I ran across this sign on Facebook the other day. It’s been making the rounds since last year, though no one seems to know the original source. It’s possible that it’s a hoax, but the sentiment that children shouldn’t be allowed to cross neighborhoods to trick ‘r treat is pretty prominent. You can even see vehement agreement on the Adventures of a Couponista page, one of the many who have posted it. One commenter stood out in particular to me.
I don't think kids should be driven across town to get the best treats, the biggest candy bars, cans of pop. That's being greedy!!
That mindset is more pervasive than pumpkin spice everything.
Let’s get something out of the way real quick. People need to stop acting like Halloween is some giant imposition that they are magnanimously participating in. You can spend $20 at the Dollar Tree and end up with enough candy for well over 100 trick ‘r treaters. All that you have to do beyond that is leave the lights on. You even get to eat the leftovers. Some people treat it like they do social welfare programs; as if their paltry contribution to a vast group enterprise empowers them to make weird moral judgments about who deserves what. Participate, or don’t, but keep Libertarianism out of Samhain, would you kindly? No one is impressed because you got to be mean to poor kids.
My personal vendetta against this mindset has to do with apartment complexes. I have lived in them most of my adult life, and my current one is in walking distance of my daughter’s elementary school. We never go trick ‘r treating in the complex. Why?
They generally won’t let us. In fact, for years and across four separate complexes I have tried to start volunteer trick ‘r treating programs where residents could mark on a map if they were participating or not. It seemed like the perfect plan. Low traffic, lots of sidewalks with ample lighting and no driving. How more neighborhood-y can you get?
I always got turned down because the complexes’ insurance plans wouldn’t officially allow anything like that. The leasing offices can throw parties or sometimes do trunk ‘r treat, but traditional door to door stuff is always out. Some people do it anyway, which is how I justify building a small graveyard outside my door and leaving out a bowl of chocolate bars at the door with a sign that asks people to please take one. We’re even participating in the Teal Pumpkin Project this year offering small toys instead of candy for kids with food allergies. It’s usually just a few kids, but it’s Halloween.
So, in general, we go trick ‘r treating in other neighborhoods. Sometimes it’s the neighborhood where the elementary school is, which I feel I’m entitled to since my rent partially pays the property taxes that fund it even if for some reason it means I’m not allowed a pool pass. Before that we usually picked one somewhere else. Often, we went down to the Heights, River Oaks or off Memorial since all our friends with kids still lived down that way. This year we’re contemplating going to another friend’s neighborhood that miles away so they can walk together. I’m not crashing some neighborhood for “the best treats,” and I have a hard time believing anyone that stingy is giving out full-sized Hershey bars anyway.
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Hey, here’s another thing your neighborhood might have that draws outsiders: sidewalks. Houston is such a rank cesspool of pedestrian access we actually advertise walkable neighborhoods as a luxury rather than something that should be a given. We have a below average walkability score and one of the highest Pedestrian Danger Indexes in the country. I mentioned my apartment complex being down the street from my daughter’s school. Yeah, to get there we walk along a major four-lane road with no sidewalks through tall grass that is perfect for hiding snakes coming ashore off one of the bayous. Getting a stroller or a wheelchair through it is virtually impossible, meaning that if I want to trick ‘r treat in a neighborhood that’s at least sort of mine I still might need to drive there.
All of that is kind of beside the point, though. Why on Earth would anyone ever need to justify where they take their kids trick ‘r treating? What difference does it make? There’s no litmus test for who deserves what on this holiday. If you run out of candy, you turn off the light and maybe buy more next year. Or you just don’t participate. Every neighborhood I’ve ever taken my daughter to has dark houses. We move on without rancor.
It bothers me that there are people who feel the need to tell kids they’re garbage and don’t deserve the “good” neighborhood candy. It’s like citing elementary school kids for tardiness. They don’t have any control over most of the situation, so why punish them? Is shaming their parents really going to do anything besides fuel an unearned sense of superiority over freakin’ confections? Halloween is literally a handout. That’s all that it is. Trying to mold it into some Randian cosplay contest for the privileged of your tribe so that randos with a beef against the Welfare State can exercise a modicum of power over other people’s children is cruelty almost magnificent in its pettiness.
Shut up and hand out your Mr. Goodbars.