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That seat? Not yours. Nope.

 There is a fine art to mooching off other people at events, and you know what?  Everyone does it wrong.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.  All of you mooches need to get your act together, or the nice people from whom I have siphoned all sorts of hospitality for the past twenty years (including, but not limited to:  Chairs, food, feast gear, a bed, napping space, medication, band-aids, shade, clothing [SCA and mundane], jewelry, books, and minions to do my every bidding) will get very pissed off, and will stop offering hospitality to ANYONE.

Clearly, this cannot be allowed to happen, or I will have to start actually bringing chairs and food to events.

To start with, you cannot simply walk into an event and expect to be catered to.  Proper mooching requires careful set up ahead of time, subtly reinforcing the idea that hospitality is a good thing.  For example:

Wrong:  Arrive at event.  Look for swankiest pavilion that does not have royal banners.  Find comfiest, fanciest chair in said pavilion.  Park oneself in chair and refuse to move for the rest of the event.  Get really nasty and accusatory if someone tries to move you.  Make frequent mention of how hard it is to stand, how your feet hurt, and how rude everyone is for wanting to sit in their chairs.  When asked "why didn't you bring your own chair?", whine that it's too hard.

Right:  Mention to friend who has large pavilion that you will be at event (start about three weeks ahead of time).  Ask politely if pavilion shade can be shared, since after all, it doesn't make sense for everyone to bring a pavilion.  Offer to bring something for the lunch table, thereby proving good intentions.  Arrive at event, having picked up rotisserie chicken from grocery store on the way.  Find pavilion.  Apologize for not bringing a chair, ask if a chair is free.  Sit in empty chair, moving to another empty chair if owner of chair appears and wants to sit down (sit on ground if neccessary; this is groundwork [har!] for future chair use).  Help clean up at the end - maybe by helpfully holding the trash bag open while other people pick up trash.

See?  It's all in making the (small) effort.  If you're able-bodied, you might need to help a little bit more, but hey - free shade, free lunch - quit yer whinin'.

And really, is it that hard to pack a Lunchable and a soda?  Is it really neccessary to start eating the food off stranger's  tables?  You don't even know where it's been.  

Seriously; I want to be able to mooch food off people, and if y'all piss off my nice helpful suckers friends, they'll stop bringing extra food, and start bringing Lunchables.  One each, no spares.

And I hate Lunchables.  Especially the "pizza" ones Blech.

So:

Wrong:  Decide it's lunchtime.  Search pavilions for best-looking lunch spread.  Park yourself by table and consume vast quantities of someone else's food, without asking permission, or even introducing yourself.  If someone confronts you (which they probably won't), quickly stuff as much food as you can in your pockets and disappear without apologizing.  Alternate option:  Get very huffy about how the SCA is supposed to be friendly, and how the pavilion owners are totally being mean and rude.  Do not offer to pay for food eaten.

Right:  Find friends with food, right around lunchtime.  Ask if they have water for your mug, then smile and chat for a bit.  Ask how people are.  Try not to cast longing looks at food table.  Smile and accept enthusiastically when they offer food.  Take a small amount of food, and thank them profusely.  Offer to pitch in some money (this is safe, as they pretty much always refuse, and are very generous).  Thank them again.  Grab some grapes for the road.  Move to next pavilion with food, start over.

I swear, if y'all can just start saying "please", "thank you", and "is this seat taken/would you like your seat back?", we'd all be better off.  Alternatively, get your own stuff, and stop depending on strangers to take care of you, because they'll get really tired of it, and when you really need someone's help, they'll be much less inclined to take care of you.

Also:  Feed your kids.  Bring toys for your kids.  Supervise your kids.  My friends (with kids) who do all these things for their own children are declaring a moratorium on doing it for other people (or at least, they should).  It is not fair to expect other people to feed or entertain your child.

And on the flip side - how can you tell when a mooch has moved in on your peaceful day?

I know, silly question.

But how do you deal with them?  Well, as an accomplished mooch of long standing, I know all their tricks, and believe me, they're not in the least bit subtle.

(Amateurs.)

To start with, there are two kinds of mooch - the one that knows they're mooching, and is relying on the good nature of others not to cause a scene, and the poor, clueless bastard who just doesn't get it.  Both are special and annoying, and both make people nervous, because polite confrontation is not a skill most SCA people have mastered.

NOTE:  Brand spanking new people who do something like this are not mooches, just badly informed of exactly how the SCA works.  Be gentle, and escort them to their local Barony's (or the local group's) open dayshade/pavilion (if available).  

No, it's not the uninformed newbies, it's the people who should (and sometimes do) know better that we all have trouble with.

