Just Ask Dave & Paul
Our beach house has a very thorough set of rules, but I've noticed as the summer winds down people are bending and breaking them. Even our House Mother has grown lax. Can we call on the Rehoboth Police Department to restore some sense of order?
Good government requires eternal vigilance. I'm glad not everyone has surrendered to the forces of anarchy unleashed at summer's end. I can tell from your question that you are a conscientious house member who never heads home at the end of a weekend without emptying the trash bucket in your room. Good work and congratulations! Never mind if all your housemates have nicknamed you Old-Stick-up-the-Butt. It's people like you who preserve civilization as we know it.
Some houses think it best if they don't have "too many rules." This is an illusion. All houses actually have the same number of rules, because all houses have to deal with exactly the same issues. Who gets to come down on which weekends, and where do they sleep? Who has to pay guest fees? Who cleans up? Which blockbuster summer movie will provide the theme for our party?
The only differences among houses is whether the rules are 1) explicit, 2) made in advance, 3) agreed upon by all, and 4) evenly applied. In some houses the "rules" are left unstated. The real rule may be "House Mother always gets his way." Or the "rules" may be invented ad hoc, or created by a few people and imposed on the rest. Of course, dictatorship can be a very efficient form of government, especially if all the house members have similar tastes and habits. But if the house isn't full of clones, conflicts will inevitably arise. That's when detailed rules, sort of like a pre-nuptial agreement, can help to resolve disputes and settle who gets what.
Someone should write a book on the wide variety of arrangements that different houses have developed. When new groups are organizing, they could pick and choose the system that seems best for them. But if you find yourself at this point of the summer with pent-up resentments ("Last week you let Tom do...", "But Dick never had to..." "Harry already brought down three...") it's too late. Try again next year.
As for your idea of calling on Rehoboth's Finest to help restore order: we hope it doesn't come to that. There isn't much serious crime in Rehoboth (not counting expired parking meters) so the local constabulary does seem to be looking for work. But I'd recommend leaving the police calls to your neighbors. Some of these summer recruits are control freaks, who get a weird kick out of ticketing bike-riders, arresting skinny-dippers, and leading people away in hand-cuffs. A few even imagine that a couple of guys hugging in the surf are hardened criminals, so to speak. Just think what they might do to some scoundrel who leaves dirty dishes in the sink.
Paul, it's obvious you have a few issues with Authority. In fact, I'd say you have a love/hate relationship. On the one hand you crave order. You want your beach house to have clear and detailed rules so things run smoothly. On the other hand, you rebel when someone tries to reign in your own impulses. Sure, it would be nice if we could come home at 3:00 a.m. and turn up the volume on our favorite CD, or run to the beach and swim naked, or park wherever we wanted. But we live in a COMMUNITY with OTHER PEOPLE. We have to accommodate their needs and concerns, even if they aren't the same as ours.
Of course, what you really want is a world perfectly ordered along the lines YOU think are right. I can see it now: Every bar would stay open all night, hire only DJs from your pre-approved list, and ask you to serve as lighting design consultant. Everyone would sleep until 11:00 a.m., hit the beach all afternoon, and take a disco nap before dining on a gourmet supper. Then we'd make the rounds of parties, dance cheek to cheek until closing time, and go home with whomever we like. Actually, that doesn't sound too bad. But it's unrealistic.
We'll never find a perfect set of rules to keep the beach house clean and the trains running on time. We don't need, or want, a GayGestapo to shape the world to our tastes. Living together peaceably is very simple: give everyone's viewpoint the same respect as your own. You can't legislate sensitivity any more than you can legislate morality. If we learn that lesson, maybe someday Pat Buchanan and Gary Bauer will too.
Between the two of them, Dave and Paul practice psychology and law in the mid-Atlantic region. In this column, they will ludicrously attempt to apply the latest in scientific research and philosophical analysis (and maybe even some common sense) to problems of life at the beach. Your questions are welcome and may be sent to: email@example.com.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 9, No. 12, Aug. 27, 1999