Here's the Scoop: June 30, 2010

Open door policy
Summer vacation is nearly over. That was fast.
This isn’t a weather forecast on my part. No, the “vacation’s over” theme is related to having houseguests. Just like deer are guaranteed to chomp down on the garden, guests are coming. And they seemingly can’t be stopped.
These aren’t just any guests, either. These are “clever” visitors. They realize that I am, what’s the term — anti-social — and would never actually invite anyone to stay at our house. But the friends in our “network” have found a way to get around my “leave me alone” attitude.
One friend figured out that when she calls to invite herself for a stay, all she needs to do to get us to hang out the welcome mat is casually mention, “Remember when I was helping renovate your house? For free?” Guilt. It’s a good thing. And much cheaper than a motel room.
In their defense, we have some friends who earned “unlimited overnight visits” with their volunteer efforts during what felt like a decade-long renovation project. It’s kind of hard to turn these folks away. And, lest you get the completely wrong idea about me, I wouldn’t. Probably.
The problem is, word has spread through the “friends grapevine” that my “I want to be left alone” attitude can be overcome with a “reminder” of that fact that, if it weren’t for the help of friends, the renovation work would be stretching into a second decade. Ironic, huh?

Standing tall
As noted, there are a few friends who have earned a Lifetime Pass of visits. One height-challenged pal whose small stature made her a natural for painting closet interiors now has her own key. No problem there — especially when I think of all the wear and tear she saved on my back and knees.
But the “fringe” folks are starting to appear. When they call to invite themselves, these friends use terms such as, “I remember all the burn piles you had up there.” I listen carefully, trying to see if these people take credit for active burn pile participation. Did they get down and dirty and emerge with aching muscles, singed hair and mildly scorched lungs? Those are the kinds of honor badges that earn overnight stays. And anyone who actually ended up in the hospital as a result of their volunteerism qualifies to have me make them coffee during each morning of their stay.
I’m not nearly as generous with the self-inviters who are counting on my foggy memory to claim loads of assistance during the project when, in reality, they used multiple family reunions and the alleged deaths of distant relatives as excuses to avoid numerous “work parties.”
I grew particularly irritated when I learned of the imminent arrival of a friend whose lack of hands-on renovation participation remains crystal clear in my mind.
“And her kids didn’t help either!” I barked at my wife upon hearing about this visit.
“The kids were three and one, as I recall,” my wife responded calmly.
Well, if they want to use inexperience as an excuse for laziness, so be it.
I grumbled about this visit for quite awhile before my wife had heard enough.
“Don’t you remember why Jane never wanted to help? She said we were nuts for tackling this project.”
“Yeah,” I responded, “if she had been a real friend, she would have worked hard to talk us out of it.”