Here’s a Canadian summertime truth: The only thing better than owning a cottage is being invited to visit one. The cottage invitation confers all the benefits of seasonal bliss, with none of the worries about the sagging dock, the wonky plumbing, or the fact that the master bedroom was, over the winter, transformed into a swingers’ club for mice.
But there’s a catch: The only way to guarantee future visits to cottage country is to behave well enough as a guest to avoid being forever exiled from consideration.
How do you know if you’re being just tolerable enough to make it back next summer? For those currently mooching the good life, here’s a helpful quiz to give you a sense of where you stand in the eyes of your hosts. Tally points as indicated and consult the end of the column for the verdict.
1. Upon arrival, it’s good form to give a gift to your hosts. What did you bring for them?
- A two-four of beer and a newspaper (0 points)
- A 12-pack of beer, which you single-handedly polished off before dinner (2 points)
- A six-pack of beer, for which you kept the receipt and announced, “Happy to go halfsies on this.” (5 points)
2. You can tell a lot by watching how your host couple communicate when they think you’re not looking. Have you noticed any of the following? Score two points for each time you answer yes:
- Sighing (with muttered profanity)
- Flagrant eye-rolling
- Frequent use of pig Latin, with a particular fondness for the words “Erkface-jay” and “Umbnuts-nay”
- Use of the index finger and thumb to make the gesture commonly understood to mean, “Blowing my brains out right now would bring such sweet relief.”
- Mouthing of the words, “Worst. Guests. Ever.”
- Yelling of the words, “Worst. Guests. Ever.”
3. Halfway through your scheduled visit, you wake up in the morning to find waiting for you:
- A delicious hot breakfast on the table (0 points)
- Coffee in the pot and bread near the toaster (2 points)
- A taxi (5 points)
4. In all likelihood, your hosts will have had to perform some minor maintenance on the cottage during your stay. How did you respond?
- Generously offered to pitch in (0 points)
- Generously offered to pitch in, but then hid behind a tree for two hours while pretending to search for a screwdriver (2 points)
- Yelled from bed, “Yo, trying to nap here, Captain Wet-Vac!” (5 points)
5. Every guest makes certain demands—but are you asking too much of your hosts? There are warning signs. For instance, when you request a “fluffier” pillow, does your host:
- Give you one happily? (0 points)
- Give you one reluctantly? (2 points)
- Give you one by holding it down over your face? (5 points)
6. Some cottage-owners send subtle “signals” to indicate that guests have worn out their welcome. Have your hosts said or done any of the following? Score two points for each time you answer yes:
- Asked, “When are you leaving?”
- Asked, “You’re leaving tomorrow, right?”
- Declared, “You’re leaving tomorrow”
- Filed suit in a court of law, seeking a restraining order against your “big fat face”
- Glared daggers at you, symbolically
- Wielded daggers at you, actually
- Hurled all your suitcases into the lake “accidentally”
- Left this magazine column out for you, with the following words circled and underlined: GO HOME, DEADBEATS.
0 to 9 points: Congratulations—you’re officially tolerable! Bank on a return visit next summer.
10 to 23 points: It’s looking iffy. Your best hope for a return invitation is if your hosts’ others friends are marginally more unbearable.
24 points or more: You will never again be invited to this cottage. Safe in this knowledge, you may as well crash their boat now for good measure.
Follow Scott Feschuk on Twitter @scottfeschuk