- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 24, 2005

Courtesy demands that you, when you are a guest, shall show neither annoyance nor disappointment no matter what happens.

Emily Post’s Etiquette, 1922

Guests, friends, guests of friends, friends of guests, the dog’s cousin, the plumber — visitors loom large today as the roast beast sizzles in the oven and the new chocolate fondue fountain burbles near the tree.

Now that Santa Claus has come, gone and retired to Boca Raton, we enter Phase 2 of Christmas Day, with a special emphasis on visitor survival techniques.

Emily Post devoted much prose to the management of household guests, including a whole subsection titled “Guests: Problems With (inebriated, late for dinner, lingering, uninvited).”

There also is a much smaller section titled “Guests: (the perfect),” which advises the prospective caller: “Try to appear blissfully content. When the visit is over, you need never enter that house again.”

Ah, yes, the old blissful-contentment maneuver, particularly effective after the Rottweilers have gotten into your suitcase and consumed an entire bottle of Omega-3 fish oil capsules, a mustache comb and a pair of pantyhose.

(Barking and growling sound effects, mixed dialogue: “Elvis, Lucy — you bad dogs. Get out of here. Those stupid dogs. Gee, we’re sorry. Maybe we should go to CVS. Oh. OH. Somebody let the dogs out.”)

Dogs and fish oil notwithstanding, all of us here at the National Guest Towel Institute sincerely hope that anyone who arrives in the next few hours brings a Whitman’s Sampler and is not extraterrestrial in nature.

Hosts who do expect extraterrestrials — particularly non-bipeds or ammonia breathers from beyond the Van Allen Belt — are advised to follow the handy intergalactic tips found on page 33 of our workbook.

Please feel free to call our hot line should you need to stage an intervention, and we hope you enjoyed the complimentary maraschino fruitcake from the famous Desiccation Bakeries of South Pookie, Utah — suitable for use as a doorstop or engine-block mount.

Moving right along, it is time to enter Phase 3 of Christmas Day, with special emphasis on constructive dialogue and advanced diplomatic techniques. All participants are advised to keep a framed print of Norman Rockwell’s “Rottweilers in Blissful Contentment” handy for reference.

Hopefully, the house is, indeed, Rockwellian as the day progresses.

No? Don’t fret. A parade of new polls has plumbed the state of the American household on Dec. 25.

Above all and no matter what — Rottweilers, fish oil, fruitcake — we want to be with family and friends today. A recent Harris poll found that 70 percent of us rank time spent with loved ones as the most important part of the whole holiday. Just 3 percent cited presents.

But there’s reality to face. Expedia, the online travel service, polled more than 2,000 people to find that 86 percent of them typically spent holiday time with relatives — and 80 percent deemed the experience “enjoyable.”

However, half quietly admitted that having everyone stay in one house could be stressful, with the majority fearing the proverbial family argument. Another 47 percent confessed that they really would rather stay in a hotel for at least part of their visit, while 36 percent of those at the hosting end wished visiting relatives would, instead, bunk in a hotel.

Never fear, though: Mom, nostalgia and the roast beast still rule, too.

In its own consumer survey, bakeware maker Wearever declared that “Mother knows best.” Its poll of more than 1,000 adults found that a quarter said their Christmas meal couldn’t possibly be as good as Mom’s was back in the day. And 75 percent of the respondents fretted they could not possibly reproduce that legendary meal.

Meanwhile, Franklin Covey, a management consultant firm in Salt Lake City, has determined some causes of yuletide stress. Its poll of almost 3,000 people revealed that more than half got upset trying to uphold all those family traditions. Happily, the solution to such angst is simple.

“Don’t get so caught up in staying organized and getting everything done that you forget to enjoy the holiday,” advised spokesman Stephen Covey. “Take a walk and look at the holiday lights. Meditate by the fire.”

The National Guest Towel Institute concurs and advances to Phase 4 of Christmas Day — with a special emphasis on merrymaking. Listen closely: On the count of three, be merry. Smile. Sing. Make a joyful noise. Have fun.

(Congratulations on the successful completion of the course. A certificate will be mailed shortly.)

Jennifer Harper covers media, politics and guest towel scandals for The Washington Times’ national desk. Contact her at 202/636-3085 or jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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