‘Pack it in, pack it out’ is a term that many people who hike and/or camp are familiar with. In essence, it applies to outdoor spaces and the condition you and I should leave them in when we actually ‘leave’. I interpret it to mean that whatever I bring with me in order to enjoy a couple of nights in the woods should accompany me as I head back home or wherever I choose to go next. The paper and plastic and assortment of items I use while enjoying my outing is my responsibility to properly dispose of and not leave behind for Smoky the Bear and the vast array of woodland creatures that call the woods their ‘home’ to paw through when I tire of being ‘one with nature’ and retreat to my nice heated house with my reliable internet, comfy bed, microwave oven, hot shower, flushable (indoor) toilet, and television with countless shows to binge-watch.
Not everybody adheres to these words of wisdom. Some people leave all kinds of crap behind without the slightest concern. I imagine they’re probably a lot like many of the people I encounter when I shop at Ross. If you’re not familiar with these folks, they’re the kind of people that destroy the store and leave it for the employees to clean up at the end of the day. Their foibles include ripping open packages and leaving the contents askew, trying on clothes and throwing the cast-offs onto the floor afterward, and letting their kids (Janie and Johnnie) run around (kicking soccer balls, playing hide-n-seek, wreaking havoc in the toy section) as if they’re in an unsupervised daycare center. They’ve also been known to destroy my chance at buying the most perfectly made pair of shoes by breaking the plastic connector that holds them together and leaving one shoe in the shoe section, while placing the other shoe somewhere unknown.
What it all boils down to is ‘etiquette’, polite behavior in society. I could spend weeks talking about all the ways we humans can better ‘behave’ but due to time restrictions, I’ve decided to focus exclusively on ‘houseguest etiquette’. The reason this is on my mind is because I just returned from staying with my brother and sister-in-law. They really are two of the most accommodating and generous people I’ve ever met. When I stay with them, they give me the choice of staying in their home or in their trailer and because of our opposing schedules, I always stay in their trailer. They go to bed at eight o’clock at night and get up with the chickens and I go to bed at one or two (or later) in the morning and get up around noon or whenever my stomach tells me it needs a refill. I tried to come up with an animal that wakes at noon but I cannot think of a single example.
When I stay in their trailer, I like to return it to the condition it was in when I arrived or at least pretty darn close. Before I close the door behind me for the final time, the bed has been stripped of its linens, the blankets are all folded and stacked neatly, the garbage has been emptied, and the space heater and furnace have been powered off along with all of the lights. For the most part, all ‘traces’ of me have been removed (sort of). The trailer does in fact have a bathroom with a functioning, flushable toilet and I do use it because 1) my brother gave me permission, and 2) I have to get up at least twice a night to empty my bladder (and rushing to/from the trailer in the middle of the night/early morning to enter their house and use their bathroom isn’t exactly ideal). I have to tell you, ordinarily this arrangement works quite well. I thought I had it down to a science until this morning. This morning, I nearly made a houseguest faux pas.
I know this sounds very unladylike but I’m just going to be real. Do you ever need to fart but you’re afraid? Well, as I was lying in bed (out in the trailer) less than 24 hours ago, my stomach was making some pretty interesting sounds. I have deduced that each time I eat out (at a restaurant) more than once per day, my stomach protests. These aren’t peaceful protests, my friends, these are violent protests. I became exceedingly bloated and appeared about 6 months pregnant and I really needed to, you know, ‘fart’, but I was afraid that it wouldn’t end well. As a precaution, I thought I’d better use the toilet; however, rather than using the toilet that was less than 3 feet away and extremely convenient, I hurriedly slipped into my jeans, slid on my shoes, threw on my coat, grabbed the house keys, and hightailed it out of the trailer and into my brother’s house; whereupon, I went directly to the downstairs bathroom.
