Like someone very wise once said (I’m not sure who, but they probably didn’t mean it either), ” it’s not you it’s me”. But here we are again with me realizing I love the idea of houseguests but loath the reality. Is it the layout of the house, the character of the guest, the local or is it us?
A bit of the back storey seems in order. We are lucky enough to live in one of those picturesque small towns tourists love to flock to at the right time of year for beach family fun all the way up to and including fall foliage. Our small town is also a short commute to the only ‘real’ city in the three provinces within 600+ km making trips for shopping and especially healthcare a must. At the end of our driveway is a huge sandy beach staffed by professional lifeguards long beyond the season you might actually consider swimming. The other end of our driveway provides direct access to the nicely groomed Trans Canada Multiuse trail, and since I’m an avid cyclist we have a fleet of relatively high end bikes hanging just inside the door. Our house was once home to 4 lovely children who have moved out but we haven’t found the right place to downsize to yet so we have a few extra bedrooms. But honey is really into remote controls (like REALLY into them, 120 and counting) and I’m a wicked cook and in the kitchen a lot of the summer. Our business means we have boats, dive gear and strong relationships with most of the community including fisherman and tour operators.
But our charming 2 storey modest home, though over 60 and renovated has only 1.5 baths and a fully open main floor. My mom’s layout is perfect for guests with a guest room and ensuite in the basement off the family room. Guests at our home pretty much are either in their room or our faces. While we have a larger yard than most we are surrounded by neighbours and on the water noises carry. Our country home comes with the joys of a small dug well and the headaches of a septic system. Honey also uses our home, and yard as the base for his construction company. All of this to say we get a lot of guests who have a great time but you might get the sense we don’t always.
It’s not to say we haven’t had guests that we got on with, our neighbour stayed two months (with week long breaks) when his house burned down. I also go to great lengths to to make guests comfortable, our (main) spare room overlooks the ocean, features 600 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets and a Ralph Lauren inspired decor. The top drawer of the dresser has a cornucopia of travel sized toiletries, playing cards, gum, hair elastics and pocket note pads. There is a selection of reading material, towels, drinking glasses and a specific unsecured wi-fi network.
But some of the behaviour we’ve witnessed seems as I write is out to be absolutely unbelievable. And some of the re-occuant and most disruptive things we deal with are probably totally avoidable. So I aim to bridge the gap here since I lack the lady balls to do it in person when I have guests in the house. Let’s start however with the ugly and move through the bad to the good.
And the award for truly terrible house guests has to go to the family that stayed a week in August 2014, not really the family but rather the parents. It all started in February when my honey’s mom called and asked if some “I think your technically cousins” could stay the night, there had been a family tragedy and their nephew was being treated in the regional children’s hospital for some pretty serious injuries near us but they really didn’t have the means to stay in a hotel. You remember her his mom said she visited your aunt the same time we did for a couple of summers when you were both 13, or 14 I think. Of course we agreed and I set out to ready the room. They arrived late around 10 after leaving the hospital, totally understandable. However they arrived visibly intoxicated, he more that her with a mostly full flat of beer. Over the next 4 hours they finished the flat, revealed that they each shotgunned 4 beer in the parkade before leaving the hospital, made numerous racist and homophobic comments which they stood by even when gently challenged. At 2:45 everyone finally retired to bed but he wandered the house for most of the night. The next morning we prepared a selection of local seafood, lobster, bacon wrapped scallops and halibut and they set out back for the hospital and home. We were both a bit flabbergasted after they left but figured that alcohol loosens inhibitions in addition to being a coping strategy for more than a few people in truly difficult situations. I found beer cans in the strangest places after they left, the bathrooms, the nightstand, the bedsheets windowsills and even behind the TV after they left.
