year despite these characters being the number one and two most-popular costumes of recent years. They’ll return of course. Just give them another popular movie release and they’ll be right back in vogue. More tellingly, however – no Harry Potters. Face it Rowling disciples, it’s over.
Here’s my short-form rundown of the evening, taken from memory, and presented here before I forget the details. This is as much for my own records as your entertainment.
Most popular costume: Pirate. Classic, iconic. I approve. Just mind where you’re poking those damn swords. Plastic or not, they’re still pointy and I’d like to keep both my eyes when I’m bending down to give you candy.
Second most popular costume: Zombie. At least the up and coming generation will be prepared and utterly unsurprised when the zombie apocalypse finally happens.
Most popular superhero: Captain America. Which surprised the hell out of me since I’m in Canada. I’ve never seen a Captain America at my door before. And I hope to never see one again.
Most adorable kid: Riley. And not just because she sprang from the loins of two of my oldest friends. She’s simply adorable, especially when compared to most other kids, who generally suck.
Biggest alpha male: The kid dressed as Darth Vader who convinced his two shorter friends or brothers to accompany him dressed as storm-trooper minions.
Number of “I like your pumpkin” compliments: Three. Not much love for my ragged, demented jack-o-lantern design of the year, but I attribute that to having to relocate it to the window due to rain.
Most popular greeting: “Happy Halloween!” Which I hate. The traditional “Trick or treat!” has seen a severe decline over the years, and I heartily disapprove. What is trick-or-treating without a verbal statement of the implied threat? Charity. That’s all it is. Fucking charity. Speaking of which…
Number of UNICEF boxes and the like I had to feed: Six. I abhor these cup-in-hand causes that have employed child labour to do their dirty work and hijacked my favourite pagan festival. But if a kid actually asks (as opposed to merely showing up with a box hanging around their neck) I give. Not to help the charity, but to make the kid feel like they’re doing something worthwhile.
Most ironic request: “Do you have any money for diabetes?”
Number of “Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat,” rhymes: Just one. And just one candy for you, you smartass little bastard.
Most bitter kid: We have a tie. Allow me to elaborate.
Mid-evening, two kids travelling together came up the path. They were wearing black bowler hats, black suits, black moustaches, and a pair of matching canes.
“Charlie Chaplin, Charlie Chaplin,” they muttered to themselves all the way to the door.
Holy shit, I thought, these kids are actually dressed up as silent-screen legend Charlie Chaplin. I’ve never seen that before. How charmingly retro! How perfect a way to pander to me! This is awesome! They’re totally getting three pieces of candy each.
Tip for the kids: If you come up my path dressed as either Harold Lloyd or Buster Keaton, you get ALL THE CANDY.
“We’re not Charlie Chaplin,” said the lead kid bitterly before I could offer a greeting. Apparently they’d been getting Charlie Chaplined at every door they rang and were fed up with it. Whoever this Charlie Chaplin dude was, that wasn’t who they were dressed as dammit!
My brain made a quick gear shift as I proceeded to hand them their three candies each regardless.
“No, of course not,” I told them. “You’re Thomson and Thompson.”
I hoped having at least one person correctly identify their matching outfits brightened their evening a tad. But their mood didn’t appear to improve any as they skulked away to continue their mistaken-identity candy-collecting death-march.
It wasn’t going to be a Happy Halloween for either of them.