Al Batt: They made haste slowly, were laughing when police arrived

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt

Even the compass pointed to Halloween.

Al Batt

Like Don Quixote, I fight imaginary villains. I needed to do a few electronic signatures. This resulted in a series of blunders and frustrations. I used my forefinger to scribble what was supposed to be my signature on the screen of an electronic device. It wasn’t good. I know it needn’t have been perfect, but I wanted it to be readable. It was as if my pointer finger was inhabited by the spirit of a departed individual whose handwriting was even worse than mine. No wonder this visitant was a tortured soul if that were the case. During my formative years, I did my homework on a rough-riding school bus with a driver who found it impossible to miss a single pothole. That didn’t foster good penmanship.

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My finger was preparing for Halloween.

Not long after that, I received a press release claiming Minnesota drivers are the 20th best in the nation. Part of me thinks that’s ludicrous and the other part of me agrees. I say we’re at least the 19th best in the nation. Every good driver is a bad driver, too. That has nothing to do with Halloween, but it’s scary.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared the ivory-billed woodpecker extinct. A birding buddy occasionally wears his thick hair in a Halloweenish tribute to that bird.

To boo or not to boo. Halloween was an odd adventure during my boyhood. All year, it was don’t take candy from strangers. Then one day, you could grab all the candy you could from anyone. Trick-or-treating restored my faith in serious hoping. I learned quickly. The secret was to eat all the candy my parents liked best before I got home. Then eat the candy that melted the fastest. Asking the kind people giving me candy about their return policy proved unproductive.

A couple told me they had given out something healthy last year — business cards for fitness centers. I hope they hired security this year.

I remember fondly a Halloween walk with small grandchildren. I was pleased to bask in the happy fires of youth and I’d suggested one of the young ladies wear a pointy black hat and a long black dress covered with light bulbs. She could go as a lights witch. My superiors quickly vetoed that idea. My superiors are everyone else in my family. A man needs to know his place. The trick-or-treating went as trick-or-treating is supposed to. There was but one minor glitch. Someone hollered, “Trick or trout!” That someone was me. It was a cute phase I was going through. I had no feeble excuses or lame alibis. Therefore, I got the look from everyone including a yellow Lab raising its leg on a tree in a well-appointed yard. I was proud of not blurting out the old standby, “Trick or treat, smell my feet. Give me something good to eat.” Once the kids had bags containing candy, one girl, instead of holding out her bag at a door, reached into her bag and offered candy to the homeowner. I considered correcting her, but the idea of replacing greed with giving was refreshing. Why not go door-to-door and give people things? That would be a fine way to get rid of the excess zucchini produced in my garden. The problem is zucchini comes in a four-pack and I plant them all in case there is a zucchini crop failure as there was during the great zucchini famine of 1904. I’ll pause here to allow you to shudder.

I’ve been told everything happens for a reason. Sometimes that reason is foolishness. I recall being about the age my grandchildren were on that day one tried to dispense candy, when local boys had tipped over an outhouse (privy, outbuilding, backhouse, biffy or earth-closet). There were fewer warning labels in antiquity, but outhouses were common before they moved indoors to escape our harsh winters. An outhouse is always too far away in the winter and too close to the house in the summer. The mischievous boys thought their prank was funny, so funny they took too long to laugh. They made haste slowly and were still laughing when the police arrived. They stopped laughing, but it was too late. The potty was over.

Al Batt’s columns appear in the Tribune every Wednesday.