The Good, the Bad, and the House Guest

House guests
Photo by Akira Hojo on Unsplash.

I’m not the sort of person who really does house guests. At least not frequently or well.

There is far too much thought and work that has to go into inviting someone or someones into my most holy and private domain. First there is a panic-fueled whirlwind of tidying up. Because while it makes perfect sense that 80% of my kitchen table has been covered with an ongoing project that’s really just too much work to pack up (and honestly, who really needs an eating space larger than their plate most days?), letting someone see that I am a real human being who lives that way is a no. Hard pass.

Ditto for the pile of clean laundry on my bedroom chair.

This is followed by an attempt to clean, vacuum, or sanitize every surface the guest will come in contact with.

The guest sheets, which were put away clean but haven’t been touched in months, must be recleaned for freshness. The bathroom sink, which is cleaned regularly, must also be recleaned just in case there’s an ew-factor I didn’t realize yet but I would totally realize mid-guest-stay if I weren’t to reclean it. And let’s not even go into every pet owner’s worst fear: that they’ve become nose-blind to the fact that they no longer share their home with adorable pets, but rather they live in a sty where those less-than-adorable-pets have peed. Repeatedly.

Once you’re certain you past the sniff test and the random police inspection test, there’s the whole matter of orchestrating the arrival of the guest.

When they show up on your doorstep do you immediately show them to room (or couch) where they’ll be staying like you’re the bellhop of your own damn house? Then do you get on with the rest of your visit or do you say something like “I’ll just let you settle in,” except who the hell says that outside of a movie? (And no, I’ve not met one real-life person who needs some alone time to “settle in” unless they’re doing a full costume change.) Or do you play it cool, like it’s any other short-term visit, except at the end of the visit instead of kicking them out to go back to their own abode like a normal person would do, you take pity on them and surprise them with a mattress?

Then there’s the towel conundrum. Do you include that on your opening tour (assuming you bothered with the informational audio guide extravaganza) — “And here are your towels”? Or do you leave a conspicuous stack of towels in plain sight so that the guest will think a) how nice, a set of fresh toweling! Just what I was hankering for! Or b) dude, can’t this lady be bothered to put her laundry away? Or do you not put out towels because your guest is a grownass adult and should be able to figure out how to open a fucking closet door?

I’ve surmounted all this neuroticism maybe a half-dozen or dozen times in the past ten years. That’s it.

I didn’t set out to be this way.

Upon moving into my first non-college apartment, I opted for the hand-me-down-but-pretty-nice futon over the hand-me-down-but-has-seen-better-days couch because the futon could turn my one-bedroom apartment into a house-guest-friendly location.

Those imagined house guests rarely materialized. And when they did, at least half were memorably Bad Guests. Or Nerve Wracking Guests. Or Why-The-Hell-Did-I-Agree-To-This Guests.

Before I tell the rest of this story…

We must establish one very first worldish Household Truth: it doesn’t matter which way you choose to position your toilet paper roll. You can let the leading-edge flow over the front of the roll or cascade down the back. But whether you choose to flow or cascade your TP, if it’s in your house then your choice precedes all others. It’s the law of the land. The royal decree of the porcelain throne. Woe and pain to those who work against you.

Now, I once had a house guest come and stay a few nights.

(I know, this is already a scary, nerve-tingling story.) The toilet paper was getting low in my one and only bathroom, so I (like a boss) replaced the roll.

The next time I entered the bathroom, I discovered the roll was on backwards.

Oops. These things happen. You think you have the roll one way, and because of the way the goofy adhesive sealed the outer sheets, you misjudged the direction of the roll and placed it on the roll backwards. Oof. Oh well. Annoying, but it happens, and like the snowglobe-like flecks of toothpaste splatter on the mirror, it’s easily fixable once noticed.

No one else have that toothpaste problem? Maybe that’s just me.

Back to the TP…

I righted the roll and all was well with the world. Birds sang. Chipmunks did the Lindy Hop. Peace and calm returned to Middle Earth.

But no.

I returned to the bathroom and there was zero chipmunk dancing: the roll was once again reversed.


Still possible that I misjudged the paper’s directionality and put it on the holder incorrectly.

Possible, but not probable.

But . . . I’m starting to suspect foul play on the part of House Guest. Not cool, House Guest, not cool.

But I don’t want to leap to conclusions Phantom Tollbooth-style because that would also be not cool. So I fix the roll. Again. Double check it.

It is most definitely going in the correct direction.

Fast forward to next morning. The TP roll is once again directionally challenged. Oh no they didn’t. This time, this third time, it is definitely, absolutely, 100% the fault of House Guest reorienting the toilet paper roll that is already on the holder. A roll that House Guest should not be orienting or re-orienting, just gently using when the need arises.

And it has to be House Guest.

There’s been no one else in my home. Unless the cats gained opposable thumbs and, instead of doing something more in line with their base natures like using the can opener to access all the tuna in the cupboard or raiding the drawer where there the catnip bag lives, they decided to use their new-found dexterity to screw with me by flipping the TP roll.

I checked the cats. No new thumbs.

Sure, House Guest is allowed an opinion on Flow vs. Cascade, but this A) isn’t a Left Twix Right Twix commercial and B) isn’t House Guest’s house. While at someone else’s house, House Guest’s toilet paper opinion is worth exactly two . . . well, you know.

And the worst part is you can’t say anything. Saying something would make you look petty. At best. Because let’s face it, this doesn’t have any impact or bearing on the world except that it is screwing with a part of your domain that is sacrosanct. #UnwrittenRule.

At worst, saying something would make everyone wonder if your OCD tendencies (the ones we all have in different amounts) have gone over from quirky . . . but in an acceptable-and-hopefully-cute way, to you might want to look into meds, dude.

So I said nothing. But this was, thankfully the last battle in the War of the Toilet Paper. A war that, to this day, I still hold I did not start.

The only happy solution for toilet paper directionality and house guests.
Photo by Fikri Rasyid on Unsplash.

Eileen Wiedbrauk is a writer, editor, geek, coffee addict, cat herder, public library fangirl, founder and former Editor-in-Chief of World Weaver Press, MFA grad, Odyssey Workshop alum, database wrangler, kdrama devotee, avid reader, and a somewhat decent cook. She wears many hats, as the saying goes. Which is an odd saying in this case, as she rarely looks good in hats.

Top photo by Akira Hojo on Unsplash. Bottom photo by Fikri Rasyid on Unsplash.

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