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Tuesday, June 28, 2016


I have just returned from our annual family vacation and my annual reminder that I am in fact a really bad guest.  This year’s infraction was minor in relation to many in my past, but still notable.  To set the scene, what you need to know is that every summer my son and I join my Mother and younger sister as guests of the world’s MOST GRACIOUS and GENEROUS hosts, my sister-in-law’s Mom and Stepdad.

Every year for the past I-have-lost count, they open their homes, gardens, refrigerators and wine cellars to our invasion…this year, it was the wine cellar that got me in trouble (BIG surprise there).  As part of the communal living deal, we each choose a night to host a meal.  On my chosen night, everyone was over at the main house socializing while I was finishing prep work in the guest house kitchen.  You know what goes great with prep work?  A glass of wine, of course!
Although I had brought my own wine I had not brought a wine opener, so this device had been borrowed from next door.  As a longtime waiter/caterer, I routinely use the old-fashioned waiter corkscrew and was a bit bemused by the fancy gizmo I was given.  My sister (who doesn’t even drink!) showed me how it worked…now it was my turn at the wheel, metaphorically speaking.

Everything seemed to be going just fine; a little handle at the top that rotated in a consistent direction not only drove the corkscrew into the cork, but then back out again!  As I was marveling at this, the entire device exploded in my hands.  Literally shattered in several pieces.  There was no moment of resistance before this happened—it almost seemed like part of the show. Except it wasn’t.  I had irreparably broken their fancy gizmo.

This mishap was greeted with gracious good nature, but it did prompt a bit of a walk down memory lane with my sister-in-law about the time I was the world’s worst guest at her house.  First of all:  I invited myself to stay over, the epitome of bad form.  I was 8 months pregnant and my own home was being treated with chemicals so I wanted to stay away for the recommended 24 hours.  Because her and my brother’s guest room was already occupied on the night in question, she had blown up an air mattress for me.
But I was 8 months pregnant.  Not super comfortable in my body and a whole lotta peein’ goin’ on, so I opted to sleep on the couch in the family room instead.  Not so far to get up and down for those bathroom visits.  At some point during the night, some kind of alarm started chirping.  This did not rouse the rest of the house, so I began to wander around searching for the source.  I stood under fire alarms; put my ear up to doors, all to no avail.

Finally I determined this noise was coming from my sister-in-law’s phone.  Her phone was much fancier than my phone, so therefore I had no clue 1) what the alarm was for or 2) how to turn it off.  My solution?  Take the phone into the furthest room from where I was sleeping and stuff it down between upholstered cushions to mute the alarm.
As we reminisced about this bumbling bit of bad-guest-behavior, my sister-in-law also reminded me that I had borrowed her bathrobe during the visit and somehow managed to dunk it into the toilet while struggling to get up (8 months pregnant).   In the interest of full disclosure, I will now admit that I have dropped the sash of my own bathrobe into the toilet more times than I care to confess while decidedly NOT pregnant.

There are other, more subtle examples of my horrible guest acumen that involve carrying on bad habits from my home while in another’s.  I constantly open cupboards and drawers to get things and then forget to close them again.  I am always drinking something, so there is often an assortment of mugs and cups strewn about the place.  And I am hands-down the most unskilled bed-maker on the planet!  I have the ribbon somewhere.  The only time the beds in my house look tidy is when my husband makes them.  So there’s that.
But my very best worst-guest-ever story took place in the home of the parents of a dear high school friend.  I had driven the 95 corridor from NC to CT in one horrible, belabored shot, complete with an all-lane closure in the DC area that had me fumbling with my atlas and my terrible sense of direction for a detour around it (this was before GPS—and lo and behold, I figured it out without one!).  By the time I was crossing the Tappan Zee Bridge (why is there always so much traffic???) the world was swimming before my eyes.

14 hours alone in the car had rendered me slightly catatonic, so when I arrived at whatever impolite hour I arrived at, I was soon ushered to my sleeping quarters, which turned out to be a converted office space over the garage with a very comfortable pull out couch.  I quickly fell asleep but was just as quickly wakened by a chiming clock.  I lay there in the dark completely disoriented--the bed actually felt like it was revving forward as a side-effect of my long drive—and after a bit determined that the clock was striking on the quarter hour.
I stumbled out of bed and stopped the pendulum.  My parents were fans of the antique chiming clocks, so I figured I could start the pendulum in the morning and reset the time and no one would be the wiser.  I had just begun drifting off when the clock chimed again.  WHAT THE BLOODY HELL?????

I fumbled with the clock again—this time, the pendulum came out in my hand.  I was obviously mortified, but assumed this would solve the problem and I could express the mea culpa first thing in the morning after a good night’s sleep.  Except the clock quickly chimed again. 
Now this was full-on war…in my delirious and exhausted state, I proceeded to entirely dismantle the thing until I finally realized it was actually battery operated and all I ever needed to do was take out the batteries.  Oopsie!

Naturally my destruction of their clock was acknowledged not only with gracious good manners, but also an apology for the nuisance.  If there is anything worse than being the world’s worst guest, it has got to be being the world’s worst guest to the world’s BEST hosts. 

And btw, I’m a mediocre host at best.  Because if you come to my house and start breaking stuff and dropping my bathrobe into the toilet, you are going to get at the very least a whiff of my utter exasperation with you.  And that’s if I’m having a good day.


  1. I love this! Really made me LOL! Stop stopping the clocks! I so get the clock thing – I can't sleep in a room with a ticking clock (and also grew up in a house with chiming clocks!) or with a clock that lights up. If I can hear it, I spend all night restlessly listening to it; if I can see it, I keep looking at it to see what the time is!

    (I don't wear a watch for the very same reason!).

    I have also been a bad house guest in stopping others' clocks (really irritating when it's those plugged in ones that you then have to go through from 00:00 to reset, or the grand old ones that need to chime on every beat before you can move them forward to the correct time again).

    I'm still not sure though it's not actually bad hosting to have such a distracting device in a place of sleep (okay, if you're on a couch in a living room, maybe not such bad hosting). But I don't believe you're a bad house guest Kara – they keep having you back, don't they? X

  2. P.S – I didn't know I'd requested not to show up as a person on your comments. No reason for that bar the strange unilateral decisions my technology makes!