Friday, October 19, 2007

Treat or Treat

I remember when I was 11, I went trick or treating around the apartment complex. I was getting a good haul of candy that night. Apartments are great for that, plenty of targets to hit to load up on as much product as you can carry. I came upon one door and knocked. A middle-aged gentle man (middle-aged to an 11 year old could have meant he was only 23) answered as was the custom on such a night and according to the ritual I answered what every kid answers on Halloween.


The man kneels down, lit cigarette hanging from his mouth. He's got some sort of metal object in one hand and a tool of some sort in another. He touches the tool to the metal rod then pulls it slowly away as an electric arc appears, stretching from the tool to the object. It made a neat noise, it's firework-like properties looked cool. Even a young kid can appreciate the ozone smell that wafted from the event...but where's my candy? You know candy? Candy, sir? Candy that our generation begs for every year.

To my awe, I began to realize, he didn't have any. He said something like "Isn't that cool," or "There you go" and closed his door, waiting until the next sucker. Mmmm, a sucker would be good right about now. Wait a diddly darn minute!


In a daze, I moved on to neighbors willing to give me what I really wanted. People who knew this dance. People who knew what was required of them to satisfy a young lad such as my self.

Time marched on. I went on a couple more annual Halloween trips but soon, I was done. As the years went by, even the years when I was too old to go anymore, I still thought of that guy who showed me a spark instead of giving me the treat. And as I got older, I analyzed the phrase "Trick or Treat" and I started to realize what it really meant. It's a demand, but it's a demand with options. The man technically fulfilled his obligation by providing me a trick of all things, without the treat. I actually began to retroactively support this man for bucking the system, for fighting the power, for pointing out to kids that they should pay attention to the words coming out of their mouths, to think before they speak and to take responsibility for their verbal messages.

For years I secretly supported this anonymous man who I'd never met again after that fateful night. He was just as right as the those candy dispatchers to do what he did.

But time kept marching and when I reached adulthood, I started to question that faith in a new way. I was freakin' 11! Did he expect 11 year-olds to know that trick or treat didn't always mean treat? Did he think we were professors? Did he think we cared? No! I went completely the other way on this man years after that traumatic event. How dare he assume I knew what I was asking for! I was a kid! That was pretty jerky behavior now that I think about it. Doesn't he know that's how homes get egged?

Regardless of his intention and competence though, it's the one Halloween encounter I've always remembered.