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Five trick-or-treating disasters, and how to fix them

Fix a costume quickly, clean egg off your house and stay warm this Halloween.

As Jerry Seinfeld once said, the only clear thought a kid is capable of is: "Get candy." So as you send (or accompany) your kids out to fulfill that mission, here's a list of things that can go wrong while trick-or-treating, and some easy fixes.

  1. Wardrobe malfunction. Nothing is worse than getting a few blocks into the candy rounds when suddenly a costume begins to come undone (I'm talking store-bought here, not your fine homemade craftsmanship). That's why it's a good idea, if you're guiding the hunt tonight, to bring a bag yourself with just a few simple supplies: rubber bands, binder clips and duct tape. There is no costume in the world that cannot be fixed with these three DIY lynchpins.
  2. Egg on your face. I remember every single year I trick-or-treated, there was a rumor about nefarious and unseen "older kids" roving in shadowy hordes, ready to egg houses, cars and kids in costume. Egg is fairly easy to remove from a person, but if you're unlucky enough to have your house or car hit, the best tip is to use warm, not hot water when washing it off (hot water will actually cook the egg onto the surface, making it more difficult to remove the residue). And mix a little dish detergent into the water as well. There's actually a long Popular Mechanics article about it that's an amusing read. My favorite tip is to wet the wall below where the egg struck before trying to wash it off, to make the surface less absorptive.
  3. Stuck at home. Both you and your partner want to take the kid trick or treating, but you don't want to be the house on the block that doesn't hand out candy. This is a serious conundrum. You can just leave a bucket out on the front steps, but you do run the risk of just handing over an entire bucket of candy to the first rapscallion to check if anyone's looking and run off with the loot. The best advice for this is to not sweat it, it's out of your control. But a tip I heard from a friend of mine could work, too: Put the lousy candy on top. If a greedy kid gets to your unguarded stash and thinks it's just full of dozens of Good 'n Plenty pellet bags, you could avoid unlawful seizure (that is, by the unwritten laws of Halloween).
  4. Toilet-papered trees. Do people still do this? Again, it seems more the stuff of legend than contemporary teenage prank nowadays. Or it's done in celebration of Coach Taylor in Friday Night Lights, or something. Still, should it happen, your best bet is to try to get it down immediately, before it gets wet, and to wrap some duct tape—sticky side out—to the end of a broom handle, and clear it all out.
  5. Freezing weather. Informal chats around the office have revealed that pretty much everyone was traumatized by having to wear a warm coat over a particularly awesome costume, thus killing the effect. Obviously, the only real way to guard against this is to layer up beneath the costume with long underwear. Another option is if your kid has any sort of biking-gear, made for colder weather. Personally, my son will be wearing one of those weird UV-protection swim shirts that young kids wear, which holds in heat well and won't bulk up the costume.
Of course, there are a number of other safety tips for trick-or-treating: Arm your kids with a flashlight (or even put a reflector on the back of their costume, if they don't protest against its ruination), and keep an eye on the candy for unwrapped items or questionable popcorn balls (just a matter of taste, really). And equip them with a hard plastic bucket or the classic pillow case: There is no greater Halloween disaster than loading up a plastic bag with Butterfingers, and watching them all pour out a rip in the bottom.

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