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By Pamela Miller
There are two approaches to travel. The preferred method is the all- expenses luxury tour through the lesser known pathways and hidden gems on the planet. The other method is spending two weeks on someone's sofa bed , experiencing life through the jaundiced eyes of one not on vacation. Be they a relative, long lost friend, or someone you met online, you're not expected to enjoy the experience. You're being used, with the option of abusing their hospitality in the future. The pull of the cheap faux-cation is powerful for those without the slightest amount of curiosity, adventure or funds. However, the pain for the host can be epic, soul sucking, and cause permanent nerve damage.
Here are the best methods of providing shelter without encouraging a long stay.
1) Prior to the visit, the room is prepared. Not one speck of dust shall be evident in the room. The towels are clean. The sheets are crisp. The pillows are appropriately fluffed. And it is not the host's job to clean up after other people. Directions on how to use the washer/dryer will be taped to the wall. Underneath is a charming little basket of laundry detergent, air freshener, fabric softener, a feather duster and glass cleaner. Place an elegant ribbon on the handle of the vacuum cleaner. This is your home, and you don't provide turn down service.
2) Guests are provided with a long list of foods not allowed in your home. Even if you've just met someone with a nut allergy, claim a sensitivity. If you don't appreciate the stain potential of a pomegranate, ban all potentially messy foods. Your list should be the length of a 19th Century British novel and include bok choy, beets and rutabagas. By the time you're done, the only item they can bring into the house is water. No food means no cooking, no dirty dishes, and no unpleasant aromas in your kitchen. Encourage all meals to be taken out of the home. (No leftovers are allowed in your refrigerator, so tell your guests to eat with a good appetite and not to fill up on bread.)
3) Provide the key to the house, the key to the pool and change the lock on your storage closet. Expect there will be snooping. Or, if you really want to have fun, allow a copy of your most questionable periodical to stick out from under the couch. Dress up a mannequin and place it in your bedroom closet. Leave suggestive messages on your answering machine asking for Mistress Matterhorn. Fill your medicine cabinet with ping-pong balls or jellybeans. (The good prescription drugs will need to be stashed or carried with you.)
4) Make cookies for your guests. It's the easiest way to guilt your guests into a really good parting gift. Don't try to fool them with store bought. Extra points for cookies with more than ten ingredients.
5) If a guest forgets an item of clothing, draw map to the closest department store. One sincere gesture and you may never see your favorite Eeyore shirt again.
6) Never lend your car to anyone. If you live someplace without mass transit, tell your guests to rent a car at the airport. If you live in a major city, tell your guests to take a bus or cab to your house. The airport pick up will be interpreted as "Free Taxi Service" for the duration of the visit. This is a dangerous precedent.
7) Noise is an issue. So tell them not to make any.
8) Television and radio make noise. Don't provide either.
9) Change the passwords on your computer.
10) Encourage cold showers and early hours. An 8:00 PM curfew is an excellent way to lessen the fun of others.
11) Submit all guests to a breathalyzer. Any guest with blood alcohol level above .08 must sleep outside. (Provide a blanket and pillow. They are human beings.)
12) At the end of the trip, pull out the polygraph and ask your guests a few questions. It doesn't matter that you don't know how to use it. They had two weeks of non-spontaneous, sober, bracing fun under your roof. Now it's your turn.
Copyright @ 2009 by Pamela Miller
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Copyright © 2008 by Pamela Miller