Leave childish things to children


Just imagine, or remember, toilet paper draped  across the swaying, moss-covered branches and the fine, earthy smell of freshly thrown eggs hanging in the air.

All you can think about is the aching in your side from the unstoppable laughter, yet you are breaking the law at the expense of someone else’s property. Ah, Halloween.

Petty vandalism has been a part of Halloween tradition for many years, but it still happens too often when teenage ghouls and goblins take to the streets.

David Northway, a spokesman for the Tallahassee Police Department, said it is hard to pinpoint whether childish pranks are vandalism or criminal mischief. He said that toilet papering and egging a house or car is considered criminal mischief, a misdemeanor that could result in an arrest. If no damage is done, Northway said a slap on the wrist is more common.  More serious crimes, such as spray painting or destruction, are classified as vandalism.

Is it acceptable?

In 1794, Henri Grégoire, bishop of Blois, hatched the word “vandalisme” to describe the destruction of artwork following the French Revolution. Earlier, a Germanic tribe, the Vandals, was known for its brutal and wide-ranging destruction during the second sack of Rome in 455 CE and carried the moniker “vandalism,” which has come to mean “the malicious defacing or destruction of public or private property.”

In the case of the Vandals, it seems as if they destroyed and killed everything in sight. Their namesake is barbaric. In the modern sense where kids get a cheap laugh out of toilet papering a grumpy neighbor’s prize-winning azalea bushes, the extent the pranks go to can be a barometer of the seriousness. I think it varies from case to case.

I could never condone destroying someone’s car as a joke, but I may be able to look the other way on an egg-white bath or sticking a sea of plastic forks across a well-manicured lawn. At the most, I – I mean you – would have had to call your parents to come get you if you happened to get caught.

At the college level, adolescent Halloween pranks should give way to more intricate plans, but the possibility to end up in handcuffs also increases. When you start paying for things, such as car and rent, and take on the responsibility of being an adult, the prospect of warrantless destruction becomes less shiny and more of a “why am I doing this” question. The key is childish but harmless put-ons.

So, as you head to the grocery store and stare down the three-dozen egg cartons and half-priced toilet paper – it is as if the store knew you were coming – with the intent of causing a little trouble, just remember that pranking someone you know is way more fun because you get to see the after effects, and damaging someone else’s property for fun is just rude.