[conspire] Housekeeping, again

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Wed Feb 27 18:00:29 PST 2008

I find, to my distress and dismay, that I occasionally have to call to
CABAL attendees' attention some basics of rudimentary courtesy inside
people's homes.  This is one such reminder.  (In case newcomers might
not know, for quite a few years since CABAL lost its SOMA meeting space,
it has been meeting twice monthly in my suburban home in Menlo Park.)

The key point to grasp is that, when attending CABAL, you are a guest
inside a nice, well kept, hospitable family home.  It's my father and
mother's house, about which I care a great deal -- and also my own
current family's personal domain.  There is quality, highly valued,
one-of-a-kind furniture, wood and tile floors, irreplaceable Oriental
carpets, and so on.

It is not a public meeting house.  It is not your college dorm or
cafeteria.  To sum:   

A nice home.  You: guest.  Me: host.

On the key concept of hospitality,
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hospitality is unfortunately nearly
useless, and also slanted partly towards the Greek/Roman concept and
towards empty commercial recastings.  The Scandinavian variant, that
_is_ local tradition, is a bit sharper.  The Classical Greek "xenia"
(hospitality) tradition (from Homeric tradition) involved as a religious
obligation -- applying primarily when when has sleepover house guests:

o  Host making the guest feel at home, looking after his/her needs, and
   putting the guest's needs first. 
o  Guest being courteous to the host, and taking care not to be a burden.
o  Parting gift from host to guest, displaying host's honour at
   having received the guest.

Being neither Greek nor a practitioner of Olympic religion -- nor having
CABAListas as overnight guests, these ancient Hellenic criteria are
irrelevant, but I thought them interesting enough to look up.

The vaguely similar Scandinavian conception, which _does_ apply, is that
guests are given specially considerate treatment.  Criticism or anger
that might elsewhere be appropriate (or even richly deserved) to say to
a person goes carefully unsaid while he/she is accepted as a guest, as
part of making one's home a cultured and welcoming place.  For their
part, guests are expected to be on their very best behaviour and take
great care to not injure the host's property or interests, nor be in any
way rude or presumptuous to anyone including other guests, showing
appreciation of and respect towards the host family's care of their
needs and effort to maintain a cordial home and atmosphere -- not to
mention a desire to remain welcome.

Which brings me back to y'all.

1.  Over quite a few years, I've been rather appalled at most CABAL
attendees' manners in using my dishes and flatware but never cleaning
their own messes -- instead, dumping dirty dishes in my sink and on my
counters (or, worse, just leaving them sitting around at random) -- and
just watching blankly as I clean up after them.

A couple of you, notably Kai and Denise[1] finally noticed that this 
pattern is absurd, and asked if I didn't think it an imposition on my
household.  Asked that question so bluntly, I had little choice but to
give an honest answer:  _Naturally_ it was, actually, pretty outrageous
for me, the host, to end up doing several dozen healty computer geeks'
dishes year and and year out -- but what could I do?  If my guests
lacked the common courtesy to clean up their own messes, I couldn't
exactly bark at them that they were being slobs and they should be
ashamed of themselves:  That would be shooting myself in the foot as a
gracious host.  So, I just quietly _think_, about such people, "You're
behaving like jerks -- again", and cleaned up after them.

As an experiment, at the last two CABAL meetings, as I saw several of
the regulars dumping their dishes in the sink (directly in other
people's way), I politely spoke up, for a change:  "How about you
washing that?"  To you-all's credit, the four or five of you immediately
if belatedly did the right thing (for a change) -- though your
expressions suggested that being considerate and not being a burden to
your host might have been something of a new thought in your respective

2.  After seeing one of the regulars being appallingly stupid and
inconsiderate by putting a lacquered wooden salad bowl in my microwave
oven, and thereby ruining it (an error that boils off and blisters the
lacquer finish), I finally created the ONE AND ONLY warning sign in my
entire kitchen.  This sign is black ink on a white-background sticker,
smack-dab in people's faces on the microwave's black flat door:

    No wooden bowls.

Last CABAL, a different regular put a different, not-yet-ruined wooden
salad bowl into the microwave, and was starting to shut the door when I
yanked his hand back, and directed his eyes to DIRECTLY IN FRONT, where
the sign was.  (He did not apologise.  Nor did the other guy, who _did_
ruin one of my salad bowls.)

3.  As many may recall from prior go-arounds on Moen-household manners, 
I finally put my foot down a year ago and forbade people from eating
food, especially but not limited to crumbly food -- in my house[2] without
plates -- after seeing a whole room full of CABAListas wandering around
like barbarians dropping pizza toppings on my floors.

Phase One of that was walking around to any offender and handing him/her
a plate, with a very broad hint that the plate was NOT optional, and
that I wasn't handing them out just because I adored handing out plates.
When lightly wielding the cluebat didn't quite suffice, Phase Two
entailed _not only_ handing the offender a plate but also making clear
that the person's continued welcome relied on him/her using plates in
the future similar circumstances.

To my _utter_ astonishment, one CABAL attendee, who professes to have
attended college at some football-farm outfit in New Haven that my
college occasionallyencountered, expressed _indignation_ during such 
a third-time admonition at the most recent CABAL.  

That seems a bit slow on the uptake.  Given that the gentleman had two
ethical choices (comply with local standards of courtesy, or don't come),
he somehow saw fit to find a third non-ethical one (stay, comply badly,
and complain about it).  What _did_ they teach you in New Haven?

4.  I have said, time and again, that people's bags of gear must not be
dumped onto the tables we use for computer installs.  Instead, those
should go out of the way, e.g., on the back porch.  I keep seeing the
same longtime CABAL members doing it, over and over.  One of these
occasions, the offender then shoved his bag sideways across the table,
pushing off and breaking my irreplaceable 20-year-old WordPerfect coffee
mug.  The avoidance of such disasters having been, of course one of
several reasons for the rule that the attendee violated and thereby
destroyed my prized personal property.

In summary:  Act your goddamned age.  Act like you're a guest.  Act like
you'd appreciate being welcome as a return guest.  

If these guidelines strike any of you as in any way unreasonable, please
do feel free to be elsewhere -- any time.

[1] Why is it always the women who have manners _first_?  Guys, kindly
stop letting down the XY team, OK?
[2] I.e., not outside or in the garage.

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