Happily, both the professional mooch and the poor clueless bastard can usually be handled by simply stating whatever it is that needs to be stopped/fixed/vacated/put down in a firm, clear, polite voice - much the way I used to explain to one of my more idiotic bosses how desktop icons on his computer worked.  Don't be rude, but do be firm:

"My Lord/Lady, that chair is actually mine, and I would like to sit down.  We have benches available/there is open seating under the local group's dayshade/pavilion if you wish to sit."

"That chair belongs to *owner of pavilion*.  Please do not sit on it in your armour."

"I'm very sorry, but this food is for a private lunch.  I believe there is a fundraiser lunch/open lunch/ food places nearby if you are hungry."

"Please don't leave your trash scattered all over our pavilion; there is a trash bag under the table/trash bin right over there."

"We would be very grateful if you would move your fighting bag to the rear of the pavilion so that it is not in the way.  Thank you."

"Could you please help us pack up the pavilion you have used as a dayshade all day?  We would appreciate the help."

But what if they get angry, and accuse you of rudeness?  
(This is usually the tactic of the professional mooch; the clueless bastard mostly accepts correction and apologizes.)

Well, what if they do?  You have not been rude; you have been polite.  They are merely trying to deflect their own embarrassment at being caught doing something wrong.  You are not causing the scene, and if you remain polite and calm, you will not be in the wrong.  Keep reiterating that you are sorry they misunderstood, and there are no hard feelings, but the people who have paid for/put work into making this pavilion nice would like to have their stuff available to them, and not used by a complete stranger.  Offer alternatives - usually these alternatives are not as attractive (which is why the mooch has made a beeline for your pavilion), but they are available to anyone who has failed to make any provision for their own comfort, and is now abusing the hospitality of complete strangers.

Keep calm, keep polite, and above all, keep firm.  People cannot learn to take care of themselves if no-one ever stops them from taking what they need from unsuspecting strangers; yes, it's embarrassing to be caught doing something wrong, but it is far worse to see the generous hospitality of the SCA go away because some people are too rude to learn the phrase "please may I?".

We all want to have nice things at events, and it does make sense to pool resources, so that a bunch of people can congregate under one pavilion, have nice chairs to sit on, and a nice lunch, but there's always a price.  I am absolutely truthful when I say that I have not brought my own dayshade to an event for a number of years - I sit under one or another of my friends' pavilions.  Frequently, I have not even brought a chair (the Miata puts certain constraints on what I can and cannot bring).  I am a mooch of the highest order; I have almost elevated it to an art form - just ask my friends.

No-one's thrown me out yet - partly as a testament to the patience of my friends, but I have to believe that it is also partly because I have learned the three most valuable phrases a mooch can ever add to their vocabulary:

"Please may I?"
"Thank you so much!"
"Is there anything I can do?"

But - I am now prepared to earn my keep!  If you let me sit under your shade, and eat your food, I am delighted to perfom mooch extraction techniques for you!  I am quite happy to politely weather a storm of whining and accusations (without ever raising my voice or being anything less than super polite, because I am a Jedi Laurel Master) as I turf the mooch from your space.  I can go to people and say "sorry, but you cannot leave your child/pet/trash/Lunchables here; there is an open dayshade over there".  I am sanguine and practiced at saying "That chair belongs to so-and-so, and they need to sit down; could you let them sit, please?", and I can say "I apologize, but this is a private pavilion; I would be happy to show you where the public space is".  I don't wither under accusations of being mean and discourteous, and I get scarier things than most mooches with my breakfast cereal.

I can also return errant children to their parents without feeling the urge to feed them first (yes, I'm mean.  But the parents won't learn if you keep bailing them out, and no child ever died of hunger because you wouldn't give them the PB&J you packed for your child).  I will even teach classes on the technique (bring a rag doll, a knife, and be prepared for some heavy roleplaying).

So, anyone going to Novice?  I may be on my own, and I might need someplace to sit.  I can pick up a chicken for the lunch table...

Comments

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dragonazure
Jul. 7th, 2008 02:31 pm (UTC)
So, anyone going to Novice? I may be on my own, and I might need someplace to sit. I can pick up a chicken for the lunch table...


For some reason, the first time I read this, I thought it said you could pick up children for the lunch table... chuckle
valkyr8
Jul. 7th, 2008 02:40 pm (UTC)
I totally did that too. I thought it seemed so appropriate. LOL
chargirlgenius
Jul. 7th, 2008 02:37 pm (UTC)
So, anyone going to Novice? I may be on my own, and I might need someplace to sit. I can pick up a chicken for the lunch table...

