With visitor season in full flood here on Canada’s west coast, I’m reminded of a piece I wrote several years ago about how not to be a guest from hell.
The rules were basic:
Remember your mother’s caution that guests, like fish, stink after three days.
I’ve an addition to the good guest instruction list that will be evident in a few short paragraphs, but indeed, this is the story of my fall from guest grace.
Our friends James and Chris are lovely people: hospitable, generous, and warm. A few years ago they bought a century-old beachfront cottage to which they added an extension with all the mod cons. Their combined kitchen/living room is open and spacious and the view from the dining table is 180 degrees of ocean-front distraction.
Ours is a comfortable friendship, in which we fall into easy synch and rarely exhaust conversation. They often invite us to spend the night when we’re in their neighbourhood and, of course, as good guests, we usually decline and stay only for tea or a meal. We try not to impose and are always helpful.
On this particular summer day, James was filling the kettle – an old timey whistler by the look of it – when we stopped by. Chris was at the stove.
“Stay for lunch,” she said. “We’re just having soup.”
I pitched in to carry soup bowls and teacups to the table and we sat facing the ocean view while we ate.
When the teapot ran dry part way through the meal, I got up to refill the old-timey kettle and placed it on the gas stove.
Back at the table, I was listening for the kettle’s whistle when a disembodied and urgent voice stopped all conversation.
‘FIRE! FIRE! FIRE!’ followed by a blaring SQUAWK! SQUAWK! SQUAWK!
The voice and the squawk picked up speed and volume.
And then, shouting:
‘EVACUATE! EVACUATE! EVACUATE!’
We turned. The new stove in the new kitchen was ablaze, flames shooting to the ceiling and the room filling with toxic smoke.
Chris was the first to speak.
“It was an electric kettle,” she said.