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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Behold the Trick!

In the inspired Curb Your Enthusiasm episode “Trick or Treat” (Season 2, Episode 3), Larry David, through self-inflicted obstinacy—falls prey to every child’s Halloween equalizer—The Trick. On Halloween night, Larry has been an exceedingly generous candyman until two overage teenage girls, sans costumes, show up at his door, demanding candy.  Larry’s Response: No candy for you!

It doesn’t mean that you’re entitled to go around to peoples’ homes and bilk them of candy, he proclaims.
The next morning he and his wife, Cheryl, discover the girls’ rejoinder: a backyard with trees and hedges festooned with toilet paper. And a special message for Larry spray-painted on his French doors:
                                                   BALD ASSHOLE

That’s a hate crime. We’re a sect. We’re a group, Larry tells two unsympathetic police officers.

You’ve got a long day of cleaning ahead of you! Cheryl responds with still less sympathy.

Fear of The Trick is one buxom reason why Americans typically overspend on Halloween candy. Most of us dread being caught short, so we hedge by overbuying. Consider my friend Herr Doktor Roberto, an economist-statistician who, as a frequent media commentator on the Massachusetts economy, has seen more than his share of extreme economic events during the past decade.

I always buy one or two bags, even though we haven’t had a trick-or-treater in four years, he confesses. I don’t want to disappoint any children and I do dread an extreme event—The Trick. Spending a few dollars on candy is a hedge that I can live with.*

A Mindless, Bottomless Dish. But the deal is not without moral hazard. The next day Herr Doktor Roberto brings all of his candy to work, where he entrusts it with the office manager of his academic department. It eventually finds its way into a bottomless candy dish fueled with similar contributions from twenty or so colleagues and staff members. Not unlike a street hooker, the dish is positioned with fetching accessibility to the public in his department’s reception area, poised for what food behaviorist Brian Wansink calls Mindless Eating. Multiply that enticement by my college’s seven administrative offices and for that matter by all the workplaces in The Realm—and you’ll agree that more than a soupcon of junk candy intended for children has a hefty afterlife in a secondary market that dis-graces the alimentary realms of adults. (A suggestion: slam-dunk your remaining bag(s) of candy in the nearest trash hoop.)

A Personal Note. For the author of Wig & Pen, November 1st (a.k.a. All Souls Day, a.k.a. the Day of the Dead) bears special poignancy. On November 1, 1983, W&P’s father, a dentist’s dentist, entered the great cosmic root canal in the sky. Every year on the day after Halloween, it’s hard not to think of Dad with the sight of every Mars Bar, every Jaw Breaker. To W&P’s good fortune, his friend Bob Marx recently offered a different take on the matter: “Cheer up, Lou. Candy did pay for your college years, didn't it?”
*Here’s an opposite risk-laden strategy:  Another friend reminisced that when her children were still living in the house, she would buy short and, if she ran out, give away some of their candy when they returned from their own trick-or-treating. “What did you do when you ran out before they returned,” I asked. Her reply: “We’d turn off the lights.”

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