Common Law
by John Norberg, humor columnist s

We are a nation of laws.

We are governed by laws. We live by laws.

So it's not surprising that in a nation of laws, we also run our households by laws.

Here are a few laws popular in many households:

Law 1: No one is allowed to walk upstairs empty-handed without carrying something. These items are usually placed at the base of the stairs waiting to be taken up. It might a laundry basket full of folded clothes, or shoes, or a new dresser, or the cat taking a nap. I deal with this by making certain I only go upstairs once each day.

Law 2: The first one home after work has to prepare dinner. Anyone caught waiting in his car at the end of the block until his wife gets home first is subject to three nights of hard labor in the kitchen.

Law 3: If you make a mess, clean it up. Anyone who attempts to lie about his mess and blame it on someone else can face additional changes and be found guilty of being dumb enough to think he can get away with it.

There are many laws such as this in every household. They are official and even if they aren't written down, they are accepted by everyone in the family.

There are also other laws in households. These are the common laws. Common laws are the ones that everyone knows are true, but they've never really been officially sanctioned.

For example, in our house we have the open container common law. This means that once any food container has been opened for any reason, everyone is free to help themselves to whatever is left.

Wife: "Have you seen the chocolate chips?"

Husband: "No, I haven't seen them."

Wife: "I had a big bag of chocolate chips in the cupboard. The grandkids are here and I want to make cookies with them. But I can't find the chocolate chips."

Husband: "Were they the ones in the open yellow bag right next to the raisins?"

Wife: "I thought you said you hadn't seem them?"

Husband: "Well, I haven't seen them lately."

Wife: "Tell me when you last saw them."

Husband: "Last night."

Wife: "Where were they."

Husband: "Some of them were in my hand and some of them were in my mouth. The bag was opened. It's the open container law. I can take anything that's opened."

Wife: "I was saving those. Just because the bag is opened doesn't mean you should finish them. Besides, we also have a replace law. What you finish you're supposed to replace. Well, I'll give the grandkids ice cream instead. Is there any ice cream left."

Husband: "Absolutely."

Another household common law is the last spoonful law. This law states that even if you eat an entire container of ice cream, if you leave one teaspoon at the bottom of the carton you can put it back in the freezer as a decoy. You cannot be charged with finishing all the ice cream because you clearly left some for the next person.

Wife: "What happened to all the ice cream?"

Husband: I had to have something to sprinkle the chocolate chips on."

Wife: "Is there anything left to eat in this house?

The only thing I knew of was an open bag of chips with a few crumbs at the bottom. But I decided against saying anything about that.

I've studied household law long enough to when it's best to start taking the Fifth.

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