Rice cakes just don't make very good Halloween treats

October 22, 1998|By KEVIN COWHERD

HALLOWEEN is almost here, that magical evening when children go door-to-door extorting candy from their jittery elders. For you young people out to make the big score, here are some eternal truths about the art of trick-or-treating:

No matter how elaborate or realistic-looking your costume, you will inevitably encounter an adult who will cock his head to one side like a confused Labrador retriever and ask: "And what are you supposed to be?'

Don't take this personally. Don't bark: "Let's see, raggedy black dress, pointy black hat, broomstick, hook nose ... I'm one of the Spice Girls, OK?"

These people mean well. They're just ... well, they're just a little slow, is all.

A word or two about your Halloween mask.

As a nation, we have put a man on the moon, developed super-computers the size of your finger and powerful antibiotics that have virtually eradicated an entire classification of infections.

Yet we have not made great strides with the basic Halloween mask. Therefore, no matter how hard you try to adjust the cheap rubber band in back, the mask will slip all over your face all evening long.

Breathing will be difficult and your cheeks will soon take on the pink, feverish glow of someone who's been locked in the broiling trunk of a car for 36 hours.

Plus you won't be able to see a thing and will very likely trip over an upraised portion of the sidewalk and open a gash in your chin, necessitating a panicky ride to the emergency room.

Nevertheless, this is the price we must pay to celebrate this wonderful evening. It is not a night for sissies.

At some point, you will ring a doorbell and come face-to-face with the trick-or-treater's worst nightmare: the Health Nuts.

This the clear-eyed, square-jawed couple who begin each day FTC with 50 push-ups and a three-story-high bowl of Kellogg's Special K.

And from their first, booming greeting ("Well, what have we here?!") it will become painfully clear this is a couple that doesn't believe in giving candy to children, as it promotes obesity, hyper-activity, tooth decay, blah, blah, blah.

Instead, they will give you an apple. Or a box of raisins. Or rice cakes. Or carrot sticks.

Your first instinct, naturally, will be to grab these people by the lapels, shake them hard and scream: "RICE CAKES?! You're handing out$%&* RICE CAKES on HALLOWEEN?!"

Don't do it. Don't make a scene. Accept the boring items they give you with a polite thank-you.

If you then feel a burning need to toilet paper their house, there's not a court of law in this land that wouldn't rule in your favor.

There are only about six people in the entire world who like Mary Janes, those ugly brown, taffy-like candies with the peanut butter taste.

Nevertheless, because certain misguided adults buy these things on deep discount at the Rite-Aid and insist on handing them out year after year, you will have no less than 75 Mary Janes in your bag at the end of the evening.

Don't bother trying to trade them with your friends.

If you sing out "I'll trade you five Mary Janes for that Kit Kat bar," your friends will look at you as if you're trying to unload the intestines of a groundhog.

M&Ms, Snickers, Kit Kats, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups -- these are still your primo, top-shelf candies.

You pull a full-size Snickers out of your bag when trading begins at the end of the night, you're dealing from a position of enormous strength. You're the Microsoft of your group, is what I'm saying.

Look, you work the gig any way you want. But I always found it better to trick-or-treat later in the evening.

Here's why: As the night wears on and the number of trick-or-treaters slows to a trickle, adults become more generous.

See, they don't want any extra candy laying around the house, because then they'll end up eating it themselves and blowing up to 325 pounds and receiving an annual Christmas card from the cardiologist after that triple by-pass operation.

So now, instead of giving you one bag of Jolly Ranchers, they're saying "Here, take this" and pressing five bags of the stuff in your hands.

Believe me, you can really score big at times like this.

Another reason to trick-or-treat late: If adults are running low on candy, they tend to panic and give you all sorts of cool stuff instead, just so they don't disappoint you.

I've seen adults give away juice packs, cans of Coke, even dollar bills in lieu of candy.

If you play your cards right, you could probably walk away with a CD player or a blow-dryer.

The great ones know: It's all in the timing.

Pub Date: 10/22/98

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