It's July and suddenly you are more popular than you ever dreamed -- blessed with an abundance of off-Cape friends and relatives who've arrived for a visit. Some you wanted to invite, planning their arrival carefully in consideration of your schedule and theirs. Others wheedled their way to your door after hinting they'd like to spend a day or two -- or three or more -- on Cape Cod. If you're very gracious, naïve or bored, you may then have extended an invitation for them to stay with you and enjoy the Cape's beaches, boats, fishing or golf.
As former Manhattanites, my husband and I occasionally hosted visiting friends and relatives in our apartment for a night or two. But after moving here four years ago, we realized that longer-term visits were the norm for summer visitors. That first year, we invited city friends to see our new home and enjoy the Cape. While we enjoyed seeing them, we found ourselves exhausted from cooking, touring, cleaning and entertaining. A bit wiser the following years, we restricted our visitors to only a few each summer.
In time, we realized our visitors fit into several distinct categories. The first, and most exemplary guest was one who stayed with us earlier this month, a woman so polite as to make Miss Manners blush. Our Perfect Guest was not only neat, helpful, considerate, and interested in her surroundings but even insisted upon treating us to a restaurant in return for several home-cooked meals. Needless to say she will be invited back again.
Certain other guests are less welcome. They include: the Night Owl, the Nonstop Talker, the Complainer, the Lingerer, the Do-It Yourselfer and the Slob. Each have certain foibles which work well for them in their own homes , but tend to rankle even the most easy-going host.
The Night Owl is one example. When visiting friends, that bird often imposes his nocturnal rhythms upon his weary host by gabbing half the night away, blaring the tv, tinkering with the media center, or going out for a midnight ramble and leaving the screen door ajar. The next morning the hollow-eyed host realizes his home is filled with mosquitos, flies and Cape Cod moths and before long, that the media center is on the blink. All the while, the Night Owl snores the morning away.
One of the joys of Cape Cod is its natural beauty, its verdant greenery, soft breezes and shining waters which can be enjoyed in intermittent silence. Enter then, the Nonstop Talker who feels so expansive , relaxed or authoritative about the "real world" off-Cape -- or his own life - that he or she jabbers on incessantly, eclipsing the racket made by local crows exulting over a road kill.
The Complainer is another headache-producing guest. "Can't you take down that wind-chime? It's disturbing my sleep. Or, " Are these organic vegetables? Is the chicken free-range?" Or "No, I don't have celiac disease, but I don't eat anything with wheat." Another variation of the quintessential Complainer, "Isn't there a place here to get a British newspaper or fusion Asian food?" "Can't you get rid of those insects on the deck at night?" " I thought the Cape was cooler than the city. Guess I was wrong." "Oh, I can't stand this drive. The roads are so twisty and dark. " Because it's the Cape, that's what makes it so unique, so you mutter under your breath, smiling as you sharpen your knives and reject the thought of grilling the Complainer on your barbecue on that too-buggy deck.
There is also the Lingerer. In contrast to the Non-Stop Talker, this dilatory type has no interest in anything -except sitting on your couch day and night. " If you'd like to see the rest of the Cape, we should leave soon," you gingerly offer one morning. "Nah, it's all like this, isn't it?" your guest proclaims. "Want to go to the beach? " you ask. " Nope, hate the sun." "How about one of the art galleries or the museums?" " I've seen enough art in Italy." Instead, your guest spends the day in front of the tv. " Hope you enjoyed your stay," you say as you drop him off at the bus. "Fascinating place. Thanks," he murmurs as he waves goodbye.
Beware, too, the Do-It-Yourselfer. "Nice house," he or she chirps at the front door, followed by " I know a great way to fix that sticking door....(or) shine up your door knocker permanently." Or alternatively, as he or she peruses your flower beds, " "I've got some great tips that will improve your garden." Uh oh. Before you know it, your guest is on a stepladder dismantling and reconfiguring your awning. Later, the repair man sighs, and explains that he will fix it as best as he can.
Last but not least is the Slob. Now many people happily function that way in life, but common courtesy demands that as a guest , he or she should respect a host's property. Wet towels thrown on the guest room rug, nail polish stuck on a blanket, red wine spilled on a beige coach, a trail of clothes, sneakers, socks, hats, cameras- all are telltale signs of a one-time guest. Given the detritus of the Slob, he or she invariably leaves things behind, compelling the host to mail them back at his own expense.
In all fairness it is not easy to be a houseguest. Having occasionally stayed in the homes of my friends, I know that can also be a challenge. Not only is it often expensive to travel to a friend's home, but house gifts or at least one dinner out are expected. Moreover, as a guest you have to cope with the idiosyncracies of your host's home and the necessity of being tidy in an unfamiliar space.
Fortunately, hosting a guest usually produces more benefits than disadvantages. The opportunity to spend quality time with him or her, to chat at leisure, to share the reality of where you live - all may enhance and deepen that friendship. It is for that reason that Cape Codders welcome our friends and relatives each summer.
Won't you come and stay for awhile? We'd love to have you visit!
(Originally published in The Barnstable Patriot)