Maybe you should cover vigils in your instructions. :-)

We'll be there, and under the grand double vigil tent. We'll have food, and chairs, and I'll be forever wounded if all of the coolest moochers (yourself included) don't mooch off of us for a significant portion of the day.
attack_laurel
Jul. 7th, 2008 02:51 pm (UTC)
Woo-hoo! Lunch! :)
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bantiarna
Jul. 7th, 2008 02:39 pm (UTC)
The most unpleasant situation like this I have been involved with involved my own pavilion and a member's mother who was at her first event. I had my pavilion set up with the fly attached, a rug on the ground and several chairs. I got out of my chair and went walking around, when I came back, my friends mother was parked in my chair, by the open door of the pavilion smoking one cigarette after another dropping her butts on the rug. *innersnarl* None of us smoke and there were no Non-Smoking signs put up but I thought it was exceptionally rude for her to plop down in my chair and smoke right at our door insuring that the canvas would smell like smoke forever.

I tried to gently but firmly inform her (I had never met her before and had not even been introduced to her at this point) that the chair and the pavilion she was sitting in were both made of canvas and that they would absorb the smoke and could she please smoke . . .somewhere else. She promptly informed me that she was a guest and she would sit and smoke where ever she pleased and I had to deal with it. I was too speechless to dump her out of her chair. I was able to find her daughter shortly later and told her "Could you please ask your mother to not smoke in my pavilion, I have not had such luck." She was embarrassed and drug her mother away. The whole thing just made me sick.

I try to always be a gracious hostess and an even better guest. If I cannot help out monetarily I certainly can help clean up!
dragonazure
Jul. 7th, 2008 02:56 pm (UTC)
I vaguely remember a flap about smokers lighting up under other people's pavilions...I had forgotten it was yours.

And no amount of Febreeze or other agent ever seems to get it out once it gets in....unless you can get it into an industrial washing machine...and rewaterproof it afterwards.
(no subject) - ladypyrate - Jul. 7th, 2008 03:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
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semantics . . . . - perilousknits - Jul. 7th, 2008 04:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
ayeshadream
Jul. 7th, 2008 02:41 pm (UTC)
This is brilliant and should be taught at newbee classes- I can think of at least three mooches I will start practicing this technique on.

I love feeding people, but when they're rude about it, or start chowing without permission or even a thank you I tend to get surly.
(Anonymous)
Jul. 7th, 2008 03:08 pm (UTC)
You are very right, this SHOULD be taught with Newcomers class. I never really thought about it. We do set up chairs and food and I guess if you do not know the drill you would think you are welcome to any of it. Let them know how to tell what is open hospitality and what isn't. Also, newcomers should be told that sometimes under a pavilion a group of people might be having a meeting and its inappropriate to just walk in or to hang around closely "Not" listening.
Oops I did not realize I was not logged in - bantiarna - Jul. 7th, 2008 03:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - attack_laurel - Jul. 7th, 2008 03:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
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xntryk
Jul. 17th, 2008 06:24 pm (UTC)
*golf clap*

As one with allergies, the thought of just plopping oneself down in someone's event-abode and demanding food that fits the dietary restrictions of said mooch... just fills me with something that doesn't rhyme with tea.
vom_schwarzwald
Jul. 7th, 2008 02:44 pm (UTC)
All true, all common sense, all proper and polite...and me AMAZED that it even has to be said.

Sigh.
reasdream
Jul. 7th, 2008 02:45 pm (UTC)
Post is made of win!

Mooching is, indeed, a fine art if it is to be done correctly.
isenglass
Jul. 7th, 2008 02:46 pm (UTC)
You're welcome to come mooch off us any time you want. :-) At least you won't be the person that actually took off with my chairs because "no one was using them". Seriously, who takes someone's chairs from their personal pavilion?
attack_laurel
Jul. 7th, 2008 02:55 pm (UTC)
Holy shit! Wow.

Bob suggested we put up "private pavilion" signs; clearly he's on to something. I hate to close things off, but the people who abuse everyone's goodwill seriously never seem to actually contribute anything to what they clearly regard as open season on anything.
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mightyjesse
Jul. 7th, 2008 02:46 pm (UTC)
*chuckle*

As a "Mooch Ejector" your services would be highly prized by many a would-be SCA hostess. I have a "Coffee Shoppe" at Pennsic and somehow manage to serve about 4 gallons of Irish Coffee every morning to my friends. All the materials are either donated or paid for out of my own pocket. People have suggested that I start charging for coffee instead of just serving anyone who turns up looking sufficiently pathetic; however, I have always veered away from doing such a thing, as that would make me feel like I *couldn't* eject people from the park at will.

