Monday, September 7, 2009

House guests

Now don't get me wrong. I don't hate house guests. It's just that I have a low tolerance for guests that come often enough that when I mention the visit, family and friends don't say, "What? Again?!" (Meaning, every five to six months). The ones who insist they'll be "no trouble" and then proceed to run you ragged as they protest they're "on vacation" when it is lightly suggested they might be capable of making their own coffee/sandwich/etc., or carry their dishes to the sink. (And no, we aren't talking about children here). What does that make me? Chief cook, maid, and bottle washer?

Recently we had the near-perfect house guest. I was so flattered. L. stayed only three nights. She insisted on paying for my gas for driving her back and forth to the airport and into town. She paid for our lunch and one dinner. She assisted willingly with chores around the house as we got ready for a dinner party to celebrate her visit with family and friends. She didn't monopolize the TV or CD. She made her own breakfasts each morning. She brought a thoughtful hostess gift (hey -- it definitely helps). She could entertain herself when required. She took naps. And when she left she took her dirty towels to the washing machine.

She'd have a perfect score if she had stripped the linens off the bed or had told me we needed more eggs and sour cream to replace what she used before I made my weekly grocery trip and then discovered we were out. (Living in the country means one can't just run down the road for resupply). Knowing L. though, she would've gladly done these things, too.

Contrast L. to another visitor I have in mind. One who unfortunately visits a little too often and brings a friend so upbeat I call her Eye-ore (no, not to her face). This woman made the immensely generous offer some years ago to help us out with the house and spread, having no dependents, after promising profusely that no, she didn't want to live with us, and no, she would not to be a bother. We had a few Come-to-Jesus discussions where she assured us she would never be intrusive and I made it clear nothing was worth feeling I had just signed a bargain with my soul that took away our privacy or our freedom. Complicating this equation are the numerous surgeries, recoveries, and periods and stresses of living with a chronic illness that rob me of the lifestyle and energy a "normal" person of middle age has.

Alas. It seems all due promises were forgotten about as soon as they were made. And we have found that illness and recovery are not valid excuses when this woman and her posse of choice want to visit.

A few suggestions to erstwhile house guests out there:

When visiting, when your hostess is in the middle of a complicated project, don't keep interrupting every 15 minutes with entreaties for home-made muffins (particularly just after eating breakfast), and most particularly after they have promised said-muffins once they finished whatever project they are engrossed with. And, once the muffins are made and you awake from your nap, don't sulk and turn up your nose at them and say that you "never eat between meals." It's just rude. And guess what else? It's odd.

When your hostess is napping don't go through her entire pantry and cabinets and make a list of everything you want to eat and present it to her. It's just odd.

Don't insist they turn off the classical music playing softly in the background because you play classical music and "it makes you think of work." It's just what, -- odd? Righto.

Don't insist on coming to visit the day after your host and hostess return from major surgery across the country and then complain when they don't entertain you. Certainly do not do this twice.

Don't badger them into driving three hours away to shop at a store because you know you'll get a discount there, and then once at the house complain that "the service is lousy" when your exhausted and hurting hostess collapses into bed, leaving you to heat up your own dinner or fix your own cocktail.

Don't ignore the food your hostess has stocked up on in anticipation of your arrival and insist on ordering "off the menu," declaring the need for a separate dish and then sit there to be waited on hand and foot......

Don't monopolize the sole TV and spread crumbs all over the couch and leave dirty dishes on the table.

In fact, don't come. Give your hostess some breathing space between visits -- ensuring that the smiles you see upon arrival will be genuine.

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