How Do You Deal With Uninvited Guests?
What do you do when a friend arrives unannounced at a time when you don't particularly want to meet him or her? I'm not sure about this but I figure that in India most people would smile and pull up a chair for the visitor, offer the person tea and make polite conversation with gusto till the time the individual decided to leave. These kind of gestures of courtesy have won Indians the reputation of being the most friendly and hospitable people on earth.
Well, a friend did turn up unannounced the other day at a moment when another friend and I were sitting and chatting over a beer. The two of us were comfortably immersed in a topic of mutual interest and the bouncy "Hallo" and smile of the visitor who pranced in through the door not only startled us but had both of us downright dismayed. The extra chirpy smile our visitor threw us indicated that she was expecting an evening of social entertainment at a time when we wanted to just have a very quiet conversation about the nature of life and things like that, with long pauses in between sips of beer and looking at the sea. I didn't pull up a chair for my visitor who hovered on the threshold of the room (I can still flaunt my fractured ankle as an excuse for not doing many things), so after a minute she pulled up one for herself.
In the longish pause that followed her arrival, friend # 2 hesitantly asked if she were interrupting something and I responded with a remark that I neither remember any more nor even understood at the time. This is what confusion does to you. It has you talking nonsense. So we just sat together, a not too cosy triangle, and a desultory kind of conversation began between friend # 2 and friend # 1 which by then I had decided I did not want to be part of. I preferred to look at the sea and to struggle with my feelings, torn between annoyance at someone just landing up at my doorstep without bothering to even check if I were free and reluctance to send her packing because ... well because she had come all the way to meet us from the other side of town and well, you're supposed to be delighted when a friend takes the trouble to surprise you in this manner, with her presence.
Finally, friend # 1, who also decided she did not want any of the desultory talk, fell silent, more or less forcing the unwelcome visitor to ask if I was annoyed with her. To my surprise a firm "Yes" came out of me. If I was being selfish in not wanting to make place for a newcomer at a particular point, well that newcomer seemed to me also to have been selfish not only not to have bothered to find out if I wanted her around but to have barged into a conversation which was already flowing instead of trying to quietly and unobtrusively be part of it.
I won't go into the details of the somewhat bitter exchange that took place between us after I admitted my true feelings. I am not writing this to show someone else up in a bad light but rather to look at this question of how to deal with awkward situations when you're caught between wanting to be "good" and hospitable and "bad" and dying to turf out the unwanted individual.
For myself I decided that I had spent too many years being polite to people I didn't want to be polite to and realized, that at the age of fifty six, you don't have all that much time any more to waste on niceties. So I have decided to stick to my truth and to accept the consequences as well. Finally, friendship, more than anything, is about being honest and about developing a common ground where hearts and minds can really meet. It is not about being polite and it is definitely not about being hypocritical. Ah, yes. There is one thing I regret. And that is the fact that both friend # 1 and I were unable to firmly and kindly tell friend # 2 to go home as soon as she had arrived, instead of (as she pointed out) subjecting all three of us to a pointless half an hour of uncertainty and unpleasantness. Oh well, I'm learning!
How Do You Deal With Uninvited Guests?
- » Published on February 28, 2007
- » Type: Opinion
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