Halloween. That one gloriously ghoulish night when you dress up like a zombie, pound on the doors of strangers and walk away with a Fun Size Three Musketeers bar. Try pulling that in mid-April and the only thing you’re walking away with is 60 hours of community service and an ankle tether. Yes, I’m a big fan of Halloween, but that doesn’t mean I’m any good at it. The defeats are often staggering, but dressing up like a werewolf and riding a Pixie Stix sugar buzz until four in the morning kind of levels things out for me.

And speaking of leveling everything out, some disclosure of my Halloween lows may help you enjoy a few more Halloween highs. I’ve kept a journal of my Halloween foibles – the Butterfinger Diaries – and it is chocked full of friendly advice. For example, purchasing a costume at Costco requires a communal approach. The selection is impressive, but every costume comes bundled with eight masks, twelve capes and a 35-gallon drum of Renuzit. Plan accordingly.

Some more friendly advice – Always carry proper rain attire. One year I covered the kids’ wagon with an orange vinyl Welcome Hunters banner from the convenience store. We stayed dry, but other dads kept coming up to me and trying to buy Natural Light Ice and Jalapeno Cheddar Combos. It was pretty sad for all of us.

Here are a few excerpts for your review. No matter how your night plays out, you can find solace in the fact that you’re not me. If there’s one thing I know how to do, it’s make those around me look pretty darn good. Even when I’m dressed like a convenience store.

Tricked out – just give ‘em the candy.

Halloween 2007: Despite the fact that every person on your front porch will utter the phrase with conviction and enthusiasm, there is no trick in “Trick or Treat.” Somehow I’ve always known this, but the governor on that little voice in my head often takes a long lunch and forgets to have someone cover the desk. A few years ago I posited the request to a gaggle of ghosts and goblins, and the results were unsavory.

“You want us to do a trick?” asked Hannah Montana.

“For Smarties?” fumed Captain Jack Sparrow.

“He’s giving out Smarties?!” groused Freddy Krueger. I don’t mean to judge, but who sends their nine-year-old out into the darkness as Freddy Krueger?

It was apparent that I had crossed a forbidden line with my request, and I backpedaled as best I could. I offered to supplement the Smarties with other treats: a fresh cup of decaf or an Allen wrench – their choice. It didn’t resolve itself the way I’d hoped.

Lesson: Turns out you really need to use warm, soapy water and wash that egg completely away before the sun comes up and bakes it into the hood of your car.

Looks good on you, though – the office costume party.

Halloween 2001: The workplace is a lot like your first apartment after college. Every waking hour is filled with the dreadful thought that you’ve made a horrible mess of your life, and someone down the hall smells like cumin.

So why in the world would you want a costume party with your co-workers? Because the corporate rumor mill has you convinced that successful social interactions in the workplace lead to pay raises, larger cubicles and a little more distance between you and the bathroom with the broken exhaust fan.

The calendar says it’s Halloween, but the schedule still says budget meeting – a budget meeting that is now populated with plushies, harlots and way too many men taking advantage of the opportunity to wear tube tops and mini skirts.

There’s one other thing the calendar still says as well – on-site visit from the regional manager. Turns out the regional manager is the mother of the nine-year-old Freddy Krueger, and as luck would have it she ends up in the bathroom (the one with the broken exhaust fan) with two of your crossdressing colleagues. New policy this year: everyone is on probation.

Lesson: If you must celebrate Halloween with these people, pool your money and select a tasteful costume combination from Costco. No one will be pepper sprayed by the regional manager, and the 35-gallon drum of Renuzit will come in handy, too. That stuff really does a number on cumin.

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