Oct 17, 2009

On Unexpected Guests, Wrecked Plans, and Toxic Resentment

The stars seemed aligned for a productive afternoon of dissertation writing: no kids were in the house, and I had a few intriguing ideas that needed to be fleshed out in written form. Just turn on some quiet instrumental music - say, Andres Segovia - and me and my Muse would create 3-4 pages of useful text.

Then my wife and I pulled into the driveway, and I was faced with an unexpected horror: an out-of-town guest sitting in his car.

The carefully laid plans came to a screeching halt, as our guest also brought with him a six-month-old dog and a five-year-old child. The quiet house I imagined would be conducive to the solitude I prefer for academic writing became a raucous zoo, with the film WALL-E blasting on the big screen TV and the barking visitor dog ratcheting up the energy levels of my own pooches.

"This is family," I reminded myself, but I still grumbled at the intrusion. Yes, I could have insisted that the visitors return on a different day, especially in a few weeks after I turn in my dissertation to my committee, but I suspect that only a shotgun would work to get the point across - we have tolerated the unannounced visits in the past, and we helped create the metaphorical monsters that now plague me.

The extra noise was only part of the problem, though, as there burned in my gut a resentment for the arrival of our visiting relatives. Getting past this emotion is going to prove more difficult than trying to tune out the noise, as my righteous indignation can be a formidable beast to quell. Yet I know too well that holding onto resentments is an unhealthy activity, and one that only aggravates dormant ulcers, so I decided to try and work through the rowdiness.

To make matters worse, my iTunes program refused to open, meaning that the palliative plucking of Segovia's nylon strings is not available to drown out the extra noise. So I write this missive as much as an exercise in spleen venting as much as anything else, and twenty minutes of composing this post seems to have reduced my irritation levels to the point where I can work again. Of course, the two-mile walk I took helped reduce my stress, not to mention the fact that exercise is always better than the most effective diet pill.

Thank you for your virtual ears, dear readers.


Mad Jack said...

I suspect the dog is the best behaved and least trouble out of the entire family.

Offer to keep the dog for a while if they'll take the kid and leave.

historymike said...


I ended up working on some other projects that did not require as much solitude (at least for my liking). It became clear that the noise was still going to interfere with deep thinkery.

microdot said...

You seem to have the same reaction to unwanted, inexpected guests as I do.

A car pulle sin the driveway and I immediately go into my "what the hell is this about?" mode...
Of course, any car pulling into the driveway here is an event.
My greatest satisfaction is lost "tourists" usually from England who inadvertantly use our dead end road as an imaginary shortcut south...
Then I refuse to speak english, only really bad french with my detroit accent...
Sort of the equivalent of "You can't get there from here...."

Mr. Puggle said...

does your unexpected guest read your blog? might be awkward?

remember, Jesus got in the boat and removed himself. ain't nothing wrong with the word NO. especially in your own home and workspace.

glad you got back on track and a mini work out.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a fan of unannounced visitors either.

In fact, if the doorbell rings and I'm not expecting anyone, I don't even go to the door.

At least have the courtesy to call and let me know that you're around the corner or on my street...I'm not asking for 2 days notice, just 5-10 minutes at least!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a brother-in-law to me.

Michelle said...

I was just lamenting my lost Saturday night. The in-laws showed up at 7 pm and wouldn't leave! The Horror! The Horror!

We'd planned to get pizza, play a game with the kids, and watch Ernest Scared Stupid.Then, I'd get to grading and writing.

So, they joined us for pizza and the game and I flipped my frown around--they might not be able to share another Saturday night with us again... I didn't get the grading and writing done, but I went to bed in a better mood than if I would have!