Jack and I went to the Henry Doorly Zoo yesterday, but the most fascinating creatures we observed were the PEOPLE!
The grocery store Jack works for was taking part in the zoo’s annual “Spooktacular” something or other, where the zoo invites local businesses to set up stations throughout the zoo and then they invite the public to come in costume and trick or treat at the stations. Admission to the zoo was free for volunteers and Jack loves the zoo, so he immediately volunteered to participate and I got to go along as an invited family member.
One company had set up a small tent and called it a ‘haunted house.’ Another was giving away popsicles. Someone else was giving away single serving boxes of cereal. We were giving away those little bite-sized candy bars at our station. We were located in Bear Canyon and at one point, the line of trick or treaters stretched clear back to the waterfall by the petting zoo! (I’m not sure how far that would be – maybe 2 city blocks?) They are not kidding when they say the word “FREE” gets the biggest response of any other word in the English language, but watching these people as they moved through our line was a classic study in human behavior. I’m not really sure what I learned. I’ll just tell you what happened and somebody else can analyze the data.
A word about our set-up: six of us stood behind two six-foot long tables, ready to hand out treats as the children started coming through. We must have given the wrong impression, because the idea was that six people at once would be able to approach the table, each one receiving one little candy bar. But that wasn’t how it went. The trick or treaters started at one end and didn’t stop until they had gotten a treat from every person standing at the two tables! After a while, we separated the two tables, hoping they would form two lines, but then they just went through the table on one side, turned around and went through the table on the other!
Bewildered infants dressed as plush toys such as teddy bears or as Elmo, sprawled or bawled in strollers while their parents held the open bag out for the treats. Children barely big enough to be able to hold their bags looked up at us with everything from terrified distrust to hopeful optimism, as they toddled through our line; their parents pushing them from behind coaching, “Say ‘Trick or treat!’” Most of them didn’t. or “Tell them ‘thank you,’” even fewer said that. Primary school-aged children walked by with their bag open, staring straight ahead, eyes glazed over with boredom or looking ahead to the next station hoping for something bigger and better. Jr. High-ers and older said nothing, but looked in to see what we dropped into their bags. Several of these came through more than once.
And there were the adults. I have no objection to adults dressing up for Halloween. It’s kind of fun to pretend to be someone you’re not for a few hours, but most of the adults who came through my line, holding out a bag, weren’t even in costume. And even fewer grownups than children said, “thank you.” I’m almost certain they were there to collect the stuff they plan to give away at their own front doors on Wednesday night.
Jack and I worked at our station from 10-1:30 and then we strolled the zoo. The waiting lines at all the stations we saw were just as long as the one at ours. I’m told that nearly 50,000 people were in attendance at the zoo yesterday. I’m not sure if that’s an accurate stat, but it surely could be from what I saw.
I should add that a few of the kids did indeed joyfully call out “Trick or treat” and the ones who did also said, “Thank you!” And a lot of them looked really cute in their costumes. All the little cowgirls that came through my line got two candy bars from me.
Your thoughts, please.