Speaker by Various Artists

Bloody Halloween

by David Haywood

"The thing that irks me about the whole Halloween business," I said, "is that it's such an overt demonstration of American cultural imperialism. It's not that I don't like handing out chocolate and sweets. It's just that I don't like doing it in a way that's been imposed on my culture by a bunch of marketing executives, whose motive is simply to get me to spend my money on tacky decorations and novelty junk food."

The young skeleton on the doorstep hung its head with disappointment.

"And if you ask me," I continued, as Jennifer put me into a spousal arm-lock and forced me down the hallway, "Wayne Mapp would be much better employed eradicating things like Halloween, rather than the Human Rights Commission." I could hear Jennifer returning to the front door. The sound of her footsteps was followed by a loud rustling noise as she filled the skeleton's sack with Mars bars.

"It's like tipping," I said five minutes later to two vampires. "At one stage, no-one even contemplated tipping in New Zealand. In fact -- before you were born -- I once saw a taxi driver throw an American out of his cab because he was so offended at being given a tip. But now, there are 'tipping jars' everywhere. Some of them with passive-aggressive signs saying: 'Tipping is not illegal in New Zealand.' But what in God's name are we actually tipping them for? We're tipping them for doing their job, which we've already paid them for as part of our bill. Why should I pay them twice? Nobody pays me twice -- and I can do things like solving differential equations, which is much harder than writing down what sort of coffee people want."

"Have you ever been to America?" I demanded of the ghost. The ghost held out its bag and shook its head. "Well, in America you have to tip 15 per cent minimum for anything connected with food. And 15 per cent minimum actually means 20 per cent. So if you order a pizza over the phone, and then you go and collect it, you have to tip the pizza guy 20 per cent. That's just for picking up the pizza and handing it to you. The guy doesn't even speak, he just hands you the pizza and the bill! And guess what, if you go to a restaurant, and the service is really terrible, and the waiter treats you like you've got bird flu -- are you allowed to NOT tip him? Nope. You're supposed to tip him exactly 15 per cent, so that when he looks at the bill afterwards, and does the maths, he'll get really offended because the amount is so exact. That's right, you punish him via mathematical accuracy! And this will be happening in New Zealand soon, you mark my words. But does anyone care? Does Wayne Mapp care? No. He's too busy complaining about lolly-scrambles."

"Now I know how Cheryl David feels," called out Jennifer from the sitting room.

"As a werewolf," I said to the werewolf a few minutes later, "you'll sympathize with what I'm about to say. Different things annoy different people. Some people are maddened by the idea that solo mothers are given money to look after their children. It doesn't bother me. In fact, I'm happy to be living in a society where we care for children. What gets on my goat is American spelling. And I say this as someone who recently drove from New York to Canada just so I could buy Harry Potter in International English. I don't mind American spelling in America, but it drives me bananas in New Zealand. We're suddenly watching television programs instead of programmes, and buying aluminum foil instead of aluminium foil. And it used to be Laz-E-Boy, but now it's La-Z-boy which doesn't make any sense when you pronounce 'Z' as 'zed'. Hey, tell me something. Are your parents werewolves as well? Did they vote National? Well give them this message from me, buddy... "

After I sent the werewolf home crying, I sat down heavily on the sofa next to Jennifer. "Bloody Halloween," I said, "it's so exhausting. Let's hope it doesn't happen next year."