Later today, millions of children will put on their costumes and venture out into their neighborhoods to trick-or-treat for Halloween, the spookiest of all holidays. Ghouls and goblins of all shapes and sizes will walk the streets like candy-craving zombies, anxious to stockpile sweets that will inevitably lead to the real-life horror of stomach aches and cavities. None of that matters, though, because everyone knows how wonderful this experience can be.
They also know how dangerous Halloween can be. When I was a kid, the urban legend that caused the most fear involved razor blades being hidden in apples. Fortunately, my friends and I never ate the fruit we were given and always shunned the people who chose to substitute it for Snickers bars and Sweet Tarts. We would normally heave the fruit into people’s backyards for them to discover later, always hoping they would “take the hint” and spring for real sweets the following year. I now understand why they did it—fruit is much healthier and causes less tooth decay, in most cases—but Halloween is supposed to involve junk-eating. It’s an important part of the tradition, for goodness sake!
Of course, more serious Halloween horror stories about kids being abducted, attacked or even killed always seem to garner headlines. Safety is important and there are tons of useful tips to be found online. Here are a few of my own to add to the collection.
Safety in numbers
The most obvious tip is to travel in groups rather than individually because it makes you less of a target. Thankfully, most people I know trick-or-treat with their parents or friends because face it, going by yourself is just sad.
Beyond safety, trick-or-treating with a group provides a number of other benefits. For one, you and your friends can mix-and-match your costumes and hit the same houses multiple times. This can quadruple your candy intake and ensure Halloween lasts well into November. Groups can also perform more elaborate tricks, especially on those people handing out the apples and oranges. Someone needs to teach them a lesson, after all. And if another group of costumed hooligans step to you—perhaps to try to steal the candy you’ve worked so hard to collect—then your posse can back you up. I would never endorse violence or any kind of Halloween rumble, but it never hurts to be prepared.
The right costume
When you select a costume to wear, there are certain precautions you should take to further guarantee your safety. Huge, plastic masks are fine—even though they cause excessive face and head sweating—but only if they allow for clear vision, especially peripherally. You never know who or what will be hiding in those dark corners or behind bushes. And if you can’t see threats coming, you stand little to no chance of avoiding them. Wearing a mask that allows for a clear line of sight—or that can be quickly removed at the first sign of danger—is always your best bet.
You should also make sure your costume is flame-resistant (or at least flame-retardant) and by all means, leave the capes at home. If someone does try to mess with you and you flee, having a long cape drifting behind you will make you much easier to catch, and potentially choke. It may also get snagged on a fence or tree branch, which could result in you choking yourself!
One of the most dangerous aspects of Halloween involves the candy, and not just because it will fatten you up or rot out your teeth. You never know when some lunatic will tamper with their treats or even try to poison revelers, so checking each individual piece you receive is always a good idea. Look for the obvious signs first, like damage to wrappers, small puncture marks (needle-sized marks especially) or evidence it has been opened and re-closed. Once everything is clear and you start eating, pay attention to the taste and immediately spit out anything with a weird or unusual flavor. You just never know whether it comes from a bad factory batch or some psycho who dipped each candy into drain cleaner or liquid laxative.
One more thing about candy: Have you ever gone trick-or-treating and come across a house where the residents are gone, but where a huge tub of candy was left outside for the children? Normally, there’s a sign that says something like “please take only two pieces” or “make sure you leave some for the other children.” My advice in these situations is simple: ignore the sign. Do you think people really expect children to exercise restraint? They may hope for it, but I guarantee they have a better chance of meeting an actual vampire than having kids follow the honor system in these instances. And remember this: if you don’t take it all, then someone else will. And we can’t have that, can we?
Props sometimes hurt
My final Halloween safety tip relates to costumes and can be very helpful in preventing danger. It is never a bad idea to carry a prop that could double as a weapon if the need arises. Of course, it should match your costume because honestly, a werewolf with a Samurai sword just wouldn’t fly. But if you decide to be Harry Potter, why not grab a stick, call it a wand and then poke anyone who tries to do you harm? Wizards like Gandalf from “Lord of the Rings” carry long wooden staffs, which can also do wonders in terms of self-defense. Whatever the case may be, a sturdy prop can add a lot to your costume, but it can also keep the demons at bay. Something to consider, I think.
So there you have it: some rather unconventional tips to keep your Halloween safe and enjoyable. There is a lot of darkness in this world and the freaks definitely come out, especially since this is the only holiday where it’s acceptable to hide your identity. Take the necessary precautions, however, and you need not worry… at least not until your next trip to the dentist!
Happy Halloween, everybody!
I ran across this story a few weeks ago, but thanks to the lovely and talented Kara at the blog “I just want to lay on a beach” for putting it back on my radar!
