My wife is a very sociable person. She loves to entertain. We used to host lovely dinner parties once a month, inviting two other couples, friends, family, business associates or clients. The pandemic put an end to those lovely dinner parties. Since mid-March no one, including daughters and sons and their families, has set foot in our home with the following exceptions:
• Our wonderful housekeepers of 30+ years, MC and Bernice, have returned. Each Friday, before they arrive, Leila retreats to her upstairs office and shuts the door. I flee to the golf course. We are probably being overly cautious, for MC and Bernice are super-careful and wipe down all surfaces they have touched with virus killing solutions. But you just can’t be too careful nowadays.
• We allowed Bay Alarm techs to install a wireless radio alert so that we could cancel our land-line phone service. They were masked, but the techs were in over their heads. And we were unhappy, to say the least, to have three strangers in the house. One tech was here for 8 hours and when he left the system was severely compromised. The next day a tech supervisor, masked and apologetic, had the system working within 30 minutes.
• Female guests are allowed entry when needed, as described below.
Leila, growing weary of social isolation, devised and we never deviate from the following entertainment protocols.
• We entertain in the back yard. Guests enter via the walkway along the side of the house.
• Before they arrive, Leila has to remind me to unlock the gate. (Perhaps because I am a bit of an introvert and entertaining on a hot evening in the back yard is not something for which I yearn, I hope that the locked gate will discourage entry.)
• The limited space in our back yard prevents seating more than four people if we are to maintain proper social distancing. Therefore, we entertain only one couple at a time. We could do two couples, but Leila refuses to place one of the second couple behind the orange tree and his/her mate next to the garbage bin.
• The guests receive their food in separate serving vessels (plastic quart containers with the deli food we ordered) and compostable wooden utensils and plates. Absolutely no dipping into a common dish!
• We supply bottled water and wine to our guests, although I have to be reminded to provide them with a corkscrew. You see, since Leila insists on serving the very best, most expensive wine from our modest cellar, I hope that guests will be too polite to ask for an opener. Before I got married, my wine choice was Gallo Hearty Burgundy. That resulted in my wedding vow never to bring boxed wine into the house. I try to be eco-friendly but I am not allowed to recycle a bottle which once contained expensive wine by filling it with an inexpensive wine.
• No one is allowed in the house for any reason whatsoever.
• Exception: female guests may enter to use the bathroom. Men are invited to step behind said orange tree.
With these protocols in place, we have entertained several times. Our guests enthusiastically thank us for the dinner party, a welcome break to the social isolation they too have suffered.
The men are especially enthusiastic. There is something very masculine and gender-affirming about peeing outside, in nature, even if it is behind an orange tree in an urban back yard.
(Thanks to Nick Hoppe, an SF Chronicle columnist, whose wonderful August 19 column on the same topic inspired me to share the Gough protocols.)
© 2020 Kerry Gough