There is a big difference between an overnight houseguest and a crasher. Overnight houseguests are welcomed, planned and appreciated company. They bring flowers when they arrive — sometimes with a vase because an overnight houseguest understands that the receipt of flowers means that the recipient has to go searching for a vase, fill it with water and flower food, and then cut the flower stems. An overnight houseguest is someone you’ve been looking forward to seeing. Their trip has been marked on your calendar for some time. You’ve got some set plans, a room made up with all the items a guest could need, and fresh towels laid out in the bathroom for them.
Then there are the “Crashers.”
A crasher is someone who shows up unannounced at your home, or gives very little notice that they intend to take up residence with you. This impromptu stay could last anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Now that I’m in my late 30s with a husband, baby, and a dog, having Crashers is more complicated. My husband is an actor and keeps odd hours. His normal bedtime is 2 AM. Throw in a baby whose sleeping habits are touch and go at any given moment, and there is little time for playing hostess. Not that anyone would want to stay with us these days, but from time to time, we’ll get a request from a friend to “crash” with us.
What used to be spontaneous and cute has turned into overbearing and stressful. We could simply decline having Crashers in our home by explaining the imposition. We’ve found, however, that this has rarely gone over well. Nobody sees himself as an inconvenience.
“Is it okay if I just crash for a night or two?” The Crasher asks.
I hate the word “crash.” It’s meant to imply a laid back, easy cohabitation arrangement in your home. But taken literally, it’s a disaster imposition. There is no delicate way to “crash” without it causing some upheaval.
If you fall into the camp of having “Crashers” on a regular basis, I’ve found certain ways to minimize their stay without insulting them. From now on, Crashers will think twice before inviting themselves over again. Here are some deterrent devices:
10. Tell them that the plumbing isn’t working. You’ve been using your neighbor’s bathroom and showering at the gym. If they don’t believe you and show up anyway, stop flushing the toilets.
9. Start vacuuming at 5 AM. In the room where the Crasher is located. Then talk about all the tasks that have to be done that day. If you’ve been needing some contracting work, a visit from the cable company or furniture delivery, be sure to schedule them all to come on the day when Crasher plans to hang out at your home. This will prevent any ability to sleep in or hanging out in front of the television all day in pajamas.
8. Have a baby. Nobody in his or her right mind should want to sleep anywhere near a newborn. It’s the equivalent of having a fire alarm go off in 10-minute intervals. Just as you finally dose off, the crying starts again. The pooping, peeing, and constant spit up alone should scare them. Crashing with a baby is like living with a really drunk, immature friend who doesn’t know her limits and can only express herself in screaming, crying, or throwing up.
7. Clear out your fridge and have absolutely nothing appetizing to eat. The best you can do is offer tap water. At room temperature or warmer. Be sure the pantry is relatively empty or your guest may decide that even the old box of opened, stale Cheerios is an appealing snack. If you do have cereal on hand, make sure the milk is expired. Keep loads of dirty dishes in the sink and have no clean utensils or bowls on hand.
6. Forget to pull down the window shades before bed. Let that sunlight flood your home and wake up everyone in its path. Bonus points if the window shades are poorly hung and fall down whenever someone tries to pull on them.
5. Turn off the A/C in the summer and the heat in the winter. Sweat or freeze out your Crasher.
4. Hide the toilet paper. If your Crasher doesn’t buy the “plumbing is broken” excuse, do not provide a happy oasis in the bathroom. Once a Crasher discovers that there is no toilet paper in a bathroom, your home becomes a hostile environment. If your Crasher asks what you’ve been doing without toilet paper, claim you just ran out of it and don’t go that much anyway. Hide the tissues.
3. Mention that you think the bed bug problem has cleared up. You haven’t seen bed bug remnants in at least 48 hours. The bite marks are almost gone too. Pinch your arm a bit and display it proudly to the Crasher. Then start scratching your neck and hair repeatedly. Slap random body parts throughout the early evening, attaching the alleged bed bugs.
2. Place mouse and rattraps in random locations around the apartment. Put several directly in the area where the houseguest will sleep. If Crasher questions the traps, act excited and say something like, “I’ve caught 12 in the last week but the home next door had 15, so I’m convinced we’ll get more tonight!”
1. Give them tasks. Provide a grocery-shopping list next to their sleeping head. Ask them to hold the baby during her next meltdown. Plead with them to walk the dog at 4 AM when the baby is crying and there’s a thunderstorm outside. Request that they pick up some double-ply, extra-soft toilet paper and a plunger.
You can try simply telling the Crasher that it’s time to go. Or that you can’t have him there in the first place. But this will only insult him. It’s much more enjoyable to plot his excavation than to have a direct conversation. Once you manage to get the Crasher out, don’t be afraid to send him a bill for his stay. That should prevent any additional thought he might have of a repeat visit.