It was a close call! I don’t think I’ve ever moved so fast in my life! Do you have any idea how glad I am that I chose not to use the oh-so-convenient toilet that was a mere 3 feet away (in the trailer)? Oh, honey! Had I done that, I would have been awarded a lifetime membership in the Hall of Shame. I don’t know how long I sat in that bathroom but ‘we’ became well acquainted. If you’ve ever seen ‘Dumb and Dumber’, I experienced something very similar to what Harry experienced when Lloyd put Turbo Lax in his coffee. It wasn’t pretty. Fortunately, the toilet was not broken. I did have to deal with two unhappy cats (that my brother locks in the bathroom at night). They didn’t appreciate the fact that I polluted their space but I figured we were even since one of them sh*t on the floor the last time my husband and I stayed at my brother’s to look after things (while he and his wife were out of town).
When it was finally safe to pry myself off the toilet and exit the bathroom, I washed my hands, shut off the light, closed the bathroom door behind me, and made my way as quietly as I could to the front door, down the steps, and around the house to the trailer. I thought I had made a clean getaway until I climbed back into bed and my phone dinged. “Are you ok?” the message read. It was from my brother. “I was just re-enacting the bathroom scene from Dumb and Dumber,” I wrote back. “I could probably go in and get a colonoscopy if the clinic had an opening this morning,” I continued. Look, there are simply things you just don’t do as a guest. If someone lets you stay in their trailer, you can use the toilet to go ‘number one’ but unless you never want to be invited back, I would advise you against going ‘number two’. If you use someone’s shower, bring your own toiletries and please, please, please make a point to remove your assorted hairs from the drain.
I’ve had houseguests that bring absolutely nothing. Not a toothbrush, nor toothpaste, let alone a bar of soap. The downstairs bathroom is ‘my’ bathroom. It’s where I keep all of ‘my stuff’. When guests stay with us, I share it with them. I don’t mind sharing my bathroom but I do mind sharing my bar of soap that I use on my ‘parts’. Once I’ve used it on my ‘parts’, I’d rather they not use it on their ‘parts’. Call me crazy but that’s a deal breaker. I have a friend that has lots of ‘friends’ and loved to ask if her friends could stay with us while they were ‘passing through’. The last time I allowed it I vowed to never do it again. Her houseguest didn’t have any toiletries whatsoever. I hooked her up with a toothbrush and toothpaste and then she helped herself to my shampoo and conditioner amongst other things. After she left and I proceeded to reclaim my bathroom, I stepped into the shower and noticed my (bar) soap had shrunk a great deal in size. Wrong answer!
It’s one thing when it’s a family member or a really good friend, but it’s another when it’s a complete stranger. Either way, I don’t like it but it feels a little less disconcerting or troubling when I actually know the person. After that visit, I said no more ‘friends of friends’. Having folks over is a lot of work before, during, and after. I used to feel bad about putting up boundaries but then I thought to myself, “It’s my house. If I don’t want everyone and their brother staying over, then I shouldn’t have to feel obligated.” If you want to stay with me (if you want to be ‘invited back’) there are a few rules you must follow: 1) Check your libido at the door (you are staying in my home, not a hotel), 2) Bring your own damn bar of soap (in case I didn’t make that clear), 3) Don’t eat all of my food and not at least offer to ‘chip in’ (I won’t accept your money but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t offer), 4) Don’t dirty up my dishes and then leave them on the counter or in the sink, and 5) Do strip the bed before you go and leave the linens on the washer.
What do you expect? I’m not running a bed and breakfast! If you don’t like the rules, there are several costly alternatives about a mile or two down the road. I know my attitude seems a bit harsh but having ‘company’ doesn’t carry the same appeal that it used to. If I had to compare it to anything, I would say it’s right up there with being invited by my husband to go shopping at Home Depot or Lowe’s for electrical or plumbing supplies. I have a visceral reaction and it isn’t pleasant. Anyway, I think I’ve made my stance pretty clear on this particular topic. Before I ‘go’, I have to share one more ‘rule’ that I think everyone should follow (regardless of whether or not they’re a houseguest). Should you need to ‘go’ (this rule applies specifically to number ‘two’), do me a favor and use the ‘fart’ fan! That’s my husband’s word by the way, it’s a crude way of saying ‘exhaust’ fan. It takes such little effort to flip the switch or push the button and everyone will appreciate your small but thoughtful gesture.