Saturday, October 31, 2009

Third-Graders Behind Nationwide Extortion Ring

When I lived in London I dated a girl who had a couple of uncles. They were well-dressed men with heavy East End accents whose line of business was not discussed in polite company. Their main income derived from visiting pubs and inquiring if the landlord had fire insurance. When, as was usually the case, the landlord replied that he had, the uncles would recommend that he got more. From them. Now. Because, well, you know John, these old pubs, bloody tinderbox, know what I mean? All these cigarettes, right, mean to say, one match, whole place could go up, couldn't it?

It turns out that this particular method of selling fire insurance is regarded as illegal in most countries, including the United Kingdom. I was under the impression that extortion was also a crime in the U.S., but there appears to be a loophole. Specifically, every October 31st hordes of heavily-disguised children, aided and abetted in the conspiracy by their parents, extort candy and assorted novelty items from anyone owning or renting a home.

"Trick or treat?"

Or as the uncles might have put it "Fire or money?"

I have never been fond of Halloween since the year my ex-wife decided we would stick a rotting pumpkin on the front steps and stock the shelves with candy. I felt it wise to feign enthusiasm for the project and thus, when the doorbell was accompanied by the sound of young voices, I opened the door with a bucket of treats.

I should explain at this point that on this particular Halloween I was considerably lighter than my usual 140 lbs due to a recent jaw infection. At just over six feet tall the term "thin" didn't come close to describing my build. As a heavy smoker I also have sunken cheeks. My usual attire in the evening is a three-quarter length tux, shades, and black hat. I think I look pretty cool. The trick-or-treaters apparently did not. One boy screamed, a second ran away, and the unfortunate girl dressed as a cat peed her pants.

Their parents, who were sitting in a heavily-armored SUV a few feet away, were absolutely furious. As mother comforted her distraught offspring, father stomped up to my door and in a menacing tone asked me "what the 'H' 'E' double hockey sticks" I thought I was doing. When I realized that I could shut the front door before he could get his foot in it I told him to fuck off.

It still baffles me that trick-or-treating maintains its nationwide popularity despite razor blades in Twinkies and people like me. This year I was considering putting out a pumpkin and leaving the light on. And when the brats mumbled "trick or treat" I was going to say "trick, please," mostly out of curiosity. What cunning trick would they play on me? I abandoned the project because I suspect even a third-grader has enough of a grasp of risk-reward and hourly rate that performing a trick is, for them, a negative expectation value proposition.

But I'm still going to put out a pumpkin or three.

Happy Halloween.


  1. I knew there was a sentimentalist buried in there somewhere!

  2. Funny that I read this blog post then not an hour later, see the following web comic: