Saturday, November 1, 2014

Candy Trade

I’ve sat through business school courses and business meetings, but I think the best view of calm, civil negotiation was the trick-or-treat candy swap at my sister’s house on Halloween night.

On this night, my nieces donned their costumes (a pirate skeleton and a creepy, haunted version of an American Girl doll) and I applied their makeup to complete the looks. Then they played in the driveway and handed out candy to the first Halloween visitors as they patiently awaited the arrival of their cousins and a couple friends.

Meanwhile, I marveled at their patience. When I was ten or twelve, I would probably have gone certifiably insane counting the precious minutes lost in the door-to-door begging and tabulating the candy I might be missing. What if some houses ran out before we got there because our friends were late?

When everyone finally arrived, the five kids walked the neighborhood gathering candy, escorted by three dads and two moms. Back at my sister’s, a group of adults and the two teen-aged cousins gathered in the dining room snacking from the table laden with food. Out in the driveway, candy was quietly handed out. At the end of trick-or-treat, the kids returned, shed parts of the costumes now deemed unnecessary, convened in the living room, and dumped the candy onto the floor.

The kids sorted their candy. Pirate niece had a neat circle of treats that looked like a clock face, and doll niece had a pattern of tidy piles. The boys were less artistic in their heaps, but still organized. I was resisting the urge to count everything. It was hard. I like candy statistics. I used to sort M&Ms by color and note the results, tracking the averages for vending machine and half-pound bags. But I’m weird like that.

One boy (a cousin) left some candy in his double-bagged plastic grocery sack, which I pointed out to him. He nonchalantly said, “Oh, it’s okay, I don’t care.” Whatever. I didn’t really care, either. I was just an observer resisting the urge to create tallies and graphs and charts of the loot, trapped in a corner of the room by five kids and a rug full of candy. I was too far from the other adults to participate in their conversation, so I ate tiny cocktail wieners in barbecue sauce and watched the trading floor.

The candy piles were impressive -- each kid had at least one full-sized candy bar (mostly Hershey bars) and two or three small bags of popcorn or chips. Chocolate treats ruled, with fun-sized KitKats dominating. (Maybe they were on sale.) Plentiful little packs of red Twizzlers, but not black. The kids noted the absence of Good & Plenty and the rarity of M&Ms and Skittles. There was not a single example of my own most hated Halloween candy -- the nasty Necco wafers. Talk about lucky kids.

Civilized action on the trading floor.
Trading proceeded for close to thirty minutes. “Who likes Snickers?”  “Who wants Skittles?”  “Anyone like Almond Joy?” Pirate-niece methodically traded candy for almost all the chips and popcorn. Doll-niece held fast to the only full-sized KitKat in the room, even though her cousin kept sweetening the deal until he had offered up nearly half his candy in trade, and despite my whispering to her that it was a good deal based on sheer volume. It was a weird attempted trade, as he had his own pile of fun-sized KitKat bars, but he wanted the big one. Desperately. Finally sick of the badgering, doll-niece announced she was done, calmly returned her candy (including the coveted full-sized KitKat) to her orange bag, stood up, and got herself a hot dog. Soon, her sister and the boys followed suit.

As the kids bagged up their candy, the cousin who wanted that full-sized KitKat bar looked in his sack and dramatically announced, “Oh, hey, I forgot about this candy here!” and tried to reactivate trading. None of the kids fell for what seemed like the shady, contrived introduction of the candy he had earlier told me he didn’t care about. When the trading floor has closed, it’s over. It was time for hot dogs.

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