Wednesday, October 27, 2010

This Just In: Halloween Scrooge On the Loose

This week I've been amused by the anxious hand-wringing on the LDS blogs about how to celebrate Halloween when it comes on Sunday like it does this year. Duh! Aren't the concepts of the sabbath and Halloween rather oxymoronic? Why is this even a point of discussion? It's just so blindingly obvious - You. DON'T. Celebrate. Halloween. On. Sunday. In fact, we personally don't celebrate it any other day of the week either.

Halloween is a ripoff, emotional blackmail to force you to buy something they don't need for somebody you don't know. When the kids left home we opted out of Halloween. Instead, we usually made plans to be somewhere else on October 31, like the temple, where we actually found a lot of other people who were there for the same reason - to avoid answering the doorbell – while accomplishing something truly worthwhile.

Roger accepts the premise of the holiday and is easily guilted into things. When he was teaching, he even buckled to pressure for all the faculty to wear costumes for Halloween, but he took it as a challenge to make his costume something that didn't interfere with the purpose of school. One year he simple put a bandage on his forehead and went as Gerald Ford. He liked to think big. Once he pinned a tin foil "C" of his shirt pockets and went as the North American continent - from "C" to shining "C." Another time he wore a blue shirt and a shell necklace and went as the Pacific Ocean.

I, however, do not buy into the myth; I will not make a social contract I don't intend to keep. Sometimes when we'd leave town or go out to dinner and shopping on Halloween, he was overwhelmed by visions of heartbroken sobbing children pounding on our abandoned front door, alas, to no avail. So he'd wimp out and put a bowl of candy on the porch for the poor little starving ragamuffins to help themselves while we were gone, a pathetic surrender to social pressure. When they came around selling things for a school fund raiser, I was a little more sympathetic, but when they came begging at my doorstep on Halloween, I refused to get sucked in. Well, I could probably deal with a couple of little ones, but it's the big ones with pillow cases setting their sights on a big haul that really make me want to chase them off with my broom.

I know, I know - what about all those darling little witches and goblins and hobos and space men whose mothers put so much thought and effort into their costumes, and the dads who braved the cold to accompany them around the neighborhood. Well, I think by mutual consent we could agree not to go through this charade again and we probably wouldn't miss it. After all, we probably won't be celebrating Halloween in the Millennium, and they'll have to change their traditions then. Personally, I'm already over it.

If I could, I'd deal with Halloween the way my grandmother often did - she'd stick out her false teeth and waggle them at the unsuspecting little beggars. Very often the kids would bolt off the porch forgetting the candy part of the "trick or treat" proposition. Yeah, that was one of many reasons why I loved my grandmother.

All my life I've been puzzled over the idea that getting your pants scared off was a good thing. I have never been a fan of being terrorized. My heart rate is just fine as it is, thank you very much. Vampires bore me, werewolves disgust me and Freddy Kruger needs to be institutionalized. Scary movies are a waste of time. What's the point in scaring people, or wanting to be scared? What does it prove or accomplish? I once parted company with a young suitor whose goal was to take me on the Wild Mouse roller coaster at Lagoon because it would scare me so much I'd no doubt be inclined to turn to him for comfort, and he'd be willing to comfort me, and, well, you get the picture. Not a very original ploy, but every dork-faced guy is willing to try the obvious things first. I realized that if that was his idea of thrills, we had had nothing in common.

You want to get really scared this Halloween? Think about voting two days later. Think about raising kids. Think about paying the bills. Now I've done it - I've scared myself.

What does thrill me? Certain kinds of music that touch my spirit, written words that lift my soul, works of art that please my eyes, raspberries, a Northwest forest, Mt. Hood, chocolate, a Pacific sunset, the faces of my grandchildren, hugs from people I love, words of gratitude and appreciation, reaching a long-worked-for goal, composing a finely-tuned sentence. That's probably enough sweetness right there to compensate for all that candy on all those holidays from October to February.

But Halloween? A cheap, trifling substitute for the real thing.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

This Nearly Was Mine

To look at the trash file in my email inbox, you'd think I've missed out on a lot of great stuff by so mindlessly tossing away all that spam.

Why, if I were only smart enough to see the possibilities, I could have had successful careers in photography, medical billing, paralegal, nursing, accounting, criminal justice, graphic design or religious studies. Probably not all at once, but the way the economy's going, I could choose one from Column A and one from Column B and make a pretty decent living.

Daily I'm offered social networking options from eharmony, bigbeautifulwomen, singlesnet, Christian singles and speed dating. With the click of a button, I could join the Disney movie club, arrange for laser eye surgery, get a free trip to Las Vegas or a great deal on life insurance. No wonder my head's all awhirl.

Orchard Bank wants to be my financial advisor, somebody else is ready to arrange a loan, and the payment committee of some vast fund that gives money away is trying desperately to contact me. Prizes are still "pending" from several other incredibly generous sources overburdened with aggravating amounts of extra cash. Dell wants to send me a free laptop, and everybody from Pizza Hut to Walmart wants to give me valuable gift certificates if I'll simply participate in an online survey. That's all they're asking.

I could even get a free tarot or palm reading if I simply go to a certain website. Sheesh - what was I thinking when I trashed that offer?

Oh, by the way, I know a great place you can get such a deal on a forklift rental.

And that's only the highlights of this week.

Spam is a curious name for electronic junk mail. People my age remember Spam as a kind of food that can only be described as canned "meat product" which had some popularity when we were children. On the label the product ingredient list was always rather vague. I remember it as a food that had to be creatively doctored up with something else, like pineapple or barbecue sauce, to make it palatable. Even in the early days of our marriage, my husband liked Spam as an alternate sandwich meat. (His philosophy: if you can't put it between two slices of bread, it's not real food.) Spam fell out of favor for a while, during the economically robust Reagan years, but it's making a comeback again. Does this mean Spam sales can be a reliable economic indicator? Now there's a subject for a master's thesis for some enterprising economics student.

But I digress. Non-food Spam is also a form of harassment, the gnats and mosquitoes of our lives that infect our electronic conveniences. Apparently the marketing guys who dream up this stuff have never been bothered by annoying insects. Either that or they don't understand the implications of "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." There's a special rung in Purgatory for spam marketers.

So many voices out there want my attention, and they're all dumping stuff in my inbox. And what will they do if I give them my attention? They'll be so grateful they'll continue their effort to engage in a long-term relationship with me no matter how many times I decline and put them in the "delete forever" box. A few times I've found something valuable inadvertently dumped into the spam file, but rarely. What we learn from this is that "delete forever" really means "change the access codes and try again next week." But I would worship at the feet of the person who could actually delete my email address from these mailing lists.

Still, the one spam message that stirs my curiosity simply says "Beyond the Rack" repeatedly, not giving me any clues in the subject line about the nature of the product, service or information being offered. Is this about getting a great deal on clothing? A sale on Medieval torture devices? You wouldn't think there's be much of a market for that. Or maybe it's about those metal devices you strap on your car to transport your skis. Maybe it refers to hunting, as in a rack of antlers, or a great cut of meat, like a rack of ribs. Might be about wall-mounted book shelves, or a place to display magazines. It couldn't be an invitation to something sado-masochistic. No, that's unthinkable.

I could find out easily enough if I just clicked on the link. Maybe...