Trick-or-treating ain’t no game.
No, it’s a life lesson in goal-setting, planning, and tactical execution. Kids who master trick-or-treating go on to become successful world leaders. Kids who don’t could possibly also do the same, but with less chocolate to show for it. The point is that chocolate is delicious, and you should fill your pillowcase with as much of it as possible. You just have to master the 4 Rules Of Strategic Trick-Or-Treating first:
1. Mo’ money, mo’ problems.
In terms of where to go trick-or-treating, there’s always a lot of chatter about getting a drive over to the rich neighborhood for the big score. People would have you believe that the rich enjoy lavishing children with unopened boxes of twinkies and full cases of root beer. But that’s a lie! Rich people got rich by being cheap and their massive front yards will just slow you down. That’s right, you’ll be navigating wrought-iron fences, duck-shaped hedges, and koi ponds instead of ringing doorbells. Instead, aim for the new neighborhood with little kids and the all-important densely packed homes.
2. Dress for success.
Trick-or-treating is a race against the clock, so set yourself up for success by wearing running shoes and avoiding masks that affect your visibility. No ballet slippers, high heels, or sandals. No robes, capes, or togas. And none of those cheap plastic masks from the dollar store that attach with a thin elastic and a couple of staples. Basically, keep simplifying your costume and then timing yourself running up and down the basement stairs until you’ve found a winner. If in doubt, go as Carl Lewis.
3. Partner up.
It will be tempting to form a trick-or-treating posse and move from door to door as one big, shifty amoeba of fluorescent tape and facepaint. Resist that temptation. The amoeba will cause two problems: first, the group will travel at the speed of the slowest member. That means one kid with flat feet and asthma ruins everyone’s night. Secondly, a big group triggers the rationing instinct in the person handing out candy. They become overwhelmed and default to the “One for you, one for you” candy-for-everyone technique. You don’t want that. So instead, you need to pick one partner. Qualifications for that lucky someone include a low resting heart rate, winning smile, and really cute costume. The last one is key. The costume must trigger the “Aren’t you adorable!” reflex, which inspires extra candy. The gold standard here is a fit toddler in a ladybug costume with new Reeboks.
4. Timing is everything.
The last rule is all about the three key stages of Halloween candy collecting. Times may vary depending where you’re from, but they go something like this:
The 4 – 6pm Start Up: You must be very active and running around here, before the street gets too busy. This is your time to hit the houses at the peak of their inventory levels, when they may hand out more because of excess supply or poor foresight.
The 6 – 7pm Rest Up: This is when the streets are their busiest. Don’t get caught in other people’s amoebas. Now’s the time to go home and dump out the pillowcase and refresh the face paint. Also, it’s a good time to hit your local fast-food joints. McDonald’s is usually pretty generous.
The 7 – 9pm Clean Up: Now it’s all about picking up the scraps. Some houses will be left with too much candy and they’ll start giving handfuls instead of fingerfuls. Others will feel guilty about running out and start handing out creative treats from their kitchen like cups of pudding or boxes of Jello powder. The Clean Up stage is a real test of your cardio fitness levels, as many houses will have turned out their lights by now, forcing you to zig-zag the street in search of the remaining bounty.
Now that you’ve got a game plan, just remember to keep it clean out there. Under cover of night and camouflage facepaint some folks venture into the murky trick-or-treating ethical gray zone. Stay away from these folks, because while they’re telling people it’s their birthday too, collecting a second bag for a ‘sick sibling at home’, or body-checking toddlers into bushes on their way up the walk, you can rest knowing that you came out to play by the rules.
And you won.