Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Camp Followers

The note slipped out of their Christmas card.  “We’re going to be in Palm Springs in February. Would love to see you.” Translation: How about a free lunch and pool time when we’re in town. The code talkers were back.

Like the ten thousand pound elephant in the room, it’s a subject talked about in hushed tones and only among the closest of friends.  Every season it’s debated and pondered among full and part-time residents. What to do with those visiting guests who don’t seem to get it?

It’s like the holy grail of Catholic guilt.  For some outsiders it must seem like a curious con-fluence of rich people complaining about having company, being ungrateful for their good luck and showing little empathy for folks who can’t escape winter themselves. For the insiders it’s a realistic appraisal of individuals who don’t quite understand the art of ‘being an appreciative guest.’

Mind you, this does not include most folks who visit the desert.  Nor is it all the time. In fact most of our visitors understand and appreciate the unwritten rules of etiquette for guests. Those folks don’t have to be looked after, ‘baby-sat’ or catered to. They’re self-sufficient and appreciative of being invited here in the first place.

The problem, really my problem as my wife likes to point out, is that I’m an ISTJ and my wife is an ENFJ.  She loves entertaining, chooses not to see inequities in having company staying with us and is reticent to judge others for their lack of appreciative behavior. Me, not so much!

Desert living is a special treat especially in the middle of winter.  For both residents and guests alike it is a welcome respite from the harsh reality of winter back home. Most of us understand and embrace our great fortune to be able to live in desert if for only a short period of time.

Truth be told I’ve worked hard to get to this place in my life.  So I only want to share it with select individuals who appreciate the good fortune of clear blue skies, warm weather in January, and starlight overhead with just a hint of chill in the air.

If one were to gather together a group of folks who live here part-time or full-time, they could probably come up with a list of criteria for what it takes to make for a pleasant guest experience in the desert.

These are the unwritten rules understood by most travelers.  They’re the common sense approach to living in someone’s home for any period.

1.      First and foremost, remember that you are the one on vacation not the folks who live here.  In fact, this is a disruption of their normal routine. That’s OK because they’ve welcomed you into their home but it is a fact. You’re the one on vacation…they’re not.

2.      This is not a hotel, a B&B, a hostel, a boutique motel or tent city. This is their home and as such guests need to respect it and treat it as if they were living in your own home and not a hotel where it’s acceptable to leave their stuff all over the place…and expect others to pick up after them.

3.      This is not a week of hosted entertainment or conversely a week of lying around doing nothing because that’s their vision of a vacation. Your hosts are not inn-keepers or maids or the chauffer. If guests want to tour the town they should have their own car to do so.

One of the cultural benefits of living in this desert environment is the plethora of parties thrown on an almost weekly basis.  Interestingly enough the same principles apply when accepting an invitation to a party. And again, most folks get it while a few still don’t.

A few folks feel it is acceptable to collect any leftover liquor they brought to the party.  The idea of reciprocating for being invited to someone else’s house is an unknown equation to them. They come and partake but never reciprocate. Most are pleased to have been invited and show their gratitude in a variety of ways. Yet there are always a few who just come and drink then leave and wonder when their next invitation will arrive in the mail.

A close friend of my wife had an interested analogy that I hadn’t thought of before.  He and his wife are incredibly hard working folks who understand and appreciate where every penny comes from and where it goes. They were delighted to be invited to visit us last winter.

They turned out to be gracious guests, appreciative of their surroundings and quick to show their appreciation in a variety of ways.  The husband surprised me with his observation of the money they saved by staying with us verses staying in a Palm Springs hotel as a regular visitor. I was astounded.

Average costs for a week spent in Palm Springs during ‘the season.’

Hotel room (7 days)     1750.00
Rental car                       750.00
Three meals a day        1050.00
Sight-seeing tours          250.00

Estimated costs:          3800.00

A few ways that guests can show their appreciation borders on just plain common sense. It would be nice to pay for a few meals when dining out with your hosts. It doesn’t hurt to pay for gas if long trips are incurred. A thoughtful gift for the host is a sure sign of appreciation.

And my favorite pet peeve…if you like to use the television set as background noise in the morning, make sure that’s acceptable to your host who might prefer a quiet wake-up period instead. Remember you’re the one visiting and a return invitation isn’t always a guaranteed thing.

So there I’ve said it. Those who get it don’t need to hear this. Those who don’t probably wouldn’t get it anyway.

Such is life.

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