Long live cottage, er, cabin rules


Maybe you’ve seen the video of the summer. “Cottage Rules” has already been viewed and shared hundreds of thousands of times. Like many hilarious videos that go viral, we’ve shared it because we can relate to it.

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“Cottage Rules” is a three-minute skit courtesy of the CBC’s Baroness von Sketch show, starring an all-female Canadian comedy troupe. In the sketch, a group of women show up at a cottage, totally hyped and ready to have a wild weekend filled with swimming, beer drinking, chip eating and general cottage fun.

They are greeted by their female host, the cottage owner, who immediately sucks the wind out of their party vibe by laying out dozens of idiosyncratic “cottage rules.” The guests’ enthusiasm wanes with each new rule. It’s funny, and works viciously well in two ways.

First, if you’ve ever been a guest at a cottage (or a cabin, as we call it here on the West Coast) you can probably immediately relate to visiting a rustic slice of paradise that is hampered by so many rules – and your anal-retentive host – that you can’t wait to get the hell out of there on the first added sailing of the weekend.

Second, anyone who has ever played host at a cottage might immediately recognize themselves in the owner-character. If you are a cabin owner and you didn’t see yourself, good for you. However, you likely found yourself cringing with embarrassment. I know I did. I immediately shared the clip with some of my best friends, all of whom have spent plenty of time at my family cabin. I simply asked, “Is this me…?” Their response after viewing: “Yup, pretty much.” Ouch.

>Beyond the joke, and in defence of owner-characters everywhere, the problem is off-the-grid cabins and cottages are often so ridiculously ad-hoc and jerry-rigged that seemingly annoying rules exist so the place doesn’t burst into flames or collapse into the lake. And then there are the rules that are just plain crazy.

Imagine this: I once visited an Okanagan cabin with a group of friends. Upon arrival, our hosts informed us that once we retired to our sleeping quarters, we were not to leave them again for any reason whatsoever until morning, not even to go to the bathroom. This was because their baby was a very light sleeper and the cabin had paper-thin walls. Even the slightest sound could wake their precious sleeping child. One of my friends who was stuck sleeping in the basement had to go the bathroom so badly that he ended up peeing into a bottle of their laundry detergent.

At my cabin, we’re hyper-sensitive about fire in the summer. That means no smoking of any kind, especially near our leaky propane tank. Once, my best friend (he of the aforementioned email response) decided to treat us all by barbecuing salmon on cedar planks.  You’re supposed to soak the planks for at least 24 hours before putting them on the barbecue. He soaked them for about 20 minutes. Within five minutes my barbecue was engulfed in a giant cedar-plank-fuelled fireball, the flames licking at the side of my cabin. I dumped an entire bucket of water onto the barbecue to douse the flames and save the cabin. The dinner and barbecue were ruined.

These days, it’s my three-year-old son who eagerly applies his own slightly mixed up cabin rules to our bewildered guests. “If you have a poo in our potty, DON’T flush!”

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