Who's in charge of manners at the beach house?
Well, come in and look around. Do you see any likely candidates? Do you see any signs of (voices take on decidedly sarcastic tone) et-i-quette?
It's summertime, and people only want to relax, party and have fun.
Miss Manners has nothing against summer, relaxation, parties or fun, although she does regard beaches as exhibiting a deplorable lack of natural shade. She goes so far as to recognize the value of time off from the formal etiquette of everyday life -- not that she has seen enough of that being practiced to warrant its needing a vacation.
But she grants no vacations from etiquette itself. That is because vacations, like other human activities, are unbearable without etiquette.
From their reports, she has a vivid idea of what people do in the typical group-house at the beach (besides unfailingly misjudging their personal capacity for storing beer longer than a few minutes).
They leave hair lying about in the sink and shower, and strangers lying about on the sofa and floors.
They appropriate food that isn't theirs and abandon dirty dishes that are.
They make so much noise that nobody gets any sleep, although on different shifts: some of them making it before dawn to disturb those who sleep at night, and others making it after dawn to disturb those who sleep during the day.
They don't show up or leave when they are supposed to, and they bring people who aren't supposed to be there at all and don't always leave with them.
They attract robbers by omitting to lock the door, and they attract police by acts of commission.
They run up outrageous bills that they expect everyone to share in paying, and they duck their share of bills everyone is expected to pay.
And naturally, they want to sign up for next year. They are getting exactly what they want: an etiquette-free vacation.
This brings Miss Manners back to her original point. Beach houses need residents in charge of setting and enforcing etiquette rules, as do year-round group houses, whether they are occupied by roommates or families or any other combination of people with varying habits and tastes.
Miss Manners declines to do the job for them, and not only because she, too, wants some time off now and then. It is because the rules can be whatever the adult residents agree upon, provided they do not run foul of the legitimate claims of the landlord, the neighbors and the law. (See? She's not entirely opposed to freedom.)
In the case of summer sharing, it may not be possible to gather all those who would be affected by the rules. It falls to those who sign the lease, with visitors left the choice of agreeing to comply at the risk of expulsion, or making other rooming arrangements. The resident etiquette enforcers then have the job of judging transgressions and deciding whether to enforce the punishment, settle for a warning, or forget the entire thing and keep a list of those who should not be allowed to come back.
If they need Miss Manners' help, they can find her out in the hammock, dozing pleasantly. After all, it's summer relaxation time.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: How should I respond to someone who tells me I have too much time on my hands? It doesn't happen that often, but when it does, it makes me see red.
The comment is usually made when it is obvious I have taken the time to make a special gift for someone I care about. Like everyone else in this world, I am struggling to keep up with life, and the remark insinuates that I sit on my hands all day.
I'm sure it bothers me because I resent that there is NEVER enough time to do everything. But I would love to come up with something to say in response to this insulting remark.
GENTLE READER: "Not really -- I made the time, because I thought it would please you."
A decent person who stupidly used this phrase (which characterizes people who are making extra trouble, not taking extra trouble) will then apologize and deliver a proper expression of thanks. Only if someone persists, instead, in chastising you instead of thanking you, does Miss Manners give you permission to add, "Now that you mention it, I suppose I did waste my time."