Halloween? There’s A"Mapp" For That

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“This one?” the kid said.

“Wait, let me check the map, no not here, we need to go three more houses,” replied Mom.

This is my imagined conversation in the age of new and improved Trick or Treating, because now there is an app to manage Halloween, compliments of Nextdoor. For the uninitiated, Nextdoor is “the private social network for you, your neighbors and your community. It's the easiest way to talk with neighbors online and make all of your lives better in the real world.” Only it’s not the real world, it’s a tech version of the real world. Basically, it’s the modern version of hanging over the back fence to chat with the neighbors and find out the latest updates on what is happening in the “hood.”

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I joined a few years ago and found it useful for selling stuff, finding out who was not picking up their dog’s poop and pictures accompanied by, “who’s car is this? It's been parked in front of my house for a week.” My favorite is when someone posts a question such as, “Does anyone hear that banging noise? What’s going on?” From that comes an onslaught of “I hear it too, I don’t hear  it, I hear it near downtown, what’s happening?” No longer do you need to go outside, give a listen and cluster around with the neighbors trying to figure it out. Think an online version of Gladys Kravitz from Bewitched and you get the idea.

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Nextdoor is now set on improving Halloween by posting a “Treat Map” and inviting members to indicate if they are giving out treats, hosting a haunted house, giving out allergy free/non-food treats or doing nothing. Each choice is marked by an icon on the map, including a blue pumpkin for gluten free treats. I’m not sure what the “do nothing” icon is, seems no one wants to own up to that option on a public platform. Not surprisingly, this handy map even has its own corporate sponsor.

In my days of trick or treating we were sent out to seek our sugar laden fortune armed with only a pillow case to hold the loot. No cell phone, no reflective costume, no flashlight and pretty much no boundaries. There was the inner circle of our immediate neighborhood, the next circle of houses farther out, and if we were daring enough, the unknown beyond. Halloween felt like an epic adventure and we were in charge of our own candy coated destiny.

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The candy was earned, it wasn’t just handed to us. Ok, it was handed to us but we had to hunt it down without the benefit of a map. We came home when porch lights were turned off and the candy had run out. When our bags were heavy, we were tired and it was time to divide up the loot and start the candy trade negotiations.

Halloween has changed greatly since my days in a costume and most of the changes are for valid safety reasons. But a map that tells you where the candy can be found? In the age of everyone's a winner, there are no surprises and kids get what they want from overindulgent parents, Halloween is one of the few remaining mysteries. An exciting night of great anticipation and unknown outcomes. We have bubble wrapped, sanitized and scheduled most of the spontaneity out of childhood, but for the love of candy, let’s not micromanage Halloween.

Halloween night should be a rare chance for kids to wander the neighborhood, untethered to a screen; to use their critical thinking skills to decide if a house is worth the walk to the door. Where is the challenge of knowing ahead of time who is giving out treats? I have a vision of kids and parents walking along, eyes to a screen looking for the house with candy, skipping the allergy free house and the “do nothing” losers. Where is the thrill of the hunt? Sure, you might be disappointed with the house giving out stickers or ring a few bells and get nothing for your trouble, but those stops make the full sized candy bar score all the sweeter. Literally.

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Nothing is guaranteed in life and Halloween is no exception. Sometimes you get a king sized Hershey bar and sometimes you get a temporary tattoo.. The more effort you put in, the more likely you are to score the big bar. As with most things in life, it's often the adventure along the way that brings as much reward as the treasure you seek.

Regina Stoops is a comedian, writer, MS Warrior and Autism Mom living with her wife and three kids in the San Francisco Bay Area. Click here to subscribe to her Normal Notes blog.

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