Friday, September 28, 2007

Trick or treat?

Trick or Treat

What happened to the “or?”

We say “trick or treat” but we mean “treat.”

When the marauding gangs of costumed children parade up to my door and regurgitate the obligatory phrase, I use my best Wicked Witch of the West voice and say, “Well, my pretty, that is up to you. You say ‘Trick or treat,’ right? I’m going to give you a die. If you roll an even number, you get to choose a treat from this big bowl of candy. However, if you roll an odd number, you have to put your hand in this paper bag and take what’s inside.”

“Um ma’am, can we just get some candy?”

“No (accent over). Roll the die. If you get a two, four, or six, you get candy. If you roll a one, three, or five, you get what’s in the paper bag.”


“Because it’s my house and I said so and YOU said ‘Trick or Treat’. Now roll.”

The first group of kids rolls the die and throws evens so they grab Starburst and Skittles and are happily on their way to the next house. The next two kids that come are a brother and sister who have favored status in my book of children. The sister rolls a two and takes a Kit Kat bar while the brother rolls a three. He reaches into the paper bag and pulls out a potato.

“I don’t want that!”

“It’s trick or treat and you rolled an odd number so you get a potato.”

“But I want candy.”

“You don’t get candy. You got tricked. You get a potato.”

“Can I roll again?”

“No, now move along (end of favored status).”

He storms off and his sister is very happy about this preposition “or” and quite frankly, so am I.

Let me say right now that if large teenagers come to the door dressed as themselves, they do not get to play the dice game. They just get candy with no questions asked. I will not risk being pelted with my own potatoes.

My next visitors are excited to play a game and not just get candy thrown in their bag. One kid rolls a three and proclaims with male bravado, “I GOT A POTATO!! YES!!”
It’s all about positioning, I guess. The next kid rolls a five and says, “Do I hafta get a potato?” “Well, no, you can choose from this other bag.” Excited, he puts his hand in and pulls out a dog bone. The other children giggle at his misfortune.

The next group is younger so their parents walk with them but stay in the background. The parents know me to be slightly irregular but very trustworthy when it comes to children. They look on with curiosity as I explain the game. Chance does its job. One kid who got a potato asks me very nicely if he could have another turn. This time I say yes because sometimes in life, you get second chances- especially when you have manners. He rolls a two and was off with a Snickers. The last kid rolls a one and I’m feeling benevolent so I give him a choice of either the potato or the dog bone.

“I want candy.”

“I’m sorry. You don’t get candy. You rolled an odd number so that’s a trick. It’s trick or treat.”


I wait for his father in the back of the crowd to make this a teaching moment but I think he is too mortified to act. Keep in mind that these kids already had enough candy to feed a Second World country.

I repeat calmly and firmly, “You don’t get any candy.”


He stomps away and I feel sad. If this is how he handles the disappointment of not getting a small piece of candy, he is in for a mighty bumpy life ride.

One of the last arrivals is a very sweet little girl dressed as a fairy princess. She is just in awe of the whole Halloween experience. She takes measured steps up the walk as if she is anxiously anticipating what is going to happen. She is truly beautiful. I explain the game and she is thrilled at the idea of doing something different. She carefully cups her hands around the die, shakes vigorously, and when she thinks it is just the right moment, she throws the die down. It is a three. She reaches in and takes out a potato and says gratefully, “Oh, look, Mommy. We can make a baked potato.” I let her roll again. A five. She reaches into the other bag. “A dog bone! We can give this to Buddy and he will be so happy.”

Yes. It is all in the positioning. Her life ride will be very smooth.

This Halloween, remember that it is “Trick or Treat.” Just like life.

1 comment:

Jan Post said...

Oh, my gosh, I laughed until tears rolled down my face. My five yr old grand son was with me this evening and though he is not a reader (or speller) he kept asking how to spell things and then how to spell them backwards. Then while we were out eating he asked seriously, "how to you spell ortreat?" I asked him to repeat it and he said, "You know, trick ortreat."

We live in an area where not many kids come out for Halloween, but be assured, I will have one bag of candy and one bag of potatoes. Thanks for the great idea!