Lost Among Europeans

Trick or treat?

Last Friday was Halloween. At work they took this seriously: the assistants printed out sheets of paper that said “Treats available in this office”. People who had sweets pasted those sheets on their office doors. At 3pm, the children of employees started showing up in their hunt for candy. It was cute to see their parents trying to teach them manners: “Now say Thank You!”.

My colleague Jim has very nice children. The older one was dressed up as Spiderman, and I asked “Wow, are you dressed as Batman?”. He said: “No, Spiderman!”. I said: “Oh, yeah? Well, where’s the spider?”. To this he froze, not knowing how to answer. He probably hadn’t considered that Spiderman was related to spiders. His mother chuckled, asked him to say thanks for the candy, and pushed him on to the next office.

I was struck by the lack of curiosity on the part of most of the children. None of them seemed to be talkative, or to want to show off their costumes, or to want to play. It was all about the candy, they were all on a mission. I told this to my office-mate Jon, and he said: “Well, remember these are children of software developers!” to which we both laughed. I found the explanation a bit jarring, though.

I have become as suspicious of a tech profession given as an explanation for poor social skills, as I have of arguments citing evolution to explain gender differences. Every time I hear “Well, if you think about it, it makes sense: men were historically hunters, whereas women …” I want to slap the person saying it. Please, new explanations, these are total rubbish!

About the children: I have seen children in the office at other times, and they seemed freer. For instance, Jim’s children were fascinated with my ID badge, which hangs off a retractable reel from my belt. They kept pulling it and letting it go, and excitedly told me about the last game they had played and how fun it had been.

I wonder about this Halloween trick-or-treating custom. I’m not sure I like it.

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