The Beauty of Semantic Confusion

Here’s a helpful tip for those of you who are going to be moving to a new place in the near future: make sure you throw your housewarming party within two weeks of your move-in date. This method has not one, but two advantages:

  1. It forces you to unpack everything in a timely manner.

  2. It insulates you from criticism regarding your home decorating skills. (“Well of course the place is a shambles. The poor guy just moved in!”)1

The housewarming party was a success. People of all ages came, ate, drank, and generally seemed to be having a good time. Always risky to bring down the walls of family, work friends, elementary school friends, middle school friends, college friends, poker friends, MOTWM friends, and associated spouses, significant others, and kids. But it all seemed to work out. The only really tricky part was that I didn’t want everyone to think that the housewarming party was an excuse for a big gift-fest. I hate big gift-fests. Everyone hates big gift-fests. I just wanted people to come over, eat, have a good time. Simple.

Now, a naive person might think that there’s an easy solution: just say in the announcement, “No gifts, please.” Unfortunately, on the scale of rudeness, this statement is considered to be just a notch or two above stamping, “CASH GIFTS PREFERRED” on your wedding invitation. Don’t take my word for it — go ask Miss Manners or Carolyn Hax if you don’t believe me.2 So… everyone assumes they need to bring something to the party, but you don’t want them to, but you can’t tell them not to, because that would be rude. However, if they bring it up on their own, you can say something, in which case they will wonder — okay, does he really mean it? And will I look bad if everyone else brings something and I don’t? We Earthlings, we are a funny species.3

Fortunately, it was possible to cut down on the gifts drastically by falling back on the age-old principle: if you can’t win the game, cheat. Rather than having a “Housewarming Party”, I called it an “Open House Party”. Sure, everybody knows that housewarming parties and gifts go together. But what the heck do you bring to an Open House party? Do you bring anything at all? What is an Open House party, anyway? Who knows? Who cares? Semantic confusion, my friends. It’s a beautiful thing.

1. Of course I mostly get a free pass on #2 anyway, being an unmarried straight male and all.

2. The reasoning being that no party should be held under the assumption that the guests “owe” gifts to the host, and that therefore bringing up the subject explicitly is rude, even if you’re only bringing it up to reject it.

3. No doubt this is the kind of stuff that drives people with Asperger’s totally crazy.

The Condo on House Street

So I’m finally moved in to the new condo. Well, “moved in” is a bit of an understatement. Currently most of my stuff is in randomly dispersed boxes on the floor of the new place… except for my computer, which is still at my old apartment. Unfortunately, this is the only place where I have internet connectivity right now. It’s kind of funny, actually, sitting here with my expensive electronic equipment in a grubby and completely unfurnished apartment… it’s like being a brand-new bachelor all over again.

Aside from unpacking and cleaning, there are still lots of things to do. For one thing, I’ve got to let various folks know where I am. It’s a looong list. At the top are family, friends, and various financial institutions. Further down: dentist, optometrist, alumni association. At the bottom we have the peculiar category of Magazine Companies Who Send Me Magazines That I Don’t Ever Remember Subscribing To. For some reason, Forbes and Sports Illustrated decided to just start sending me magazines. For free. Can’t imagine this is a good business model for SI and Forbes, but what do I know.

Actually, I suppose I don’t mind Sports Illustrated so much, I just tear out all baseball related articles and discard the rest. But Forbes… Forbes is just so tedious. Democrats: bad. Republicans: good. Lawyers: bad. Deregulated markets: very, very good, except when it comes to certain pet issues such as stem cell research, in which case the free market is bad and lawyers are good. Maybe I should just take this opportunity to call Forbes and cancel my “subscription”. Then again, maybe I like the fact that they’re wasting resources on the likes of me. On the other hand, while I’d like to stick it to Steve Forbes — and let’s face it, who woudn’t — the worthless magazines he sends to me are consuming paper, chemicals, gas for distribution. Because of my petty nature, rainforests are dying that I could have saved! Oh, my aching head.

The one thing I’ve learned while calling up all these institutions is that “La Maison” is a very bad choice for a street name. You have to spell it out for everybody, and it’s always pronounced back, “lah may-sin” (rhymes with “raisin”). Clearly, high school French is in serious decline. Only two people have got it right so far: the synthesized computer voice at my Visa company, and a scratchy-voiced lady named “Kitty” at the local water company. At least Kitty knows how they say “maison” down in old Par-ee, by God. And while we’re on the subject — if a condo complex is on La Maison street, isn’t that false advertising? Maybe we can take a vote on changing the street name at the next condo association meeting. I bet “Freedom Street” would sail right through.