Guest Curmudgeon: "A Host of Complaints"
by Jeff Bireley
A hearty welcome back to Jeff Bireley. It's always a pleasure to have a fellow grouch stop by to share his latest beef. And unlike some people, Jeff is always a perfect guest!
This has been a rough year for nearly everyone in one way or the other. Even those who were only minimally affected by the pandemic (and I count myself among them) suffered at least from the loss of those social contacts that bind us together as friends and family. And because of that, I have been sympathetic to those friends and acquaintances who for whatever reason find themselves in need of my guest room. However, after the experiences of having three different people avail themselves of my home and hospitality, I find that my inner curmudgeon is being driven ever closer to the point where it would not be out of character for me to be the old guy with “No Trespassing” signs plastered on my house who yells at kids to get off my lawn.
I have always believed that when visiting someone, my first obligation as a guest is to be as minimally invasive as possible. By that I mean to not make more work for them through the course of my stay, to give them the common courtesy of keeping them advised of my plans and schedule so they can know what to expect, to be grateful for the privilege, and most importantly, to make the visit as short as possible. No matter how careful one is, one can’t help but intrude on the host’s daily ritual; the old adage about guests being like fish* exists for a reason.
It seems that this collection of behavior rules, which were drilled into me by my parents as part of common courtesy, represent a concept whose coffin has been nailed firmly shut by social media as well as the influence of most reality TV, where being courteous and considerate will get you canceled.
Based on my experiences this year, a few things jump to mind that would be violations of the rules of courtesy for being a guest …like bringing someone I don’t know into my house to have sex with Don’t do it; it’s just tacky, and you really don’t want to give me the opportunity to judge your taste in partners. And don’t show up outside of normal meal hours without having advised me of your schedule and expect me to do anything about it. If you’re independent enough that you don’t feel the need to tell me what to expect, you should be mature enough to take care of your needs on your own, without my help and without availing yourself of my pantry. Another big one would be to bleach your hair, then dry it using my colored towels, leaving them blotchy and spotted like a psychedelic version of 101 Dalmatians, then deny you did it at all despite the obvious evidence and not offer to pay to replace them.
Now, being a guest is one thing. Being a guest who brings a pet (dogs in my examples) is a whole different level which should automatically either nominate the host for sainthood, or at least a very substantial discount on a mental fitness evaluation.
Two of my guests brought their so-called “well behaved” small dogs with them. As far as I’m concerned, your dog should follow the same behavioral courtesies as you do, but maybe that’s only my pipe dream. I can personally guarantee that my patience will be put to the test if you insist on feeding your dog special frozen raw chicken dog food and have to be told repeatedly not to just put the frozen patties on my kitchen counter to thaw. (By the way, you can also safely pre-decline any invitations for me to ever eat at your house in the future.) Also, when you coat one of their toys with peanut butter and put it on my shag throw rugs instead of the wood floor, that’s not the dog’s fault, it’s yours. When your dog poops in the house and you clean it up sheepishly and tell me it won’t happen again until it does a few days later, you can’t point your finger at the dog. It’s also your fault when you fail to bring a crate or (worse) haven’t crate trained them and they bark, howl, scratch at the door, and in general have an unending loud nervous breakdown when you’re not around. What you need to understand is that no matter how much you love your pet, I don’t. Don’t expect me to not feel like a jerk going into a restaurant with you when you insist on taking your pet with us by using its questionable service-dog status considering that you’ve also been content to leave it with me all day while you’re out doing your thing. And that brings up another thing: Absolutely don’t expect me to be doggy daycare for you. Do have the consideration to bathe your dog before you come. Don’t leave me with furniture that smells like your dog because you can’t stop him from getting on it. Come to think of it, none of these things are the dog’s problems. If I’m going to ban guests, perhaps it should be pet owners; the dogs’ behavior is at least predictable and forgivable.
Out of my three guests this year I’m batting 33%—an unenviable statistic for almost any endeavor. One is welcome to come back anytime, one is welcome to come back without their dog, and one has exceeded the lifetime benefit of my hospitality policy.
Maybe, though, in the final analysis it’s ultimately my problem. Come to think of it, my neighborhood is lacking an old guy who is particular about his privacy and yard. Stocking up on “No Trespassing” signs in advance of need is just good planning, right? Maybe I should just give in to my destiny and get a lawn chair. And sunscreen. Lots of sunscreen.
* "Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days." —Benjamin Franklin