In Which I Try a New Format to Help Resolve a Debate That’s Been Bugging Me Lately

welcome-mat

Resolved: That a welcome mat on one’s doorstep meets the invitation requirement that allows vampires to enter a place of residence.

PRO: Look, it says “welcome” right on the mat. It doesn’t get much clearer than that. You come to the door, you’re being welcomed inside. That should be sufficient enough to meet the vampire invitation requirement.

CON: True, a welcome mat says “welcome,” but what’s the context of that message? Does it mean “welcome” in the sense of “you are welcome to come into my home” or “I am expressing through the medium of this mat my fondest wish that you feel yourself at home at such a time when you are invited to come into my place of residence?” If it’s the latter, then the idea of inviting someone to cross the threshold is not implicit in the message of the mat, and therefore vampires cannot come in.

PRO: A valid point, but I would also contend that a welcome mat’s placement — in front of a door, usually the house’s main access point– makes it clear that the context of the word “welcome” is clearly “you are welcome to enter this house.” In the absence of a homeowner’s verbal invitation, the mat and its placement at the place in the home where most visitors are expected to enter serves as a written contract by that homeowner to whomever comes to their door in lieu of a verbal one. Therefore, vampires can go right on in if they see a welcome mat.

CON: You say “written contract,” but written by whom? The homeowner? The manufacturer who made the mat? Remember, in vampire lore the invitation to enter a house must be given by a person who resides in that house, not a visitor or anyone else who doesn’t reside there. So assuming we agree that a welcome mat’s intention is to invite people into the house, is it not possible the mat’s invitation to enter is in fact being made by the manufacturer of the mat, the retailer of said mat, or someone else who placed the mat in that position but isn’t necessarily living in the house? Suppose a welcome mat was placed there by a previous owner of the house and the current owner never bothered to replace it. Should we assume the invitation to come inside is still valid if the previous owner no longer lives at that address? Of course not. None of the people I’ve just mentioned has a legal claim to the home, and therefore they cannot invite a vampire to enter.

PRO: I concede a welcome mat could have been placed on the doorstep by someone other than the home’s owner as you suggest, but it’s not unheard of for someone to compose a message on someone else’s behalf. For example, look at any office that keeps standard letter templates on file for employees to use. Those templates weren’t written by the employees themselves, but once an employee creates a copy of that letter and signs their name to it, it’s assumed that letter is a legal document that came from that employee. It’s the same deal with a welcome mat: the word may have been stamped on the mat by a factory worker, or the mat may have been placed by a previous occupant, but the current homeowner — by virtue of paying for the mat or taking active ownership of the mat — is endorsing the message, and making it their own. Therefore, if we agree the “welcome” on the mat is an invitation, then vampires may go inside regardless of who made, bought or placed the mat.

CON: You said the invitation arises out of both the message of the mat and its placement at the door. That makes sense; a stop sign’s message is clear when someone sees it in a place they would expect to find it (e.g., at an intersection), but no one is expected to stop if, say, they see a city work truck with a bunch of stop signs in the back. On the other hand, we have to take into account the fact that stop signs are objects we’re all legally obligated to obey and they are also objects with a single purpose that we all agree on. Welcome mats do not invite, if you’ll pardon my use of that word, the same amount of certitude regarding their purpose. Some mats are decorative. Others are functional, in that homeowners put them outside to keep dirt from tracking in; the writing on those mats is irrelevant and may even contradict the owner’s unwelcoming attitude. And yes, some mats are put out to convey a message to all visitors. But the fact that many mats say “welcome” is immaterial to their primary purpose, whatever that purpose may be. Since we cannot all agree on what a welcome mat’s primary purpose is supposed to be, it seems presumptuous to believe vampires have all agreed to see all welcome mats as an invitation to come in. And if the rule governing vampire invitations is one of those supernatural rules that only has power if all vampires believe in it, then we have to assume welcome mats don’t meet the invitation requirement because it doesn’t seem logical to believe all vampires are in agreement regarding the primary purpose of a welcome mat.

vampirewelcomemat1

PRO: If I understand you correctly, you seem to be arguing that the only acceptable way a vampire could be invited into someone’s home is by a verbal invitation given by an occupant of the house at the time the vampire wishes to enter. But that seems rather exclusionary, and does not take into account the many modern means by which we can invite someone into our house. What about a situation where the homeowner is using a closed-circuit TV camera and isn’t actually at the doorway at the time she makes the invitation? What about a pre-recorded announcement that plays when someone comes to the door? What about the deaf and hard of hearing who rely on sign language to communicate and can’t provide a verbal invitation? What if Stephen Hawking is at the door and his voice simulator to welcome in a vampire? What if someone is at the door and holds up the words “I INVITE YOU” on a piece of paper? What if someone sees a vampire approaching and rushes to the door to place a handwritten invitation in a sealed envelope on the doorstep? I’m also reminded of the Buffy episode in which vampires were able to enter a student dormitory because of posted flyers on campus that said “everyone’s invited” to the party that was happening at the time. I submit that we are being presumptuous in assuming that a verbal invitation is the only one that matters in this scenario, and if these other forms of communication meet the invitation requirement, then I do not see why the welcome mat cannot do the same.

CON: You bring up some valid points about the non-inclusiveness of the idea that only a verbal invitation is acceptable. I see no reason why electronic, mechanical or non-verbal forms of invitation would be invalid in this situation; by all means, Stephen Hawking and the hard of hearing deserve to have their blood sucked just as much as you or I. But again I must come back to the welcome mat’s purpose, and how people view the welcome mat when they arrive at someone else’s door. For example, would a door-to-door salesman or a package courier see a welcome mat as a clear indication that he can walk right through the door? No, they would not. Absent any other forms of communication that you mentioned, no reasonable person would look at a plain welcome mat as an in absentia invitation to enter — and since vampires were once people, we can only assume that social convention would carry over into the afterlife. 

PRO: Ah, but you’re making the assumption that vampires are the same people they were when they were living. And while it’s true they may have the same body as they did before, it has not been definitively established they retain their soul (see also the case of Buffy v. Angel), and therefore we cannot assume they are bound by the same social conventions as humans. I don’t believe their bloodlust would be overruled by their former human state’s respect for property rights, and so I submit that if there is agreement among vampirekind that a welcome mat is sufficient cause to believe an invitation has been extended to enter the house, then that belief will be enough to grant them access to a person’s domicile if a welcome mat is present.

CON: The key phrase in your statement is “if there is agreement among vampirekind” — if we are to believe our popular entertainments, there is a wide range of personalities and opinions within the vampire community, from demonic bloodsuckers out to enslave humanity to tortured sparkly types who would never dream of harming an innocent human. If a consensus among vampirekind about what constitutes an invitation and how that invitation is conveyed is required to make the invitation spell work, then we have to assume that there is no consensus of any sort and therefore the spell does not exist. But the spell does exist, so we can reasonably assume it exists independent of the collective consensus or actions of vampirekind. And if that’s the case, then we must assume the spell was created by someone or something with a stake (if you’ll pardon the pun) in keeping vampires out of residential properties — and therefore it’s reasonable to conclude the spell created by that third party (whomever or whatever that may be) was created to include a very specific set of requirements that must be met before a vampire is granted entry. And anyone or anything that would put that much thought into a spell of that magnitude and complexity must surely have taken the existence of welcome mats into account, and designed the spell accordingly.

So what do you think? Has either side helped you make up your mind on this vitally important matter? Let the voting begin!

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