That summer they called a month in advance and asked if they could stay the week with their two sons. We were hesitant to say the least but it turned out they were bringing their travel trailer, they could park in the driveway and honey thought he could even rig up a dump to the septic system since during the last visit it seemed our male visitor had issues hitting the bowl. The week before they confirmed their arrival date and that there was a plug within 50 ft of the driveway, no problem. The night before they let us know the breaks on the trailer were gone but they were coming anyway. I’m sure you already knew it went badly but let me assure you it was worse to live through. The first night a flat and a case of beer was consumed and our male visitor had apparently stopped aiming entirely. We had explained on their previous visit that neither of us drank for a whole host of really good reasons so this drunkenness was less acceptable than under normal circumstances. Honey fell asleep on the couch as the party continued on past 1 and I eventually retired. Once again he roamed the house grunting and even coming into the master where I was and stood for 5 min in a daze. It was the third time he entered and stood next to my bed that I could tell by the moonlight he thought he was in the bathroom and had started to urinate that I half yelled half whispered for him to leave and I locked the door. I heard him trying to open it twice more that night and didn’t sleep a wink.
The next morning around 9 as I was cleaning up after his mess he apologized and explained that sometimes the morphine he takes for his back and the beer make him really out of it, then I heard him crack a beer. Through the day his wife and kids cajoled him about his poor behaviour but they both drank steadily and by supper I was sent for another flat since you know ‘we probably shouldn’t drive.” Night 2 progressed in much the same fashion except I locked the bedroom door and dragged a sleeping honey of the couch against his will. By day three honey and I were barely speaking and by day 4 one of the worst fights we’d ever had was well underway being played out in whispers and tears when we had a moment to ourselves. “What do you want me to do their on vacation and their family.” was uttered one too many times. Day 5 and they were supposed to leave in the morning (you see where this is going right) and they didn’t, by now Honey was sleeping on the couch intentionally, conditions were not improving. Day 6, the consumption of beer before 10 made it clear they weren’t leaving today either and then shit got real! I think I uttered then sentence ” either they won’t be here tomorrow or I won’t be.” And it was clear I meant it! So we both set out to make it clear that today was their last day as nicely as possible, Honey chartered a boat to show them the bay since it’s your last day and all. I started an elaborate low and slow grilled meal as a last supper and bought one last flat of blue. Apparently in their world last day also means tequila driveway party!
I had tried, and hopelessly failed, to hide my disapproval throughout their visit I’m sure. But the boys were amazing and spent a lot of the trip apologizing for their parent’s behaviour. I felt terrible for them since they were only 9 and 14. They saw my telescope and I set it up for them. We were on the front deck looking at the moon landing site under the stars but mom was busy in the back dancing to the car stereo in the back and letting her true feelings out about that “uptight prissy bitch,” at the top of her lungs for the neighbours and all to hear. The kids were apologizing even more.
Now the next part I regret…but not a lot, very little really. The next morning mom came downstairs around eleven still a shade of green and the whites of here eyes obviously yellow. The kids started to retell the storey of her big night when I cut them off.”Don’t worry about it, people have called me a prissy bitch before, they just weren’t guests at my house and they at least said it to my face.” Everyone’s face especially the 14 year old’s face dropped and in the distance I think I heard honey’s fork fall. But…they left shortly after breakfast that morning and since everybody including honey heard my comment… we still didn’t speak for a week.
This brings me to get wifed tip number 4: have a plan to be on the same page about what your going to do when, and it will be when, one person’s family is out of line. I like and we practice Dr. Phil’s ‘you deal with yours and I’ll deal with mine’ which has worked since the tequila driveway party of 2014 for us, well not right after it took about a week before we talked and got on the same page. In retrospect we never said no to guests, ever and it was out of hand. In the prevous year we had guests for over 65 nights, sometimes 5 at a time with dogs, had a grifter friend of one of Richard’s close relatives move in for 10 days and about 4 seriously bad fights about houseguests.
For fun (yours not mine) here’s a list of bade behaviour we’ve witnessed
-Letting you dog in the house before you even come in. We clearly said you can’t bring your dog but you can board him. Here is a list of three local kennels.
