Dealing with Covid with a Sense of Humour – by Layton Park

This Covid thing has brought on several questions and old memories.

When I was growing up many families on our block, right in town, did not have indoor plumbing, instead they had an old fashioned out-house with a moon cut into the door for light, at the back of the lot.

In one of my humour books, I went to some length explaining that there was no toilet paper in most of these out houses, but rather old Sears and Eaton’s, newsprint catalogs. In the spring they were a little ratty after spending the winter as shin guards for young hockey players but then they went right back to the out houses.  This was recycling at its finest.

These catalogs were in most out houses until both companies went out of business and Canadian Tire took over but provided high gloss flyers, which was not a good replacement in the back house.

I went on to explain in my book that my short humour story books had been referred to as good bathroom readers, not just for the entertainment value but to provide extra quality paper for wrapping things up if nothing else was available.

Today we are all spoiled requiring three ply, ultra-soft, quilted, snow white paper to do the job. Where has this luxury brought us?

During the first couple of months in 2020 everyone came to line-up at Costco waiting for new shipments of Toilet paper because of the shortage caused by people panicking that they may run out. No one thought of any other option.

The good news is, if it happens again, I still have lots of books still for sale.

When I moved to the Okanagan (an old Native word meaning a great place to retire), one of the things I most looked forward to welcoming company from back home. My new neighbour, Fred, could not understand my enthusiasm for visitors. He warned me that anyone I had ever nodded at or said hello to back on the prairies, would turn up at our door looking for a free Okanagan holiday and if I didn’t nip it in the bud I would have very busy summers.

“Don’t encourage them,” He cautioned, “or you’ll be running a hotel.” He said that people from Saskatchewan (another Native word, which means you cannot jump to your death here) make especially bad visitors. “If the flatlanders make it through the twisting mountain roads to the valley, they are often too frightened to return, so they stay, some forever.”

I laughed, but Fred was serious. “Do the math,” he said. “There are more retired people from Weyburn, Rosetown, Saskatoon and Moose Jaw living in the Okanagan than the entire population of all three places put together.”

Wanting to be helpful, Fred offered a few suggestions to curb the flow of prairie traffic to our home. “First keep two suitcases in the closet beside the front door,” he said. “When someone shows up and there is any indication they may be planning to stay, pretend you’re just getting ready to go out of town for a few days. You’d better have a good plan, too.”

Apparently, Fred felt thought his message wasn’t sinking in, so he told me. “One time, some people showed up whom I hardly knew, so I pulled the suitcase trick. Instead of leaving, they asked if they could use the house anyway. We ended up staying at a motel for the weekend. Now we keep clothes and a toothbrush in the suitcase.”

The topic of out-of-town visitors continued to pop up, and I learned of several new tricks one of which is leaving only one roll of toilet paper in the guest bathroom and no copies of my book. The idea is that after you continually promise to replenish the empty roll (but never do), the unwanted guests will find accommodation somewhere else, rather than embarrass you by reminding you yet again. Occasionally they may just buy their own toilet paper, but few are willing to spend the money, after all that is why they are at your home.

Another helpful neighbour suggested we register our home as a bed and breakfast and post a sign on the back door: Rooms for rent –$150 per night. Sometimes that alone will make uninvited guests feel guilty, and they will depart. If that doesn’t work, you still have the option of saying, “We’d love to have you stay, but unfortunately, all of the rooms are booked after Wednesday.”

I suspect the neighbours thought I was crazy for being pleased at the idea of getting company. I visited a local furniture store to buy a fold-out couch for extra sleeping quarters. The salesperson asked if I wanted the one-night bed, the weekender, or the full-week bed. The confused look on my face prompted an explanation.

“Sofa beds are available in three different models,” the salesman explained, “the one-nighter is a bed fitted with a bar that runs across the lumbar position, making for a very uncomfortable sleep. Stiffness is guaranteed after only one night, prompting guests to leave the following day.” He smiled and continued.

“The weekender has the same bar but a thicker mattress and additional padding, so aches and stiffness don’t show up for two or three nights. It is only moderately uncomfortable, designed for those you want to visit but not to overstay their welcome.” He paused for effect.

“The full-week bed is for close family or friends whom you want to come for a short stay, but not move in. It features the same construction, but the bar drops in the middle of the bed and it has even more padding. It has no negative effect but is uncomfortable enough to keep guests from enjoying a full good night’s sleep. After several nights, they, too, will decide to move on.”

“The beds may not have been designed with those particular purposes in mind,” the salesperson explained, “but here in the valley, that’s how we rate them. It’s the only way to keep control over your home.”

After some discussion, I decided against buying a fold up bed and purchased a futon instead.

I still welcome my prairie friends, but should you find me at the front door with suitcases in hand, you will know I have finally reached my quota of vacationing visitors. On the other hand if you buy a few copies of my books for reading or otherwise I could be convinced to open up a room for a night or two


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