attack_laurel (attack_laurel) wrote,
attack_laurel
attack_laurel

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...

Tags: courtesy, humour, manners, rant, sca
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