[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published March 20, 2023] ©2023
Every teenager at some point ponders the question, “Just how gullible are my parents?” The query is usually related to some activity that the teen has in mind that they’re fairly clear the folks wouldn’t approve of but which they really (like, really) want to do anyway. So assessing the gullibility quotient of mom and dad is critical to the process.
Some close friends have finally achieved their dream of travel now that their last kid is in college. Their 19-year-old daughter, however, is prone to come home for the weekend when mom and dad are out of town and have a few close friends in for what is advertised as an intimate soirée. But somehow, a party always seems to take place instead. Sometimes several.
The parents’ rule, of course, is: absolutely NO parties. But what defines “party,” really? Number of people? Noise level? Squad cars? It’s such a nebulous term.
Considering the number of times she’s been caught out (a neighbor actually called her parents on their Black Sea cruise at 3 a.m. to report that the daughter’s exceedingly inebriated guests were at that very moment anointing his geraniums with bodily fluids), you think she’d get the idea that having clandestine social gatherings was more problematical than she realized.
Before my friends left on their latest ten-day trip, they hired an elderly relative’s former care giver to come stay at the house at night while they were gone. No way is their daughter going to party with the care giver there. Daughter had mentioned that since finals were approaching, she might come into town to have a weekend of quiet studying away from the noise of her high-density roommate venue. Grades, she reminds her folks, are her utmost priority.
Olof and I laughed out loud when we heard this. But the parents had faith. This time they had it covered.
Imagine the parents’ dismay when they arrived home and knew fairly quickly their offspring had had a party in their absence. Daughter was equally dismayed that they’d found out. She’d been so careful! She’d made everyone stay inside (those double pane windows are marvelous noise insulators). She’d had most of the people stay over so there wasn’t a lot of 2 a.m. departing guest noise waking up the neighbors. Absolutely no geraniums were harmed. She’d even removed every bit of trash from the trash cans and buried, er, relocated it elsewhere. How could this have happened?
Well, here’s a short list:
(1) The care giver your parents paid to stay at the house? She came by the next morning to return part of your parents’ payment saying she couldn’t take money for the three weekend days when you maintained you were preparing for a Zen meditation final which, it goes without saying, required being completely alone.
(2) The cheapest place to shop for booze may be your parents’ Costco-stocked garage but this time they actually counted the stash before they left. They had to admit after the fact that they admired your friends’ taste in vodka.
(3) Making the beds was a thoughtful touch. Washing the sheets might have been a more thoughtful touch. Recognizing that Mom is a precision bed maker who does hospital corners and can spot a bed not made by her from thirty yards? Priceless.
(4) Sanitizing the crime scene by disposing of incriminating evidence in both the big black trash can and the blue recycle bin might have seemed like a brilliant idea but leaving them echo-ingly empty was equivalent to installing a neon sign screaming “PART-EE!” If you learn nothing else in your college career, it’s that subterfuge is all in the details.
(5) The scorched earth policy applied to the trash should have been used on the kitchen instead. Cleaning lady had been there Thursday. Parents home Sunday night. Pushing all those Dorito crumbs behind the counter appliances hoping they’d go unnoticed until next Thursday was a loser from the get-go. Mom, a world-class neatnik, has infrared vision for crumbs. Alas for you, so do ants.
(6) Having people creeping around to the back door of an allegedly unoccupied house in the dark is bound to attract attention from the neighbors. It did.
(7) It was, like, totally savvy of you not to post any pictures of this party on your Facebook page. But your friends posted them on theirs. And tagged you. And yes, Mom promised that if you friended her she wouldn’t rag on you for anything she saw there. But some of those pictures might have been a little TMI, especially those lewdly creative uses of Dad’s treasured set of custom cooking utensils. Please say you washed them afterwards.
Next trip for parents: two weeks from now. Daughter will be home for spring break. Care giver has been told she is not to leave the premises at night no matter what excuses are tendered or how much money daughter offers her.
Olof and I already have our money on the kid.
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