It’s basically impossible to think about anything but the election right now, hey? Let’s take a much-deserved break and look back two days (instead of forward one). We’ve earned it. On this fateful night before the most important election in memory, let’s look back at a decidedly bizarre Hallowe’en and its accidental savior: the Candy Chute.
Yes, I know it’s November 2nd. What can I say? I love Hallowe’en.
Questions ran rampant pre-Hallowe’en: with respect to physical distancing, would there be a way to do it safely at all? What could it even look like – and would anyone bother to participate? Houses up and down my street built little displays in their yards and decorated their windows, but until the night-of there was no telling if any of it would matter. Hallowe’en has a head-start on Covid by being the only holiday that encourages masks to begin with, but that was no promise folks would show up. With folks as reclusive as they’d been, who could blame everyone for staying home?
Plus, Vancouver has been in a record Covid spike for two weeks, and safety always has to come first. For Hallowe’en to happen at all, folks would have to get creative. And did they ever.
One house down the street caught on early. They ran a line of silver duct-insulation hose from a third floor attic window down to an immaculate statue of Dickbutt next to their sidewalk gate. The hosing drooped like a long grey snake, and it passed straight out Dickbutt’s head to the sidewalk, at chest-level. The idea was this: as kids walked up to the gate and signaled their presence, some adult 30 feet up in the attic would see them coming, place candy into the tube, and watch it zip out Dickbutt’s head at 10 miles an hour into some kid’s hands. It was a perfect, perfectly safe Hallowe’en Covid candy-drop solution; the biggest threat was getting hit in the eye by a Twix.
That house built their candy pipe around the tenth of October and just left it out as a template for the neighbours. It was the first invention I witnessed this year, but far from the last.
2020 was about to become the year of tubes.
All at once, everyone realized that the best way to deal with physical distancing would be to improvise candy-delivery mechanisms, and that the easiest way to do that was to head down to Home Depot and buy tubes. Lots of tubes. Some got creative and went with metal piping or a simple linen sheet strung down a set of landing stairs like a canopy, but most opted for eight to ten feet of PVC or plastic zap-strapped to a banister outside their porch. It was dead simple: kids walk up, adults wave hello, Covid-conscious candy zips down. The Candy Chute was born.
The Candy Chute was an immediate success. After all, it made things easier on both ends: no more knocking on doors, no more wandering away from the tv, and no worrying about social distancing for either party. It was easier and more convenient for everyone. All folks had to do was come up with an excuse to scream ‘TRICK OR TREAT’ up a staircase instead of at a door – and kids had no problem with that. It’s no surprise folks loved them.
The Candy Chutes worked wonders. What amazed me, though, was the change they precipitated for Hallowe’en as a whole. Those weird little DIY tubes that everyone decorated with lights and stickers – since we’re all terrified of the virus – changed Hallowe’en in a very real way, and for the better.
Candy Chutes might be permanent, but not because of the pandemic. It comes down to a change in attitude.
It’s no exaggeration to say that Vancouver seriously needed Hallowe’en this year. I heard people saying as much during my annual Hallowe’en walk: folks, in general, were relieved in a major way. Maybe it’s because we haven’t had a single community event in 8 months. Not that there haven’t been important occasions, but the limitations of the pandemic prevented nearly everything from taking place in its usual, public form. Hallowe’en found itself uniquely situated: since masks and small-groups were already a go-to, it was no stretch to ask folks to be distance-conscious. Everyone already travelled in small groups, marveled at fireworks and made their way across the neighborhood on Hallowe’en in spread-out packs – nothing really had to change. It was the first event in almost a year that felt, astonishingly, normal.
For a lot of folks it was their first opportunity to feel human, in a group setting, in nearly a full year. Myself included. To describe the feeling as ‘intoxicating’ doesn’t do it justice. For a lot of us it was the first time we’ve felt properly alive since March.
Then came the Candy Chutes.
Of course, it wasn’t just Candy Chutes. I also spotted a grabby robot hand filled with candy, ghost-sheet slides, candy cannons, strong under-hand passes and, incredibly, at least three different string-and-bucket contraptions for lowering candy to kids from several storeys up. Random inventions piloted by beer-holding adults adorned basically every house on the street participating in Hallowe’en. None of them were complex, but they all had one crucial thing in common: a human element. Even the laziest Candy Chutes required two things: an audience and a candy-giver. It’s not just walking up to a door, saying ‘trick or treat’ and praying that someone’s home, anymore. It’s a two-way connection.
With a Candy Chute, the folks at home have to reach out to people on the street and vice-versa, or risk not being seen. I obviously wasn’t trick or treating, but folks shouted from their patios anyways – we exchanged ‘Happy Hallowe’ens’ left and right. These greetings are a function of the device itself. Candy Chutes require an active, enthusiastic exchange between folks at home and passer-by, their neighbours and their friends. At any other time it would have just been a cool invention – but this is pandemic season, so for many these connections were their first moments of community relief in months. It was a revelation, and for many it felt like the eye of Covid’s storm.
It was, frankly, magic.
In solving the problem of social distancing for Hallowe’en, we accidentally addressed a much larger issue as well: a missing sense of community.
It’s been a hard year, and we all knew that going into October things would be different. Tomorrow is the election, so things will surely change again. But on Hallowe’en I saw something I hadn’t seen in ages: folks on their porches calling back and forth, blasting spooky music and dancing in their costumes. I saw an East Vancouver that I haven’t ever seen in the decade I’ve lived here. One that was vibrant and utterly alive, once given the smallest excuse to connect with each other. I saw my community finding a creative way to cope with an overwhelming threat, by fighting back with joy.
And it’s all thanks to the magic of Hallowe’en, and those silly decorated tubes.
Going forward I don’t see how Candy Chutes can’t be a thing. I haven’t had a Hallowe’en like that since I was a kid, one that felt so alive. Every block felt like a block party – albeit one distanced way, way apart. Hopefully someday we won’t have to be so far apart – but for the first time in a long time, my block felt like a block again. It’s not about candy in a tube, it’s about the people on either side.
So thanks Candy Chutes, and Happy Hallowe’en.
And hey, thanks for reading this October. It’s been a hell of a month. I’ll see everyone next year for the Longest(est) Hallowe’en, and another 31 days of spooky fun. It’s coming up quick.