House training house guests

There are two guarantees in life: death and taxes. There are three for residents of the Hawaiian Islands: death, taxes and house guests.

We didn’t live here two months before the phone started ringing and our in-box filled with the itineraries of friends bound for Kaua‘i. The first few months they were a welcome sight: We were lonely and overwhelmed by the move. Besides, we hadn’t made many friends yet so why not import a few.

We were so excited when they arrived. Greeting them with lei at baggage claim, still under the spell of Kaua‘i’s majestic mountains and tropical breezes. We wanted to hike to the chin of Sleeping Giant to show our guests the panoramic view of the Eastside and drink coffee on the lanai in the morning to a chorus of roosters crowing and tradewinds rattling the palms.

But after we’d escorted the 15th guest to the airport, our enthusiasm as tour guides waned. We began to fantasize about moving into a smaller space — one without a guest room. But guest room or not, they will arrive. They’ll bring tents to erect in the back yard. They’ll say they sleep better on a couch.

It may take a year or two but eventually we knew we had to train them.

It was easy on the Mainland. Friends didn’t show up for two weeks at a time, they dropped in for a weekend. Now they’ve flown across an ocean to reach us and the only reason some can afford to come is because of our generous (and ignorant) offer of our guest room.

One friend of mine warned: “Don’t feed them. They’re like bears — they’ll keep coming back.”

It’s true. Dozens of visitors have filed through our house without so much as buying groceries. That’s an exaggeration. They buy groceries — for themselves — and they’ll make sure you know which shelf is theirs. They buy two apples and one quart of milk, all the while eating the opah off the grill and raiding the cheese and vegetable drawers. They’ll even have the impudence to complain about the price of groceries. One time I had a couple offer to make dinner for us and proceed to use what we had in our cabinets to do so.

Friends will send friends of friends and children of friends of friends. People who weren’t even friends in college will try to cash in on a crash pad.

It took nearly five years for Wes and I to enforce a three-day rule. Everyone who calls, outside of family, gets the same spiel: You can stay three days here and after that you need to either camp or get a hotel.

I won’t lie, I’ve offended people. One old friend even found a way around my rule by calling right before he and his girlfriend arrived to tell me they’d be staying the first and last three days of their two-week trip with us. I guess he altered the three-day rule to mean not three days in a row. Cunning.

One friend told us he took the door off of the guest room at his house. “I don’t want them to get too comfortable.”

Another friend, who has a cottage on his property, told me he only cooks for his guests the first night and that he makes it clear that they must rent a car. Renting a car seems obvious, but trust me, some visitors don’t get it. There are folks who think Kaua‘i is so small an island that one can walk around it in an afternoon. Or they say, we’ll hitchhike.

Assume nothing with house guests. Most will require an intervention at some point.

My biggest beef with guests is the perpetual question, “Can’t you take a day off of work?”

“No,” I tell them. “They wouldn’t call it work if I didn’t get paid for it.”

The hardest house guest so far was the girlfriend who showed up with a new boyfriend annually. Couples can be the hardest house guests. Not everyone travels well together and the newly anointed lover can be a real risk. It took a few times, but now we don’t even extend the three-day rule to them. They need to just get a room somewhere.

Then there’s all the stuff they leave behind as though it’s a favor to you: cheap aluminum beach chairs, towels, boogie boards, snorkel gear, even a couple surfboards are under our house.

Here’s an overview on house training house guests.

First, let them know the three-day stay and rental car rules before they arrive. After they unpack feed them. Over dinner is when I tell them (regretfully) we will not be taking any days off work and then give them a guide book. We tell them where they can shop for groceries and provide a bag full of beach gear so they won’t buy any.

One rule I fail to enforce is the one dinner only. I don’t share my kitchen very well and love to cook, so I do all the dinners when I have guests. But they’re on their own for the other two meals. I can hear how hardcore this sounds and you probably wonder why anyone would consider staying with me, but they do. But ultimately, house guests are a given, and like any lovable house pet, much more enjoyable when properly trained.


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