There is also an abundance of houseguests. Houseguests and "snowbirds" take up the tennis courts and get all the restaurant reservations. They think they are whispering in movies when they are really talking - always right behind us. Their cell phones are never turned off, in case the kids left behind have decided to elope or have flunked out of school!
I asked some of my south Florida friends if they had any "Houseguest from Hell" stories. Some of the worst offenders were members of the family!
There was the daughter who had a few too many wines and decided when she came in to make herself a grilled cheese in the toaster oven...then fell asleep, forgetting the oven was on. The cheese caught fire, the fire singed the cabinets, the cabinets smoldered till the smoke woke everyone up. Mom and Dad ended up with a whole new kitchen!
Another daughter wouldn't eat anything her mother prepared until she got up to search for condiments. "I can't eat this without mayo!" or "I need ketchup to eat this!" she told mom.
How about the son and daughter-in-law that brought their beloved "Bitsy" with them, a Chihuahua which peed all over mom's white shag carpet? Or the daughter and son-in-law who brought their Airedale, which chewed off the leg of an antique loveseat (yes that was me!)?
Or the son-in-law who came but disagreed with his father-in-law politically and wouldn't speak to him for an entire week?
Our neighbor's daughter in Massachusetts was getting married to a Brit and our neighbors didn't have enough bedrooms for the groom's family. So I offered a couple of ours. We ended up with a London barrister (and his family) in our place. The Brit couldn't get his fill of our good ole Kentucky bourbon, which was mighty expensive in London! Not only did he swill down every drop of our bourbon and then switch to scotch, but he sat in his white wig of curls till 2 a.m., while Charley nodded obediently at his stories!
An ideal guest has no food allergies or medical emergencies; stays out of the host/hostess' bedroom; cleans up his kids' messes; can make his own breakfast; helps out with the preparation of meals or at least cleans up; finds the pool, beach, or walking trails on his own; brings a book, laptop, or Ipad with him; reuses towels; does his own laundry; and strips the bed when he leaves.
Surrounded by ideal houseguestsOne guest did not fit any of this description. A friend of ours tells the story of a guest from Canada who came to stay after his wife passed away. He spent a lot of time crying in his room. The guest was fortunate to be staying with a hostess who was a gourmet cook! On the first morning, our friend prepared a breakfast of pancakes and bacon, fresh-squeezed juice, scrambled eggs, homemade coffee cake, and coffee. When the guest appeared in his pajamas, he carried a Ziplock bag of granola and declared, "I never eat anything but this granola for breakfast!" Nor did he approve of the menus being offered. After breakfast he proceeded to grocery shop for HIMSELF by borrowing the host's car. With the grocery shopping done, he disappeared. When he returned in his wet bathing suit, the hostess warned him about the dangers of rip currents in the Ocean. "Oh, I haven't been in the Ocean. I've been swimming in the intracoastal waterway, looking for manatees!" Back in his marble bathroom, he slipped, and a bottle of herbal bath oils shattered over the floor. The white marble remains a lovely tint of aqua to this day. Our friend, the hostess, heard a rumor that her guest had found a girlfriend in the Miami area. No more need for crying! Or inviting him back!
Finally, the story of the keys. A guest in Connecticut went out in the morning to jog (high marks there!), grabbing one of the host's jackets from the closet on his way out. He finished the wooded loop once and proceeded to start around again, when he noticed a set of keys on the trail. He picked them up, dumped them in his jacket, and continued. Going around the second time, he started thinking about the keys. There was no way he could return them to the owner, since a jogger would have to retrace the path for miles and it was nearly time for work. Besides, his wife was always telling him he hoarded things like a squirrel. At the end of that loop, he took the keys out of the pocket, cocked his arm, and threw them into the woods as far as he could.
Later that day, his hosts invited him to accompany them to an art show. The host and hostess scoured the house but couldn't find the car keys anywhere. This is the first time they have seen the real story!
In the interest of total disclosure, Charley and I are still "snowbirds," spending almost eight months a year in Florida before heading to Massachusetts.
Let me hear some of your worst nightmares with visitors in the "Comments" section below.