My friend Claudia, whom I haven’t seen in a while (hey Claudia!), is among the most gracious people I know. I have said of her and her white carpeting that one could evacuate one’s bowels on her carpet and she would rush to reassure, “oh, seriously, that happens all the time, don’t worry about it…” And though she is lying, the sentiment is no lie: “don’t worry.” She wants you to feel comfortable even if you embarrass yourself, even if you overstep. But while Claudia, or any excellent host, wants you to feel at ease when she says, “please, make yourself at home,” she doesn’t really mean for you to scratch your balls and make yourself a bologna sandwich to eat on the couch before you take a nap. What’s meant is, “within the bounds of expectations of reasonable behavior for a guest, please be as comfortable as you can be in my home.”
Who gets to define the bounds of reasonable behavior? This is where common sense is said to be not so common. My current annoyance:
Our cul de sac contains about thirty town homes, twenty six of which have tiny backyards. My home has one of the four BIG yards. Two of the homes’ yards are largely backyards, while my yard stretches largely to the right side of the house, so it appears to be a sizable gap between our connected string of homes and the next connected string. Since we bought the home approached people in our yard who, they confess, thought it was public property.
Two weeks ago a fairly new neighbor was allowing their puppy, on a long leash, to romp in the yard. I approached and offered a plastic bag for the lawn-warming gift the puppy surely would deposit (we have cleaned up many many such gifts over the years). The neighbor introduced herself and waved her own bag, at the ready. I said, “oh, that’s great, thanks so much. I want people to feel welcome here with their dogs, but you wouldn’t believe how many people don’t clean up after.” We then chatted for a minute or two and parted.
A week later, I had started trimming weeds and hedges and I see the same puppy yards and yards into the lawn (again: “what’s common sense?” When I walk Lola and let her peruse another’s yard, I allow only shallow access- three feet at most). At the other end of fifteen yards of leash is a woman my age who, it turns out, is the younger woman’s mother. Oh, and she was seated. On the lawn. On my grass. While on her I-phone. Just enjoying the sunshine. “Hey,” I said, and smiled. She waved, just comfortable as can be. Scratching her balls and making a bologna sandwich. I went over, introduced myself. We exchanged pleasantries for a minute, this woman clearly more at ease on my lawn than I was. I said, “hey, I’ll be mowing shortly, just wanted to give you a heads up because I don’t want you to feel I’m running you off.” ??!!
The next time I ask them to bring the puppy over– hey waitaminute…!
That’s where I veer away from Claudia’s forgiving mindset. Puppy people, I did not ask you over. When I said you’re welcome here I did not mean, bring a hammock, relax, mi casa es tu casa. Do I have to spell it out? Your dog is welcome to evacuate his bowels on my green lawn. You are welcome to clean it up. And then you are welcome to leave.