Like most of us, cattle farmers have been struggling during this down economy and have to find creative and cheaper ways to get things done. Given the record prices for corn feed, they are now turning to a different food source for our bovine friends: candy.
Since 2009, the price of corn feed has more than doubled. It now averages around $310 a ton. Fortunately, candy is far less expensive and can be purchased for roughly $160-240 a ton. I wouldn’t tell your kids about this, though.
Some of the candy being fed to these cows includes ice cream sprinkles, cookie pieces, gummy worms, chocolate bars and even hot chocolate mix. These foods are perfectly safe as long as they make up only a small percentage of the cows’ total nutrition. Aside from fattening the animals up and making cheeseburgers even more delicious, the candy also seems to increase milk production.
I guess this means you can dip your Oreo cookies into milk produced by cows that ate Oreos for dinner. How strange is that?
Earlier today, I had the distinct displeasure of yet another trip to the grocery store to stock up on much-needed food and other supplies. As you can likely tell, this isn’t a task I enjoy very much. Aside from the fact that groceries cost more and more each day, which results in my waiting until the absolute last minute to shop, there are a multitude of other issues and annoyances that prevent me from enjoying the experience.
Please forgive me if I end up sounding misanthropic or sexist because that is not my intention. It is, however, an unfortunate side effect when you post something like this. I apologize in advance if I offend any of you, but getting this off my chest will undoubtedly be very cathartic.
Living in the Matrix
My first encounter today was with two women, one of them a mother and the other presumably her daughter. I was standing there, quietly surveying the deliciously decadent candies, when mom came up, reached across me and grabbed some M&Ms. The whole time she was muttering either to herself or her daughter, “And these are the candies. We have a coupon for that. And now off to the meats.” No apology. No “excuse me”. Nothing.
I equate her behavior to someone from the computer-generated world of The Matrix. It’s almost as if she was programmed to simply go through her usual grocery shopping routine, all the while barking orders and making comments to her obedient daughter not far behind.
She was completely unaware that I was there. Normally, I appreciate being left alone, but this woman was one step away from knocking me down for a bag of candy. Some acknowledgment would have been nice.
A few aisles over, I came across one of those extreme coupon ladies, and this woman was organized. Draped across her cart was a huge book of plastic pages filled with coupons. Armed with her shopping list in one hand and a pen in the other, she thumbed through the book, furiously searching for savings and comparing coupons to the goods in stock. To me, she seemed like one of those coupon gurus who purchase a thousand bucks worth of stuff with only a handful of dollars.
Crafty, to say the least.
The only problem was that this coupon clipper was parked directly in the middle of the aisle, oblivious to the fact that other shoppers could not squeeze past her on either side.
I tried some obvious maneuvers, like pretending to check a shelf close enough where she could see me and be more inclined to move over a few inches.
She never blinked.
Thankfully, another shopper started towards her from the other end of the store and she snapped out of it. “Excuse me,” she said as she moved and went about her business.
At least she was polite enough to say “excuse me”.
Checking out is always a challenge when you have too many items for either the express line or the self checkout machines. I ended up behind a young family as they were completing the process. My cart was pretty full and I noticed the checkout guy glance over and sigh. I certainly didn’t envy him, but was fully prepared to lend a hand with bagging.
Behind me came a middle-aged woman with her teenage son, their cart just as full as my own. I smiled casually and went back to minding my own business. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught the woman comparing our grocery loads and then shooting me the stink eye as she made some comment to her son. Although I couldn’t hear her, I knew what she was saying.
“This jackass could let us go first. He has more items.”
Of course, I didn’t acknowledge her stink eye or even glance back in her direction—unless you count the sarcastic smile I shot her as I was leaving with my freshly bagged groceries.
Get Out Alive
The grocery store parking lot is another wonder of complete stupidity and frustration. Shoppers roll in and out of the store’s many entrances all day long, yet drivers still cruise past as if they’re late for work. Then there are the idiots who decide that out of all the available parking spots, yours is the one they want. They sit there with their turn signal on, blocking traffic and quietly cursing you for having the audacity to load your groceries into the car.
And don’t get me started on the people who decide ten feet is too far to walk to roll their cart to the bin. Instead, they leave it abandoned in an empty spot or worse, they roll it out of the way and pay no mind when it bangs into the side of your car.
Perhaps it’s unfair for me to judge or dislike people who behave this way. After all, I’m sure that I do things that annoy others, too. I’m certain I annoyed that woman in the checkout line, even though some of it was intentional on my part.
All I’m saying is this: When in public, please remember to be courteous to the people around you. I’ll try and do my part in the hope that future grocery store trips might be more pleasant for us all.