contributed by Dave Norton
The following is an email sent to brother Charlie after Thanksgiving Day, 2000:
After talking with you on last night, I realized that you, Dan, and I are victims of an insidious curse, inflicted at an early age by our mother: the Curse of the Norton Boys.
We have the misfortune of having been taught by Mom that, when visiting other people’s homes, the following rules apply:
If you’re there for dinner, you ask how you can help.
If you’re family, you begin setting the table until asked to stop.
After dinner, you take your plate to the kitchen.
You then help clear the table unless asked to stop.
If family, you clear the table and rinse and stack the dishes by the sink, unless asked twice to stop.
If a big dinner, you watch for full trash cans, and ask where to dump them.
If you sleep over, when you first get up, you make your bed.
If you sleep on the couch, when you first get up you fold the blankets, stack them neatly, and set them aside.
If you have children, you control them.
In short, you respect the time, energy, and space of your hosts and do what you can to make your visit a pleasant experience for them.
If you are fortunate enough NOT to have been infected by the Curse, then these different rules apply:
Sit on a couch and watch as preparations are made, with feet on a table if available.
At table, you ask for what you want and let others get it for you.
After dinner, you sit at the table while it is cleared and dessert is brought to you.
After dessert, you return to the couch and turn on the TV while others clean up the mess.
It is not necessary to actually watch the TV, just enjoy the ambiance of the inane chatter and commercials in the background.
If you sleep over, leave your bed as it is when you get up, either for someone else to make, or to stay unmade all day.
If you have children, turn on the TV with a Winnie the Pooh tape as soon as you arrive, so the children can watch for 2 minutes and wander off to explore the house while the TV stays on.
Anytime during the day that you notice your hosts have soothing classical music on the stereo, or NPR news, start a new tape and turn up the volume to the extent that the radio is no longer distracting.
At the end of the day, as the hosts hint that it is bedtime, put the children’s favorite 3-hour movie on the VCR.
Encourage your children to take a piece of fresh fruit, take one bite, and leave it somewhere around the house.
Encourage them also to open a can or bottle of soda, take a drink, and place the can in a position where it can’t be readily seen but is easily tipped over, onto carpeting if possible.
Repeat the fruit/soda process 3 times a day.
Encourage them to make several tours of the house during the day, turning on lights and closing doors to unoccupied rooms.
Throughout the day, feed your children nutritious foods of the sort found at supermarket checkout counters, packed in bright cellophane packaging, consisting primarily of sugar and cholesterol. These packages are left randomly about the house, with at least 3 open at a time.
Encourage them to fill up on such items immediately prior to dinner.
During dinner, excuse the children from table as soon as they have taken 3 bites of the Jello or applesauce served just for them.
During dessert, insist that the Children not be allowed to eat dessert since they haven’t eaten dinner, then serve each one a full-sized slice of home-made Lemon Meringue Pie, from which they will take one bite and stir the rest.
When your child misbehaves, correct them in the following manner:
Billy don’t do that. I’ll count to three. One, two, Billy don’t do that. I’ll count to three… Repeat this process several times daily to reinforce the pattern.
There are an infinite number of variations on these rules, such as making sure your automobile drips oil, then parking on the cleanest whitest most conspicuous part of the driveway, but you get the picture. The guiding principles are:
1. You deserve to be served.
2. Your hosts are here to serve you.
3. Your children are a joy to your hosts, who will think their antics are darling.
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