Actually the full name of the tent is "Coffee Shoppe, Group Therapie, and Assassin's Guild." The joke has always been that the service provided is arbitrarily decided based on the mood of the hostess. It is possible that you will arrive needing coffee and end up getting killed by your partially clad, not ready to receive guests yet, friend. Or perhaps you will arrive in a murderous mood and receive coffee and a hug instead. Life is full of surprises.
tash_n_tail
Jul. 7th, 2008 04:28 pm (UTC)
What a really great concept and approach!
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attack_laurel
Jul. 7th, 2008 02:56 pm (UTC)
I have the advantage of being old, crotchety, and unafraid of anyone when it comes to throwing people out/correcting them; however, I take my cues from my hostess. :)
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sircorby
Jul. 7th, 2008 02:51 pm (UTC)
A valuable service I offer
There's this thing I'm pretty good at called confrontation. A service I offer for my friends, hopefully to be used in their service, not aimed at them.

Friends, feel free to avail yourself of that service if you suddenly find you need to increase the available free space of your pavilion by exactly one rude guy's worth.
alinore
Jul. 7th, 2008 02:55 pm (UTC)
Personally, I am a fan of the - "will there be any extra leftovers?" - question that occurs right after you announce that dinner will be served to the people that bought into your food plan. So they'd like to eat for free of the nice food that other people have paid for?
attack_laurel
Jul. 7th, 2008 02:57 pm (UTC)
The answer, of course, is "no, sorry". :) Any leftovers are needed for breakfast next morning, right? *evil grin*
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ladypyrate
Jul. 7th, 2008 02:57 pm (UTC)
When I first joined the SCA, I admit, I did not have a lot of funds for chairs etc, and was kindly hosted by many (long suffering) friends. But I always brought my own food or made lunch arrangements with our firends, and always asked if I could sit under someone's day shade.

10 years down the line, I *always* ask permission before I plop under someone's pavillion, as I do not own one of my own. Even if the food table is open for all comers, I will not eat unless invited to do so, and even then I feel funny doing it. Any garbage I bring, goes back in my basket till I find a trash bag.

I do not know if it is a lack of properly explaining things to newcomers, or if it is an outgrowth of our society of entitlement. So many people I run across in my daily travels seem to think that they should not be held accountable for things they do. (Just this AM I had a customer toss an NSF notice on my desk, basically saying "fix this". When I showed him he had negelcted to enter something in his own checkbook, he still wanted us to refund the 2 NSF fees he'd accumulated.)

Now I think if you bring something, or show a willingness to assist with set-up, take-down, or bringing food with you, you are hardly a mooch. A willingness to chip in to make things run smoother goes a long way (like personality).
cathgrace
Jul. 7th, 2008 02:59 pm (UTC)
We’re going to Novice, you can sit with us if you would like…….

I have struggled with the casualness since coming to this kingdom, in Artemisia one would never enter a day shade or encampment without hailing the camp and asking permission, and one would never sit without permission.
Emmie was funny one day (I think she was 3 or 4) because when I had stepped away from our shade to watch Paul fight in a tourney, and someone sat in my good chair. Emmie got really mad and kept telling them “that’s mommy’s chair” and they told her, “It’s all right, I’ll move when she gets back.” I came back to find 4 slight acquaintances sitting under my day shade. My chair was not returned to me, and Emmie marched over to the person, and thrust her hands upon her hips and said, “Mommy’s back now…….” This person smilled at her, patted her head and said, “oh mommy doesn’t mind” I was actually rather irritated to tell the truth, but lacking your guidance and good instructions I didn’t say anything, hopefully I will do better in the future understanding the rudeness isn't mine.
I have also several times had to return back to their parents after having them dropped off with me, (unbeknownst to me) and gotten a blank, “Oh I’m sorry, saw all the toys and the kids and thought you were the children’s corner.”

Firstly, who drops their kids off without asking?
Second, the fact we brought toys for our kids, (that are often hand made) doesn’t mean we want to share with your frequently destructive child.
Thirdly, I have two kids, two kids that are clearly siblings, TWO kids does not a children’s area make.
attack_laurel
Jul. 7th, 2008 03:09 pm (UTC)
"Private pavilion" signs. I'm going to start making them. I swear.

It's not rude to inform your "guests" of the house rules - such as "my chair". And "no children".

Next time someone drops off their kids, charge them for babysitting. $30/hr sounds reasonable, plus a security desposit in case they break stuff. And food is extra.
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tattycat
Jul. 7th, 2008 03:05 pm (UTC)
Also, a good mooch should be entertaining-- charming, funny, witty, have good gossip, sing, and/or be informative. Something that makes the host not only not mind their company, but want them to come back :)
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