Wednesday, October 27, 2010
As Halloween approaches I am looking forward to the tradition of our friends' pumpkin carving party. Andy carved the above tribute to the Red Sox fresh off their incredible 2004 World Series victory. This year he might carve a Bruins logo, or maybe the Patriots' flying Elvis logo. Who knows. There are always the traditional scary cut-out designs to consider too. That's the fun of Halloween - you never know what to expect. Especially when you open the door to the Trick or Treaters.
My fondest memory of Trick or Treat does not come from an actual Halloween experience. It comes as a teenager in September. Which is certainly unexpected. And that was exactly the idea. One of my high school classes was Sociology and we were required to work in teams to perform a sociological experiment to gauge reaction to an out of the ordinary event and write a paper about it. My best buddies and I decided originally to bring a pizza into McDonald's and see what would happen. When nothing happened we had to come up with Plan B.
Plan B evolved while hanging out in my friend's basement, pilfering from her folks' pantry of food in search of Chips Ahoy. On our way back upstairs we noticed old boxes of clothes - dress-up clothes, old uniforms, outdated shirts. It was September and a bizarre idea was born. What if we put together some costumes and went Trick or Treating a month early? That would certainly count as an out of the ordinary event. Not to mention that we might actually get some free snacks out of the deal.
As you know, Halloween displays start showing up as soon as Labor Day ends. And that was our reasoning. As we approached our first house we decided our explanation to the confused homeowner would be that the early Halloween displays had resulted in such inspiration that we could wait no longer and decided to get a jump on the competition. Besides, a group of harmless teenage girls in silly costumes could hardly result in problems.
Our first house actually belonged to our high school gym teacher and he was kind. I think we actually blurted out why we were really ringing his bell just to get the nerves out. When he sent us and our pillow case candy bags away with some granola bars we knew we needed to switch to a neighborhood of strangers to get a true cross section of responses for our experiment.
Well. Let me tell you. This was an interesting evening. We giggled a lot. We flirted a bit. And every now and then we turned tail and ran. It was very surprising to me that the majority of the people in the homes we visited actually answered mid-evening doorbells and then, when confronted with elated "Trick or Treat!" cries from costumed teens, scrounged through their cabinets for something to fill our candy sacks. Microwave popcorn. Pop-Tarts. Apples. Pizza coupons. Packages of crackers. Gum. Cookies. People bought our explanation hook, line & sinker. And felt guilty for not having anything better to hand out to unannounced Trick or Treaters in September.
But there were also the households who refused to answer the door - even though you could see the lights on inside. And there was one house who was angry to be bothered by good for nothing teens. A few calls to the authorities were threatened. But no harm was done - by us or them.
I don't have the paper that I wrote for that assignment anymore - I wish I did. Because it was really interesting and surprising just how much society wants to conform to the right ideas. To appease eager folks with a logical explanation for unexpected behavior. But I do have a great photo of us in our really lame "costumes" - a snapshot taken of me and my best friends in high school - girls who I still hold close to my heart today. And I have the memory of youthful excitement. A crazy idea that was easier to implement with a crowd of friends. And an evening of random treats eaten from kind people's pantries. Giving us fuel to write that paper. And provide faith in society's members.
Always be prepared. Welcome dares. Embrace time with friends. And be kind to your Trick or Treaters - young and old. You never know what kind of spirit you inspire in them.