At what age did you stop going out trick-or-treating for Halloween? Assuming, of course, that you ever went.
And just to be clear, we’re talking the orthodox Halloween practice. It comes in three parts — children dressing in costume, going door to door, and saying “trick or treat” when the door is opened.
It’s not trick-or-treating if you’re 20-something, hungry and wearing only an athletic supporter. If this sounds impossible, I thought so, too, until my patrol partner chased down a guy dressed just like that one Halloween night and arrested him for disorderly conduct. The guy was drunk and had been dared by friends to go out as such as a practical joke. The trick part was, I’ll admit, somewhat creative. But the treat was a night in jail and a $250 fine.
For the sake of argument, let’s agree that Halloween is for excited children dressed in costume, and not for vandals, drunks and/or teenage moochers. So, did your parents make you stop, or was it simply something you outgrew on your own?
In my experience, girls typically stopped going first — right around the time they got interested in cosmetics. Makes sense. They mature faster than boys.
Boys — and I mean your average male lout — will continue trick-or-treating until an intervention becomes necessary. In my case, it was being tied to a chair by the Old Man when I was 13.
I was furious at being kept from an annual ritual of mayhem. I sulked until the following morning, when I learned that my two closest friends hadn’t been allowed to go either.
By previously arranged parental conspiracy, Danny was locked in a toolshed, and Sammy’s mom had the neighbor chain him to a pipe in the basement. That was Sammy’s story anyway. We found out later that he had spent the evening suck-facing with his girlfriend on the phone.
Now that it’s been established that trick-or-treating is for kids, let’s agree that adults can/should go — but only as monitors or backup against troublemakers. It’s a strange world out there.
Mandatory equipment for trick-or-treaters is a discernible costume, a bag or container for candy, and some type of illumination device to keep from tripping or getting hit by traffic.
Adult chaperones also should be properly equipped. For starters, they should carry an even larger illumination device to determine which of the looting hordes is theirs and to make sure they don’t get hit by a car as well.
Note: Military grade aerial flares — while fun — are illegal. Stick with lanterns or flashlights.
The chaperones also should be burdened with a blanket or jacket for their kids in case the pursuit of sugar leans toward hypothermia — a distinct possibility, given this week’s forecast.
A can of bear mace or some other chemical repellent can be handy to use on older kids or perverts looking to exploit the sudden appearance of so many potential victims.
Finally, have a safe word or phrase that signals the night is over and it’s time to head home. Try to avoid something kids naturally ignore, like, “OK, let’s go home” or “That’s it; we’re done now!”
Phrases like that are automatically interpreted in a kid’s head as “Continue doing what you’re doing” or “Pay no attention to the furious man or woman on the sidewalk.”
The final phase of trick-or-treating is the “tax phase,” which takes place at home when the loot is dumped out and the chaperones exact their share.
Yeah, technically, you’re still trick-or-treating, but it’s by proxy.
Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.