-Smoking under the bathroom fan after telling me you don’t smoke in your own house.
-Breaking ornaments while smoking under the bathroom fan and not fessing up
-Excessive drinking, many occasions and guests in an otherwise ‘sober house’ leading to vomiting on three occasions in the bed sheets (different guests too)
-Using me as your personal chef and letting your kids and HUSBAND ‘order’ three different things (pancakes, eggs and bacon and muffins) for breakfast. Isn’t it cute they’re playing restaurant? No, No it’s not.
-Getting me to do all your family’s laundry, teach your two kids to swim, getting me to babysit for a straight week, walk your dog everyday, change and wash your vomit covered sheets and buy you beer and groceries we don’t eat.
-Cleaning up after your dog when they poo or pee on the floor, again three different guests but only ever one toddler while you watch.
-Staying over a week when you were supposed to be pulling out of a snowstorm in your two wheel drive pickup. (Something notoriously dangerous for readers who don’t experience real winter.)
I’m sure there’s more.. but I’ve repressed those memories.
So lets move on to the just bad and how to avoid that. If your staying more than one night, don’t keep us up past our bed time more then once. Ask clearly what time we usually go to bed or even better about our routines and try to slot yourself into those as mush as possible after the first night. We know why your asking and we appreciate it. We’re eager to catch up too but more than one late night is too much if your lives are still not on vacation. Put breakfast grab bags in the fridge for your kids if they get up and watch tv early but at the very least get up and make them breakfast. It’s not our turn with the kids or an opportunity for you to sleep in.
Plan on doing something, or nothing.. but we’re not here to entertain you or the kids the whole trip. It’s unreasonable to think your going to show up get a place to stay, food, swimming lessons and a tour guide.
Follow house rules, no dogs, no smoking inside, don’t drink and behove badly at least not more than once.
Use my stuff, sleep in my bed, eat my food and slow down my wi-fi. I’m more than happy with all of that but your trip should not cost me a single dollar more than that. We’re not saying contribute to utilities or show up with extra food. But if you need dog food, beer, white bread or medication we don’t have I should not have to pay for it PERIOD. If you weren’t staying in my house the cheapest inn room in town is $115 a night and you very well might have to get 2. Your meals would add up and you’d be paying $20 a night for parking and wi-fi. If your coming with kids for a week thats about $2500. You’re doing pretty well here buy your own damn diapers. Also don’t steal my tiny shampoos and conditioners, I refill those!
Unless you are told you will be sleeping on the couch DON’T! This one is so disruptive and yet so common! If you go to bed earlier than us we are forced to too. If you sleep later we have to leave or at least be silent so as not to wake you. If I could change one thing only about a houseguest it would ALWAYS be this.
Finally really think realistically am I even a good candidate to be someone’s house guest. If you have a drinking or drug problem, medical problem that is unreasonable for other to deal with, snore so loud you truly can be heard from outside the house or even a child that is truly too much for someone to deal with at the current stage maybe a hotel is best. Consider your hosts and their home too. If you want to get smashed into the early hours that might be okay at a huge house like my mom’s with a separate entrance, sitting room, TV, bedroom and bathroom on it’s own floor but is it reasonable at my smallish open concept two-storey with the bedrooms and bathroom up stairs?
Now this is totally optional but consider a parting thank you gesture. A dinner out with us or a grocery gift certificate is always appreciated but it doesn’t have to even cost money. Picked wildflowers or a thank you card is awesome too!
Since the tequila drive way party of 2014 were better at it now. My patience for guests has increased dramatically and honey’s has gone down the same amount. We say no sometimes now and your leaving tomorrow with more authority. Because if you don’t at least show your trying you might very well have your guests muttering T.A.P.S. as you pull out of the driveway waving and smiling through gritted teeth. It stands of ‘Take a picture stupid’ because the implication is you won’t be coming back!