One of America’s quainteries that has survived societal turbulence, social media and even the Maury Povich show’s TV assault on our senses is the newspaper column Miss Manners.
It’s a thrice-weekly plunge into defending us from returning to the caves by giving advice on human behavior. Just when we thought our society couldn’t get any ruder or cruder, someone comes along to engorge the lowest common denominator.
I read recently the Miss Manners column headlined, “Don’t Be a Doormat For Your Guests.” The author, Judith Martin, was a reader who had been emotionally enervated, mentally exhausted and trampled on by houseguests who treated her hospitality like an entitlement and her home “like a time share.”
The sweaty squatters had written their names on a bourbon bottle in the homeowners house, left bathing suits in the hostess’s closet, “for the next time she comes” and asked for a key so she could stay there when the owner wasn’t home.
Suggests Miss Manners:
“Drink the bourbon, mail back the bathing suits and keep a tight grip on your invitations and your keys.”
Friends of ours who live in a Florida gulf coast town have similar tales that would challenge Miss Manners’s manners. Here are a few, edited for space but all true.
“One couple invited themselves to our home for a week or two every year. They also told people up north to be sure to stop in and see Jodie and Garth.
“‘They have an extra bedroom and bathroom and they just sit on their balcony waiting for people to come see them.’
Our friends describe this phenomenon like this:
“They’d call and say, ‘We‘re going to be down in your area sometime this winter’ and maybe we would say, ‘Give us a call.’ We thought that might mean we would meet for dinner or maybe a drink. But what they heard apparently was, ‘Come stay with us for as long as you like.’
“And soon after they arrive they start talking about how much fun they’d have here next year.”
Our friend would feel faint when the guests from hell would say, “We must try such and such restaurant because we didn’t make it there this year,” or “Next year, we should invite my sister and her husband because...”
Then there’s this tale of a couple of beer lovers/losers:
“We knew they were coming to stay six days or more. We remembered that last year they drank about a case of beer a day. I asked Garth whether I should buy six cases. He said no, that I should get just one case and if they want more beer they can go get it.
“So I filled the fridge with the all those beer cans. They arrived before 9:30 a.m. and even before I could offer them something, they went to the fridge and took out two beers. After that, they’d each have a beer about every 45 minutes.
“That afternoon I was in the kitchen making hors d’oeuvres. The man came in, opened the fridge and said in a loud voice, ‘Hey, you’re out of beer!’ I said, losing my patience, ‘I’m not drinking beer. So I’m not out of beer, you’re out of beer.’
Next week, more stories of traveling hyenas disguised as guests.