Listen—this is it. Game time. You’ve been honing your edge all year, stealing gum from the treat drawer and whining for candy at Walgreens. Now’s when the hard work pays off.

Few things to remember:

  1. You’re an animal, and this is your habitat.
  2. This is the first trick or treat after the pandemic, so it’s gonna be lit. People are gonna be exuberant. Making bad decisions. More tolerant of kid hijinks. Use that to your advantage.
  3. It’s a zero-sum game out there. Every piece of candy you don’t get goes into the gaping, cavity-filled maw of some other kid. So you need a tight strategy. Know your preferred streets. Which houses on each block to hit early before the good stuff runs out. How to move like a ninja towards the candy bowl. And most importantly, how to extricate yourself from a mob of ghouls slowing you down.
  4. Always be polite. Say “Happy Halloween” when you walk up. If requested, do a little spin so they can admire your costume. Say thank you when you get the candy.
  5. Follow the rules of the house—if they say take one, don’t take two. These are your customers. You build up a good reputation, they’ll keep you in sugar through college.
  6. That said, if somebody tries to go all cheapskate on the distribution—handing out individual Starbursts or mini Tootsie Rolls or some bullshit like that, and asking you to “take just one, please”—all bets are off. This violates the gluttony-based Halloween social contract, and you are fully entitled to grab what you can. Run if you have to. That’s why we never wear gloves, ground-length costumes, or headgear that obstructs peripheral vision. Rookie mistakes.
  7. Say the goal with me again: CALORIE MAXIMIZATION. Your ancestors didn’t eat shoe leather in the Warsaw ghetto so that you could take a goddam lollipop when there is a Snickers left in the bowl. Remember the hierarchy:
    1. Any full-size candy bar besides Mounds. If you are handed a Mounds bar, inform me of the house address immediately, because son, you’ve just uncovered a pedophile ring.
    2. Snickers
    3. Anything made of marshmallow and covered in chocolate
    4. Heath bar. Note these house addresses as well, because these are people of taste and sophistication, and your mother and I need more friends
    5. Reese’s cups and Twix
    6. Kit Kat
    7. M&M’s, peanut
    8. M&M’s, regular
    9. 100 Grand/Crackle/Crunch Bar (note—these people are probably French, but live and let live)
    10. Hershey’s kisses (handful—see #5 above)
    11. Whoppers. Let me take this moment to remind you that all American malted candies suck, but we still eat them in full belief that a better time will come when British Maltesers will once again be made available in these United States.
    12. Cadbury’s Crème Egg. The only reason this is not number 1 is that you will never, ever be given one, so I don’t want you to get distracted thinking about it. Eyes on the prize. But if by some miracle this gets dropped into your bag, treasure it, because it’s like finding a unicorn that’s also from the future and knows all the upcoming baseball scores in advance and can tap them out in morse code. It’s that rare.
    13. Candy corn. I personally love candy corn—waxy outside, chewy inside, a long hit of vanilla on the back end. For some reason, it’s a source of controversy, but trust me: it’s a perfect snack to power you through to those forgotten but crucial side streets on a wet All Hallow’s Eve.
    14. Skittles, starburst
    15. Lollipops, hard candies, smarties, etc blah blah. This is the true bottom of the barrel and basically not worth taking unless it’s a root beer blow pop. I’ve been down this road, and friend, the only thing awaiting you at the end is heartbreak and a root canal.
  8. Once you have the candy, you bring it home for your mother and I to inspect. As you know, all Hershey’s Cookie and Cream automatically belongs to me. All Butterfingers go to mom. The rest you may apportion according to your skill and bravery on the field.
  9. Regardless, you will notice that the volume of candy will decrease dramatically by tomorrow morning. Despite what I told you earlier in your life, you are correct that this is not due to evaporation. It is because of the government. President Biden, an otherwise good man, decreed that as you sleep, a roving IRS agent breaks into your home and removes much of the candy, including all of the Hershey’s Cookie and Cream and Butterfingers that may have been missed during the droit du seigneur process. No crying – I don’t make the rules, I just live with them.
  10. Have fun, watch your partner’s six and stay safe out there.