I pull up at the end of the dark cul-de-sac dressed in my Eeyore snuggie, candy for passengers jostling around inside the red bucket on the seat next to me. The house I’m stopped in front of is a quaint Victorian with pumpkins lining the pathway from porch to sidewalk. Two bloodied plastic legs hang from its second story window, while a man skulks in the shadows of the dimly-lit porch.
My initial reaction when I wave to him and he doesn’t wave back:
When I realize shortly after that he’s a scarecrow though, all is forgiven.
A 20-something guy dressed as a bushel of grapes thunders out the front door, power-walking past the scarecrow towards my car. His purple balloons squeak against the backseat as he sits down, and continue to squeak every time his body changes positions throughout the ride. A person in a fox costume would complement him well, I think. Would really bring to life the Aesop’s fable. So would a donkey for a scene from a pastoral Greek island.
While transporting the grapes I realize that even though this is technically my first Halloween driving Lyft, in some ways every night–especially weekends when business is booming and prices are surging– feels like trick-or-treating. Sometimes, like when you accept a ride that doesn’t make you any money, or are forced to drive an unpleasant rider, your luck’s not so good. Those are the equivalents to having black licorice thrown into your bag. Other times you’re luckier; a long, lucrative ride with a delightful passenger is like being rewarded with a King-sized Butterfinger.
Both driver and trick-or-treater will cope with undesirable circumstances for the prize of more candy. Your witch’s wig gets itchy and you want to rip it off? …save yourself for the candy. Feet hurting from all the stairs you have to climb up? It’s worth it for the Kit-kats. Sweat’s making your fake rubber nose slide down from the bridge of your real one onto your lips, and wow you really hate the taste and smell of warm wet rubber? Just a few more houses and your bucket will be full.
Fast forward twenty years and replace witch’s costume with yoga pants and a gym shirt, a 27-year-old rallying herself to do just one more ride, just a few more rides. Despite the traffic, the loud drunk people, and the observation that cars seem especially cranky tonight and are honking left and right, she holds out for the adult candy. Drive a few more and you’ll meet your profit goal.
After dropping off the grapes, an Uber Eats request comes in. I pick up a pizza from Mountain Mike’s and deliver it to a suburban home with zombie corpses and autumn leaves scattered across the front lawn. The lawn’s asymmetrical mow job lends it a welcoming, approachable appearance. It’s neither shabby nor pretentious. I scream on the way to the front door when the shadowy stick man to my right, who I realize now is a real person, moves towards me. Dressed as a Trump-devil hybrid, he receives the food from me and tips me in candy. The gesture is nice–pink Starbursts are my favorites–but his frightful costume has done nothing to still my rapidly beating heart. Years later I will find out that the real cause for horror to my as of then undiagnosed Celiac self that night actually lay inside the box I’d just handed him.
Back to driving. I’m really appreciating the Eeyore snuggie; he’s warm and cozy. I pick up a costume-less mom and her two small kids, who are both dressed as insects. Five minutes in, the mom tells her daughter to stop throwing peanut M&Ms at her brother. The girl doesn’t though, because she wants to get sent to candy jail ( “When people throw rocks they go to jails made of rocks,” she explained. “I want to go to a jail made of chocolate and graham crackers. With peanut butter beds and marshmallow pillows.” This girl right here, throwing perfectly good candy away for the chance to get more candy… Vegas will welcome you years down the road, kid.
“I dressed up as a ghost because I’m cheap. But she went all out,” says the next passenger, a butch lesbian gesturing with a sheeted arm towards her more intricately costumed girlfriend.
A girl dressed as a tuxedo cat discusses with her partner, a fluffy primate, what she feels to be the unnecessary expense of Halloween costumes.
“You spend all this money on one,” she said with frustrated incredulity in her voice, “and then you never wear it again, or it stays in your closet for a full year.”
The fluffy primate responds that he doesn’t see the difference between this and buying an expensive concert ticket, going out to eat a fancy meal, or hiring a hooker for an evening (the cat rightfully glares at him for this last utterance). “You only enjoy those things for one night,” he goes on, “but you’re paying for an experience.”
The cat insists that it’s different because it’s one more way women are encouraged to spend their money on “frivolous throwaway shit that makes them desirable to men but does nothing for their own long-term development.”
“I’d rather have that delicious filet mignon I’d never be able to make at home,” she proclaims. “Or a few hours of sky-diving.”
Finally, a passenger brings up an interesting perspective on masks, cuing me to a quote by author Olivia Laing that I will include here:
“What is it about masks and loneliness? The obvious answer is that they offer relief from exposure, from the burden of being seen—what is described in the German as Maskenfreiheit, the freedom conveyed by masks. To refuse scrutiny is to dodge the possibility of rejection, though also the possibility of acceptance, the balm of love. This is what makes masks so poignant as well as so uncanny, sinister, unnerving.”
The passenger brought it up in the context of Halloween, but it feels especially applicable to COVID times. I now feel like ending this with questions for readers about their own masked-up experiences.
Does this passage resonate with you during any moments in your day? Through mask-wearing, have you felt a lifting of the burden of being seen?
Is being seen a burden? Or does finding relief in masks point to a lack of self-acceptance, therefore a need for inner healing?
In which situations are you most relieved to be wearing one? When do you most wish you could rip it off? (for me, it’s during interpreting appointments, which require a lot of talking–harder to do when you can’t take deep breaths!)