Tis the season of the houseguest

Tis the season of marathon eating, merry-making, and the inevitable houseguest. Whether you’ll have one or be one, the houseguest abounds this holiday season.

She may come by car, or if she’s (you’re) unlucky, by plane. She may leave when she says she will, or she may be snowed-in and stay an extra 24 hours. Hard to say.

Recently, as a test-run for the holiday season, a friend of my husband’s obliged us by staying as our houseguest for five days. We don’t have a dedicated guest room, and she was our first overnight guest in the year that we’ve lived in our current condo. We had her stay in our TV room, or “media room,” as we like to call it; it has a more refined flair; perhaps you would sit on the couch listening to Beethoven rather than binge-watch Modern Family).

The media room has a luxuriously big couch and is situated near the second bathroom, something we never had in our prior residences. Let me say, a separate bathroom for your houseguest makes a world of difference.

So with a comfortable space to sleep, a bathroom all her own, and a big-screen TV for watching late-night, thought-provoking documentaries, she was all set.

Except the media room has no door.

Being a houseguest, or having a houseguest, is much more difficult for introverts. Not having a door in a Houseguest scenario is an introvert’s worst nightmare.

The absence of a door presented a major problem for making my early morning exit to go to the gym (See “Weighing Workout Options”).

If I turned on the hall light outside her TV room, she might wake up! My morning routine is practically down to a science; were she to awaken and start a conversation with me, precious seconds would be wasted. No, I could not take such a reckless chance. Instead, the day before she arrived, I practiced putting my gym shoes on and exiting my condo by the light of my cell phone. Some might call this overkill; I call it perfection. My trial run paid off; she did not wake up when I executed my perfectly practiced routine.

When I mentioned my dry run, she said, “You’re so sweet not to want to wake me!” I didn’t want to expose my true selfish nature, so I went along with it, rather than explaining, “I just didn’t have time to talk to you in the morning.”

Fast-forward a few weeks. Thanksgiving weekend, my husband and I were Houseguests in California, visiting my in-laws. Getting to Sacramento was a relatively simple affair: a Car2Go to the light rail station, the light rail to the airport, a plane to San Francisco, a charter bus to a roadside stop in Marin County where my brother-in-law picked us up, and then three hours stuck in traffic on Highway 101 North.

First, we stayed with my brother-in-law. Although he has a roommate, his living room is set up in such a way that an introvert has an easy out. I spent much of the day before Thanksgiving reading or trying to nap in what I came to call his Introvert Chair. He let us sleep in his bed, and he slept at his girlfriend’s house. He’s definitely a better host than we are — or else he’s just an introvert that wanted to get away from his houseguests. I’ve been taking notes.

On Thanksgiving Day, we headed to a delicious meal at my in-laws’ house and stayed the night. They gave us their bed to sleep in; I guess good hosting runs in the family. The towels in the bathroom said “C” (for me) and “His” (for my husband). My mother-in-law said she couldn’t find an “A,” so referring to my husband as a pronoun would have to do. I don’t think he minded.

Saturday, I caught a ride back to San Francisco with my sister-in-law and her husband, two introverts who I can only imagine were excited for a day at home before heading back to work on Monday. We left about five hours before my scheduled departure time and pulled up at the airport, an hour and a half before my flight. Just as I was thanking them for the ride, my sister-in-law looked at her phone and announced that my flight was two hours late.

“That’s OK; I can just hang out here,” I told them. We were already here, and like a good introvert, I had packed a multitude of books and magazines that I hadn’t gotten around to reading yet.

“Wait — now it’s cancelled!” my sister-in-law told me, looking at a new update.

I would go into the conversations that my sister-in-law and I had with the agents at United Air, but I’m afraid you would find the results as unfulfilling as I did, and I’m sure you’ve had your own encounters and are aware of the time-related perils of air travel. A large part of me wondered why I hadn’t just bought a ticket directly to Sacramento, but it was, of course, a good deal more expensive.

They took me home with them, and they treated me to an introvert’s dream night. We pulled into a hip restaurant at 4:45 p.m. (Why was there no one else present?) Upon arriving home, my brother-in-law parked the car in the parking garage of their apartment building, and my sister got her suitcase out of the trunk. She was wheeling it towards the elevator, when we saw someone get on. She turned left, heading for the steps. She dragged that wheeled suitcase up a flight of stairs and ignored her neighbor who yelled after us, “Do you want to take the elevator?”

Of course we didn’t. We’re introverts! (See “Don’t misstep: Should I take the stairs?”)

We were safely upstairs and in our yoga pants by 6:30 p.m., on the couch with some red wine and Netflix. I like to think I was a good houseguest, especially because I slept in late the next morning and stayed in my room with the door closed.

I was happy to arrive home on Sunday night at 11:47 p.m., and I’m sure my many Hosts were happy to have their beds back. If you’ve been or had a houseguest this holiday season, you know about the lengths you’ll go to — waking up in the middle of the night and deciding not to go to the bathroom in order not to disturb others, for instance; you know who you are — in order to make the most of a shared space situation.

Happy Holidays to all, and Happy Houseguesting. 

Carissa Jean Tobin lives in a condo in Northeast Minneapolis with her husband. Her hobbies include creating humorous surveys for friends, lounging at the Wilde Roast Café, and administering the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to interested family members, friends, and strangers. She teaches kindergarten in North Minneapolis.