The Guests That Were No Trouble, No Trouble At All

A Review by Chris McCaleb of the Latest Guests to Visit Us

 

I've just walked in the house after having seen the guests off, and I have a few thoughts I'd like to share with the world:

 

Manners... are an important thing. I think we can all agree on that. We all have to live on this one planet for now, and having consideration for your fellow human beings is a vital part of being a good person. Hey - the older I get, the more examples I see of just how rare a thing manners and good up-bringing are! I see people that have never uttered the words "please," "excuse me," or "thank you." I see people that donít understand why THEY have to stand in line. I see people that automatically assume my coffee table is a place to put their feet, without asking.

 

So it may be a surprise to you that this review is a scathing criticism of manners. Specifically, the manners one adopts when visiting someone.

 

My wife and I just entertained two guests for a few days. Let me sum up this visit for you in a short, abstract playlet, which I like to call "We Donít Want To Be Any Trouble."


HOSTS: Here, we made this food for you.

GUESTS: You didn't need to do that.

(Later)

HOSTS: Here, let me help you with that.

GUESTS: That's OK - we donít want to be any trouble...

Yes, I left out some of the details, but that essentially captures the substance and spirit of each exchange we had with our guests for the last two days. Completely!

 

Some people, when they visit a friend, or a relative, adopt a peculiar bastardization of the physician's motto "First Do No Harm." They adopt the "First Do Not Impose In Any Way In The Slightest" motto. And some people have a VERY BROAD definition of what it means to be imposing. Some people see their very presence as an imposition on you. To have a harmless preference that would increase their comfort is an imposition on you. To need food to sustain one's life is an imposition on you. And it's eight times worse if it's an overnight visit, because then we're talking about luggage that has to be stowed somewhere, linen that has to be used, towels, washcloths...

 

I have seen people wring their hands with shame for needing a pillow to sleep on. I have had people apologize more than once for needing some sort of aspirin while at my house. My GOD, people! What did you come UP here for? Did you want to eat? Did you want to sleep?

 

Some more examples:

 

HOSTS: We hope you arenít too cold in here - Chicago CAN be cold!

 

GUESTS: No, we're fine!

 

HOSTS: I notice you have on a parka under that quilt - are you SURE you're not cold? We can turn the heat up - it's no trouble, no trouble at all!!

 

GUESTS: No. We donít want to be a bother!

 

Look, it's no trouble to slightly alter our environment while you're here. We donít mind! We accept it! It's worth it to get to see you! All I ask is that you LET ME KNOW.

 

And food. God! Has there EVER been more walking on eggshells and second-guessing about what you want than when it comes to food?

 

HOSTS: We were thinking about Japanese for dinner.

 

GUESTS: That will be fine.

 

HOSTS: Are you sure? Have you ever had it?

 

GUESTS: Whatever you pick will be fine - donít mind us.

 

(Later)

 

HOSTS: This Japanese food we're thinking of eating - it's essentially fish served raw. They pick these creatures out of the sea, and basically put them right on a plate. Does that sound good to you?

 

GUESTS: Well, whatever is fine. We donít want to be any trouble.

 

HOSTS: I donít think they even pick the seaweed off of it, or even wash the grit and dirt off - they just capture them, hand them - still wriggling with life - to you, and presto, that's dinner.

 

GUESTS: Whatever you guys decide - we can always just have bread.

 

COME ON! Did you really drive all the way up here - or spend $8000 on a plane ticket - just to fill up on bread?!? It is ALL RIGHT not to want Japanese! We have hundreds of options! We can choose the food of a thousand nations in this city! We can eat ANYTHING WE WANT!

 

Listen, I'm going to clue you in on something. All that stuff your mother taught you about being a good guest. That is good stuff - but it's ONLY A STARTING PLACE. Help clear the table, feel free to change the channel, make up your bed if you really want... sure. But you are not here to study as a monk in my home. Make some noise! Move around! Feel at home!

 

Here are some simple guidelines for a visit

 

1) Do NOT be afraid to acknowledge your bodily needs.

 

We all have them. They donít go away just because you're out of town. If you need to know where something is, just ask!

 

HOSTS: In here is where the bathroom is.

GUESTS: Oh, we don't want to trouble you.

HOSTS: Er, OK. Well, I donít plan on being in here CONSTANTLY, so I'm sure there will be time for you. Here's how you turn the hot water on in the shower.

GUESTS: Oh, cold will be fine.


2) Have an opinion.

 

If I ask you what you'd like, it means I want to know, and will probably base my decision at least in part on your preference! Do not worry - if for some reason I cannot fulfill your request, I'll let you know!

 

An important addendum: This all goes both ways. I can't tell you how many times we've been at someone's house and watched them run around like a hyperactive Martha Stewart* to get everything ready by themselves. We offered to help - WITH ANYTHING - but they did not wish to impose on us. Hosts, LET THE GUEST HELP.

 

People, please - if you come to visit - PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD IMPOSE ON ME.

 

*Is this redundant?

 

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