DEAR ABBY: During the holiday season, you often publish letters from older persons complaining about being alone or left out. Last winter, my husband and I entertained six sets of overnight guests at our Florida home. Most of them were over 65. Based upon our experience, here is a questionnaire for the person who hasn't received another invitation:
(1) When you arrived, did you greet the host and hostess warmly -- or did you complain about the airline, the stairs, the driveway, the distance, the traffic and the crowds?
(2) If you have special dietary requirements, did you inform your hosts well in advance, or did you wait until the meal was on the table? Did you expect everyone to eat only your special diet?
(3) Did you talk about anything other than your medical problems? Did you show an interest in others and ask questions about their lives?
(4) Did you complain that the bed was too hard or too soft, and if the pillow was not to your liking, did you feel compelled to say so?
(5) Did you claim the best chair in the house as yours for the entire visit? Did you complain about the weather? Did you adjust the thermostat to your comfort level without first asking your hosts?
(6) If you are early to bed and early to rise, did you expect the entire household to conform to your schedule?
(7) Did you state your opinion and give advice on every topic? Or did you consider the fact that others may know something, too?
(8) Did you express gratitude for the efforts your hosts made on your behalf?
Abby, our reason for inviting guests is to enjoy their company. What causes some people to think they no longer need to practice good manners simply because they are older? -- INVITING FEWER PEOPLE TO FLORIDA THIS YEAR
DEAR INVITING: Your frustration with houseguests is reflected in your questions. Good manners are essential at any age. It is as important to be a good guest as it is to be a gracious host.
You may appreciate the following "Caution to Houseguests" submitted by Nita Skidmore. It appeared in my column a few years ago.
CAUTION TO HOUSEGUESTS
(1) Open all closet doors and drawers with caution.
(2) Do not move any heavy furniture -- there may be dirt.
(3) Don't draw your finger across any picture frame. (We rarely dust.)
(4) Do not open the box under the kitchen table. (That's where we keep Grandma's ashes.)
(5) Don't be afraid to use a clean towel and washcloth. We have plenty. (As you can see, we have traveled a lot.)
(6) If you take a book from the shelf, beware of moths and bookworms.
(7) Don't bother looking under any bed -- there's not room enough for a man.
(8) Please sit down very carefully -- the cat might be there.
(9) If you should find a long hair, give it back to me; I need them all.
(10) Feel free to help yourselves to anything you find in the fridge. It's always too full anyway.
(11) Do not remove the toilet paper from the bathroom sink -- it's our solution to the leaky faucet.
(12) Don't ask why the dragonflies fly only in the side yard. Nobody knows.