What in the name of hell is this?
I scanned the place. Somehow, like a fool, I had landed my children and me in a very long line at dusk. Even worse, it was the sort of line we couldn’t escape, because of the expectations that were built up. The children would be (temporarily) devastated to abandon ship, even if the ship happened to be sailing…very, very slowly…through hell.
“So this is what a trunk-or-treat is,” I said aloud as I felt my eyes squinting into that look of loathing. Despite our normal Halloween night trick-or-treating in our neighborhood routine, we had decided to investigate just what this open-to-the-public collecting candy out of car trunks in a church parking lot stuff was all about...like suckers.
Then I realized that the place might have a saving grace: there were freaks in front of me. The term “freaks” might be an exaggeration, given that these characters are not exactly uncommon in my culture, but they are deserving of the name in my opinion. This might be because I am judgmental and harsh and all kinds of nasty things, but let’s leave the name calling of me for them.
I like a good character. By good, I might mean bad. Bad in a good way, only not in the good way you are thinking. This is the type of good that is reserved exclusively for the ridiculous—the makings of someone worth writing about. And so stood the family of freaks in front of me.
If You Have Seen One, You’ve Seen Them All
They all fit the same prototype. The women always have several young children with them, born very close together. The children are usually somewhat bedraggled and rarely talk. I always suspect they are developmentally delayed. The mothers are always wearing faded looking tank tops with many bursts of fat hanging in odd pockets here and there, like maybe they had installed various zippers in the skin and inserted a bit of fat to save for winter.
If you see one of these freaks, you will see the sharp words fall out of their mouths onto the tops of their mute children. Their faces will have a weird expression that is both haggard and vicious, and you can just tell that the dream of their youth was to be dramatic enough to end up on Jerry Springer.
Despite the reliably ragged jeans and odd shaped bottom half of these women’s bodies (due of course to additional pockets of fat), the women usually have a name brand purse, because of course the most important thing when you are poor is that you wear something with an expensive name on it. The men follow suit, with shabby looking beards and baggy t-shirts, completed with some expensive looking name brand sneakers. Their faces too are a bit of haggard and vicious, or just blank.
This is what American society has come to.
The words were just washing over my mind, rising faster and faster in time with the movement of the mist created by someone flicking on a fog machine somewhere up ahead.
Here we are waiting at a trunk-or-treat in a church parking lot because we no longer trust our neighbors, despite that almost everyone here identifies as a Christian. We are standing around in slovenly clothes with corporate names slathered on them because we would rather watch commercials than spend our time thinking.
The Christian Church Loomed Ahead
But its entrance was hidden by the voluptuous curves of that long line. It was becoming clear that there was an awkward attempt to assert some dominance over the pagan smelling holiday and the anti-angel incarnations that we have been summoning up from our fears of death for the last thousand years or so. I caught sight of a man dressed as a scarecrow with a large cross on his back. I blinked in confusion.
Blasting from large speakers was your standard pop music. Or so it seemed, until the intro to a well-known song was desecrated by a foreign voice, and any remotely racy lyrics replaced with something sedate.
This is homemade caramel. It is amazing. Forget those Snicker bars - you can do better.
Slowly the line began to move before us, and we moved too, like the back legs of a very long millipede, slowly moving to catch up with its front legs. My mind was moving much faster. It was shouting, although it couldn’t rally the voice box.
And here we are waiting in line as though we wait for our food rations, only we aren’t waiting for actual nutritious food—we are waiting to receive our share of GMO sugar, various artificial food dyes, and thousands of tiny little plastic packages that will be seen blowing across the sidewalks like tumbleweeds for the next several weeks!
Let’s Go Back Fifty Years or So
When my mom was a kid living in a small town, she would trick-or-treat at a few of her neighbor’s houses. She would get fudge, popcorn balls, or baked goods—all homemade. Back then people knew their neighbors and trusted them, so it wasn’t an issue.
Fast forward to the 1990’s, and there I was collecting commercially produced, increasingly expensive, miniature pieces of candy. But I didn’t care about eating the candy all that much—what I most cared about was collecting it. That was the fun part. This is true for my kids today.
At least half of their candy is going to disappear in the night, only to reappear at my husband’s office, where a bunch of adults can squabble over who gets the last bite-sized Snickers bar.
If the stuff costs a minimum of twenty dollars to provide enough for your neighborhood group of trick-or-treaters, and parents don’t even really want their kids to eat it, and the fun is actually in the collecting…maybe there is a better way?
Somehow, I don’t think crucifying a scarecrow has anything to do with improving Halloween and finding that better way, but churches and I frequently disagree.
Now, Where Were We?
Caramel. Sweet, sticky, ooey-gooey perfection...no, that's not where we were.
Calm down, self, you are freaking out. Each car has its trunk decorated with themes like Charlotte’s Web and The Little Mermaid. There are even games. It is not a picture of the degradation of American society—my god, you are such a downer. This is just a Halloween carnival, is all. This is fun!
And then I saw that full-grown man again, still dressed from head to toe in a scarecrow costume, walking around crucified to the wood that was attached behind him, and looking quite happy about it. And I was so confused.
What in the name of hell is this?