I wandered into my neighborhood liquor store on Wednesday to pick up a six pack of aiming juice for curling and noticed they were setting up for Halloween.
“So, you guys going to hand out little bottles of liquor to the kids?” (This is my favorite old man liquor store joke next to “It’s not like I’m going to return it,” when asked if I want a copy of my receipt).
“No, we are going to give little tastes of wine to any parents who want one, and we have all of that for the kids.”
I looked to my left and saw three massive pumpkins full of individually wrapped, tiny, plastic sealed sugar goodness. There isn’t a king sized pillowcase in the world that could have hauled off that diabetic booty.
My heart sank a little bit since I knew that parents feel more comfortable letting their kids get candy from a store than to actually take them door-to-door through our neighborhood.
Here’s what happens every year:
We buy a bunch of candy and get really excited to see all of the kids in their costumers—little Batkids, robots, ghosts and football players (I expect a lot of Jared Allens tonight as nothing says “fun” like dressing your child up in a number 69 jersey) being forced to mumble “thank you” by their parents all night. Then a few hours before the big event, get really irritated at the grocery store as all of the kids are in massive lines, blocking everything I need to get to (mixers and cheese) because they are trick-or-treating INSIDE the store. Between 5:30 and 7, maybe ten kids stop by our house for candy. Then we have a break until 8 PM, when the high school kids show up uncostumed. By the third one of them, I drop an entire bag of no-longer-fun sized candy into the kid’s bag and turn off the porch light.
Normally when we talk about the commercialization of a holiday, we think of CVS stocking Christmas stuff in October or Valentine’s Day chocolates the day after Christmas. We talk about how holidays exist solely for the purpose of selling us stuff, and not how companies are taking the holiday from us. Minimum wage retail employees being forced to work on Thanksgiving Day is the real war on Christmas. That’s not a real door buster HDTV, Charlie Brown.
Instead of Smarties from the odd family on the corner house, it’s Peppermint Patties at Subway. Rather than chatting about how cold it is with our neighbors, it’s kale chips at Whole Foods. “I hear the Trader Joe’s is handing out full flax-seed bars! Score!”
One year when I was little, I got a pair of white dress shoes from my grandpa and borrowed a briefcase from my dad. I slicked back my hair, put on a red sweater vest and went as a door-to-door insurance salesman, thereby illustrating my generation’s well developed sense of irony before I even understood what irony was. Also, my briefcase was stocked with candy cigarettes. I predated the integration of Halloween and companies years before I had the tables turned on me.
This isn’t Citizens United; these are just some employees handing out candy in lieu of me getting to do it.
Much like the tiny shopping carts advertising “customers in training,” this too perpetuates the concept that commerce is essential to our identity. It defines our communities by our stores rather than by our people.
Maybe I’m just turning into a cranky old man, but one night a year I do want kids on my lawn.
On the bright side, I hear Chipotle is handing out cups of guac.