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STOP! IN THE NAME OF __________

Wonders a wasteful writer:

My husband and I went to have dinner with an old friend at their new house.  Before dinner we were making cocktails, and she handed my husband a glass of ice, as he prefers straight liquor on the rocks.  She had filled the glass full of ice, so he went to shake a piece or two out into the sink.  “STOP!” she shrieked, “We don’t waste anything in this house!”  She then proceeded to pick the ice cube up out of the sink and pop it into a potted plant.  Isn’t that a bit much?  He felt humiliated and it kind of ruined the night.


What – saving two cubic inches of water from slowly going down the drain as opposed to just flushing the comfort and feelings of her guests?  You’re monstrous to suggest such a thing.

And by such a thing, I mean calling it a bit much.

Her behavior was obscene!  Disgraceful!  She committed not one, not two, but three Cardinal Sins of Etiquette.

1) Shouting at a guest

2) Correcting the behavior of an adult (with a sub-sin of being unctuous about her self-righteous recycling or whatever)

3) Not making the cocktails herself

I mean, really.  If you’re going to give the staff the night off, that’s all well and good, but you certainly shouldn’t expect guests to work to satisfy their thirst.  And that’s in addition to correcting the shoddy job of over icing a drink.

That comes back to the old saying of You can tell me What to do, but you can’t tell me How to do it.  I think that phrase alone could save half of the marriages in this country.  Be that as it may, she’s the one who started the evening off sloppily by passing around incompetently filled glasses all while keeping an eagle eye on possible infractions of as yet unknown house rules.

Look, I appreciate her concern for reducing waste; it’s admirable, actually – but there is no need whatsoever for the shouting and the sanctimonious pronouncements.  All she had to do is hand him the bourbon or whatever and sort out your drink, then pick up the ice cube and put it in the plant.

Only if you ask what she was up to could she explain, and she’d be better off acting somewhat confused – like this:

“What?  Oh, that – yeah, I am just in such a habit of putting my leftover ice in my plants…it saves me just hours of watering time!” or something like that.  No judgement on your behavior, no shouting, etc., but still the lousy bartendering.  That’s fine.  Grading on a curve she could still pass the night.

But instead you got an earful and a mini-lecture, a condescending utilization of the royal we, and for what?  If topics during dinner turn to concerns and interests in one’s daily life, which they frequently do during a conversation, then one can bring up all manner of things.

Without prosthelytizing, she could have brought up how deeply concerned she is for the environment, how she’s managed to create these otherwise delightful habits to not waste water or food scraps or whatever, even use the ice-in-the-sink story to illustrate how ingrained it is, all while playing like she knows it’s silly to expect to be able to save every drop…but there it is.

Since you can’t correct her behavior, of course, you can alter yours while in her home.  That leads down a slippery slope, though, if we just get to create rules and invalidate others based on fads and cults and received opinions.  It starts with ice cubes and it ends up with you sitting barefoot and cross legged eating lentils out of a cabbage leaf with your unwashed hands.

So let’s just all obey the established conventions of not shouting at guests (or hosts for that matter) and all try to do our part to reduce our personal use of resources.

Though if she had a housewarming party, it would be hard for me not to bring over drinks in a styrofoam cooler.


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