by Carol Glassman
Ah yes, it’s that time of year again when we are expected to open our arms, our hearts, and our homes to those folks who live in colder climes, yet manage to find their way south at the first white flakes of winter. If you are lucky they’ll pass by your house and keep on driving!
Now it may be that some quite enjoy playing hostess of the year to these people, and if they do, they can stop reading now. This is a guide for the perplexed and unwilling who are sick and tired of being treated like an oasis for never-ending people who know how to take advantage of their generosity and hospitality. Far too many of their friends and relatives seem to recognize some kind of flashing neon lights on their rooftops that read “Vacancy” and “Free Food”. They arrive with little notice, a smile, and a five-dollar bottle of wine and no departure date in mind.
Being well-brought up and gracious people the hosts show them to the guest quarters while grinding their teeth to a pulp. What else can they do? These people are somehow related to them — perhaps cousins on their mother’s side, 17 times removed. Add a little water to the soup and keep smiling.
Since wife and husband/mate still work for a living, it may be impossible to entertain these visitors on a daily basis, so they hand them a key to the castle, encourage them to make themselves at home — something which seems to come naturally to them — prepare a light breakfast and after leaving them with enough maps and ideas to keep them busy in the Florida sunshine, they go to work.
Day after day they return home to an empty refrigerator and signs that their home has become a combination hotel, laundromat, and restaurant with no sign of the supplies that have been used ever being replaced. In fact, they occasionally do find little notes and hints about which brand of detergent or tea bags would be appreciated in their next round of grocery shopping. The driveway is blocked by their gas-guzzling van, and the entranceway full of their beach toys and damp towels. The washer and dryer are never available for use as they are always full of their clothing.
They try to suggest meeting the interlopers for dinner nightly to avoid the constant drain on their energy and food budget, but that always ends up with a Texas stand-off over the check and these people are pros at never opening a wallet or feeling gratitude and the need to somehow recompense for all they take. Now the hosts have a mounting credit card bill as well for dining out which they can barely afford on a limited income.
After a week of this, the situation is becoming critical: don’t these people know, that live-in company is like fresh fish – frankly, after three days it begins to stink? Wife and husband are barely speaking and it’s becoming difficult to maintain an air of civility let alone hospitality.
One of our ‘ugliest’ memories of house guests involved a couple whose hobbies were unending Scrabble and dining at great restaurants while they stayed. Just as we thought we were well rid of them, they found another unusual restaurant that they simply had to try but since they could not get a reservation until the following week, without asking us if it would be all right, they simply announced they were extending their stay. I was frantic and had long given up the Scrabble marathons and extravagant dinners using recovery from surgery as an excuse. Someone ‘up there’ must have been watching over me — the next day the woman tripped and hurt her hand, did not trust the local diagnosis and they returned home for treatment. Now I did not wish her any harm — I just wanted her out of my house!
Aside from changing the locks doing the day, turning out the lights, serving a notice of eviction and pretending to have left town, is there a solution for unwanted guests? What can be done about freeloaders who annually make the trek to Florida, using the home of one acquaintance after another going south on I-75 without ever paying for accommodation? Why should you be he one to furnish hot and cold running sheets?
Well, the solution borders on evil thought, but it just might work. When dealing with people like this, one must fight fire with a conflagration equal to Armageddon. No holds are barred and I have it on good authority that when it coms to self-preservation in the face of users and abusers, all will be forgiven and your slate wiped clean.
Bare-faced lying is good. Here are some suggestions:
- As these people show up at the door, you simply grab your key and a dummy suitcase you leave in the hall closet for such occasions and announce you are on your way to the airport and have no idea when you will return from your trip. Bye-bye.
- You wouldn’t dream of allowing anyone to stay in your home, as the plumbing broke down a week ago and repairmen are on strike. Sorry, no running water or conveniences. You can barely stand the stench yourself.
- Oh, you just must have missed the exterminator — he’ll be back in a minute with the tent/traps/poison to treat the infestation of ants/roaches/rats/bats or all of the aforementioned pests – the house is just full of them! But that’s Florida!
- My, my — I thought you were Uncle Charlie and Aunt Edna – they just called from the airport and they are on their way to stay for the season! So sorry – no room at the inn!
You can become as creative as you like with excuses, if you simply cannot bring yourself to deliver a resounding “NO” and stick to your resolve. You are in charge and to maintain your happiness and peace of mind, the solutions rest in your hands. Keep in mind: your home is your castle and it’s up to you to dig the moat around it. I understand there is a local company, Rent-A-Croc that will keep it well stocked for you!