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Surviving the Halloween “Spirit”

Published by Lucina Mezera

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Tips to Avoid Getting Pranked (And How to Fix it If You Do)

It’s a homeowner’s worst nightmare – the trees look like mummies under their toilet paper shrouds, the windows are clotted with dried egg, there’s shaving cream everywhere, and the mailbox is full of silly string. Ah, must be Halloween again. Though I will admit to having committed my own share of pranks, I’ve been pranked just as many times. It only takes one industrious kid with a few dozen eggs to ruin the paint on your new car, and I’ve learned the hard way the trouble I must have caused my neighbors every Halloween. Fortunately, there are ways to help ensure that this year’s victim isn’t you.

According to Heloise, the first rule of not getting pranked is don’t make enemies of your trick or treaters. Be nice, be generous, and try not to leave your treats on the front porch unattended. Along those lines, pay attention to the visiting ghouls’ behavior. You can usually tell which ones might be looking for a place to prank.

Just as important, don’t leave that jack-o-lantern you worked so hard on out on your sidewalk or porch. You may wake up the next morning to find it smashed. Try setting it inside, either in a window or just inside your screen door. This gives the pranksters one less target and saves you from having to clean up a slimy mess. Not only that, but the burning candle inside a pumpkin doesn’t always go out and could easily start a fire if it were to land in your landscaping mulch or on the roof (it’s happened). Instead of candles, use a battery operated mini light, found in the seasonal section at most stores. They’re available in a variety of models and sizes. I found one that even changes colors.

Leave your outside lights on all night. Not only will this help the friendly monsters find their way, but it will let the unfriendly ones know that you’re watching them, and they’ll be more likely to take their mischief elsewhere. If you’re still concerned, try leaving a light on in a room on the ground floor or leave your television on. It will seem to pranksters that someone is still awake inside. If you can stand it, turn up the volume so that the noise would be audible to someone, say, standing on your porch. I’ve found that outdoor lights with motion sensors are great for discouraging shenanigans. They turn themselves on at the first hint of movement, making pranksters think twice about getting any closer.

If you don’t have a garage to shelter your car, cover it with a tarp or auto cover. I would also suggest doing the same to boats, ATV’s, and motor homes. Cover your pool, and if it has a gate access, lock it. The same applies to your outdoor hot tub. The last thing you want to clean up is a whirlpool tub full of half-congealed jello, or worse, have a would-be prankster fall into your pool.

Pick up anything in your yard that isn’t nailed down and bring it indoors. This includes trash cans, small lawn ornaments, bird houses or feeders, for sale signs, and anything else that could be picked up and carried away. The general rule of thumb is, if you can pick it up, so could someone else. Lock up your lawn equipment and bring your bicycle indoors. If you have outdoor decorations, place them where you can watch them from inside.

As much as I hate to say this, make sure you bring your pets in. Our furry friends aren’t always able to tell who’s friendly and who’s not, and at this time of year, they seem to become targets. I’m not suggesting that they might come to some harm, but accidents happen. Choose to be safe rather than sorry. As an added plus, your younger visitors won’t be traumatized by an unfriendly pet, and there’s less of a chance that someone not up to mischief might get bitten.

If you live in a rural area and have barns or sheds away from your house, try to keep an eye on them. Don’t leave items like gas cans or motor oil outside. I’ve seen some pretty nasty pranks come of a half-empty can of motor oil, especially where your lawn is concerned, and a small amount of gasoline is all it takes to destroy your mailbox. Just like your house pets, make sure your livestock is protected from harrassment. No one wants to be rounding up cows at three in the morning, especially if you live near railroad tracks.

Sometimes, though, inspite of our best efforts, the Halloween “spirit” finds us anyway. It’s aggravating, and if not handled promptly, it could be expensive. Here’s what to do if you find yourself the victim of someone else’s good time.

Start with the car. This is the most expensive and vulnerable item you own besides your house. Nothing is worse for your car’s paint than a few dozen eggs. Both the yolk and the white are corrosive and can actually peel the paint from your car if left unattended. Eggs can be washed off with a hose, but be careful not to rub the stain. The lingering egg shells could scratch the paint. Soaped up windows can be cleaned with lots of water and a soft cloth, and shaving cream will wash away, even if it’s dried. Aeresol string is a bit trickier to remove because it becomes sticky as it dries. Wash off as much as you can with the hose and lift off the remaining bits with a cotton swab.

A pressure washer will cure most any attack made on your house. Eggs and shaving cream wash right off, but try to avoid getting the spray on your flowers. It might be a good idea to cover them with a sheet before you start. If the egg has dried on, try using an enzyme cleaner mixed with warm water. Rub gently with a soft brush. Fortunately, too, most paintball pellets contain paints that wash off with a little detergent and water.

Tackle the lawn last. Make sure you take down that toilet paper before it rains, or you may get stuck staring at it for several weeks until it degrades. Use a broom to knock or drag the stuff from your trees and shrubs by affixing duct tape to the bristles with the sticky side out. A leaf blower can help round up stray pieces from your lawn . If it’s really bad, a lawn tractor with a leaf vacuum might be more practical.

Of course, the greatest advice toward not getting pranked is to keep an eye out for suspicious behavior. Beware of groups of teens wandering aimlessly through the neighborhood, and report anyone who seems to be hanging around for no reason. Watch for cars driving slowly past your house and make a note of anyone you don’t recognize. Pranksters rarely prank in their own neighborhood, and a car means a quick escape and an upgrade to more destructive pranks, like mailbox bashing. Above all, don’t be afraid to call the police. Most pranks may be harmless, but some can be dangerous and could lead to injury, either of the prankster or the victim.

If you happen to be a prankster yourself, allow me to offer you a bit of helpful advice. There are far more constructive ways of getting out that Halloween mischief than terrorizing the neighbors, and many of them don’t involve being arrested. Though your pranks may be harmless, it’s still considered maliscious mischief and could get you into serious trouble with the law. And, by the way, mailbox bashing is considered a felony, and the post office doesn’t take kindly to people who tamper with the mail. Besides, is it really smart to be leaning out of the passenger window of a moving vehicle with a baseball bat in your hands? As for those eggs, don’t throw them at your neighbor’s house or car. Throw them at each other. It doesn’t hurt, it’s less destructive, and the egg white is actually good for your hair. If you still feel the need to prank, then think about this – some day, you’ll be the one who has to clean it up, and karma has a way of returning a prank tenfold.



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