Neighbor's dinner for boss didn't quite go as planned

February 17, 2000

Think of all the times you want to make a good impression - not just a strong hello or how do you do - but an IMPRESSION.

cont. from lifestyle

You want to make a lasting image in the long-term memory of your guests, a real "hall-of-fame" event. Those impressionistic times you may remember may include a first date, a first kiss, the first meeting of your future in-laws and, in the case of my neighbor, the first dinner at her new house with her boss.

Any "first dinner at your house with your boss" is just ripe with opportunity for gaining honor and high standing if all goes well. The conditional statement "if all goes well" implies you do not have children younger than the age of 7, your husband does not insist on making his famous bean dip, and your 75-pound long-haired dog is not going through molting season. These are basic rules women of the household have to play by.


My dear neighbor recently recounted her boss' dinner adventure. The following story is true. The names have been changed to protect not only the innocent, but so you can e-mail this story across the country without my friend having to move to Canada, where this sort of thing happens all the time.

To create a little extra ambience for the evening, "Gwen" bought some yellow linen napkins. She thought she should wash them first. Good, solid impression move, until the washing machine inexplicably overflowed and vomited suds all over the laundry room floor. Just a little mess to tidy up before the evening really got started.

"Gwen" prepared a lovely meal and set a fine candlelit table. The children, including the boss' own, ate well and moved on to play with the Pokmon card collection because every house with children ages 3 to 12 has Pokmon cards in it.

"Gwen" offered a cheery invitation for more bread. Her arm passed directly over a candle flame. With a whoosh, her sweater was ablaze. Looking more like a story on the show "Real TV," Gwen ran to the living room, swatting at her arm. She heard her 4-year-old shout, "Mommy, stop, drop and roll!"

Gwen did as instructed. She heard additional directions, too: "Get off our Pokmon cards!!"

With the fire out and no one hurt (really she wasn't hurt - the sweater was designed by the same people who make Thomas' English muffins) Gwen, now smelling like a burnt mohair scented cake candle, forged on with her night.

Time for the tour of the house.

The group followed Gwen throughout her sparkling house, remarking how lemon-fresh the laundry room smelled.

"And what were those small, shrunken patches of yellow linen fabric hanging about your laundry?" asked one guest.

Gwen was quick to announce they were part of a new quilting project she was about to begin.

Determined to reclaim her dignity from the stop-drop-and-roll lesson earlier in the evening, Gwen confidently led her boss and his family throughout her well-groomed home. The tour came to a close, and the guests were directed down the beautifully waxed, wooden stairs.

Gwen, who held her toddler son on her hip, somehow miscalculated the steps, stretched her foot for the floor and the last three steps suddenly became one giant leap. Both Gwen and her son landed on the hardwood foyer, headfirst. Again, no serious injuries, just a screaming toddler with a headache and Gwen limping back to the kitchen with a twisted ankle, now smelling like a lemon-fresh, burnt mohair cake candle.

Well, the evening was drawing to a close. An exhausted Gwen forced a smile by biting the inside of her cheeks. There couldn't be much more excitement for our heroine.

Ah, but wait, there's more.

It's time to blow out the one remaining candle on the dining room table. "I'll do it," proclaimed the boss' young son.

He huffed and he puffed and he blew the candle wax straight into Gwen's face and hair.

Ohmygod! Game, set and match. The evening won.

So remember, if it's an impression you want to make, and your name is Gwen - take your boss out to dinner and make sure your insurance is up-to-date.

JoEllen Barnhart is assistant to the director for Frostburg State University's Hagerstown Center. She has three sons.

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