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2009-12-14 - 11:49 a.m.

...The Man Who Came to Dinner....

This year, K and I had a proper American Thanksgiving dinner feast, with friends, students, family, au pairs....and the man who came to dinner.*

The Man Who Came to Dinner is a classic theater piece from the 1930s/40s, about a famous radio personality, Sheridan Whiteside, who joins a normal middle-class family for dinner...He falls and breaks his leg on the front stoop, and then is stuck recovering in the house for weeks. He never leaves. Many laugh-riotous antics ensue.

Our particular Man-Who-Came-to-Dinner is German, and a boyfriend of a friend of a friend of K's, and much less amusing on the laugh-riotous-antics side of things. We had never met him before. But K's friend asked if he might have our number as an emergency contact number. K gave it out, and offered that he might stay on our sofa for a few days.

K then never heard back from him...until he received a phone call on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, informing us that this guy - shall we call him Mr. Whiteside? - would be arriving on Friday during our Thanksgiving party. He showed up on November 28th. and is still on our couch.

Mr. Whiteside showed up in Funcouver with no connections, no ideas about where he would stay, no ideas about what job he would take. He had no phone and no laptop. It took him 4-5 days to acquire the laptop and the phone, and he still seems to have no idea about where he will stay and what he will do. We three (Budda, K, and I) were all a bit astounded by his lack of preparedness, especially as he kept sputtering day after day, "it rains a lot here." I think that statement falls pretty much under the category of "NO SHIT SHERLOCK" when one is classifying statements about Funcouver.

We were even less certain about this guy when K asked him about his girlfriend - how did he feel about leaving her for a year. His reply, "well, we don't really know each other that well." So that's it. He's barely a friend of a friend of friend of K's. And he pretty much spends his life sitting on our sofa watching German movies on his laptop, waiting to hear replies to his queries to the list of craig. As far as we know, he hasn't pursued step one in getting a job. He's answered about three apartment ads.

To his credit, Herr Whiteside is fairly quiet, and is sure to pack up his stuff and fold up the sofa every morning. But he also has several irritating traits. He showed up with a stack of candy as a gift, and seems to think that this was an adequate contribution to our household, allowing him to stay on indefinitely. In the meantime he consumes our coffee and milk and bread, without any apparent need to contribute. He has emptied the dishwasher once, and he played with Susi for the first couple days until the novelty wore off (for both of them - Susi now pretty much ignores him).

The most annoying behavior has been his disrespectful treatment of Budda, our au pair. Susi had a cold last week and has been rather cranky, demonstrating the first of her terrible-two tantrums. She has crying fits where she is inconsolable. Little Susi is almost two, and clearly struggling with not getting her way all the time, and equally struggling with not being able to explain to us exactly what "her way" is. Needless to say, this has been a challenge for all of us, including Budda.

I was disturbed to hear that Herr Whiteside found it acceptable to get irritated at Susi for disturbing his laptop sessions on our sofa, calling Susi "spoiled" and "stinky" and chastising her (and implicitly also Budda) for thinking that crying would allow her to get her way in life. His outbursts towards Susi have occurred now on multiple occasions. On another occasion when we were out at a parade with Susi, Budda informed him that he would have to leave the house in a few minutes, because everyone was going out (we thankfully did not issue this guy a key). His response was a stream of German expletives, apparently because Budda was inconveniencing him.

Budda has politely told him that his comments "are not helpful," but he hasn't seemed to get the hint. Budda has now reached the point of "telling him off in a Thuringian rather than a Canadian way." Budda is no shrinking violet, so I'd kind of like to be a fly on the wall for that one...

Herr Whiteside doesn't seem to have a problem with directness, which is a common Thuringian trait. So it will help for Budda to do this. I set him straight yesterday morning when he tried to tell me that we have taught Susi that she gets her way when she cries and complains. I just looked straight back at him and said, "Give her a break, Whiteside. She's not even two."

Maybe he got the point. But I don't think so. Because a more CLUEFUL person wouldn't then go on and point out the crumbs on the counter and the spots on the dishes to his harrassed hostess, as he emptied the dishwasher. My reply: "Yes, these things aren't exactly my top priority right now," as I made everyone's breakfast.

I reached an all time Whiteside low yesterday morning as we were rushing to leave the house for Susi's last swimming lesson. He stood in the middle of the entranceway, staring at his laptop screen, blocking everyone's path as we tried to pile up swimming gear, lunch, coats, blankets, toys, and towels for our walk. At one point, he sat right on top of the gloves, hats, scarves, and mittens that I had piled on the edge of the sofa - I had to pull them out from underneath his sorry ass. And then as we were piling out the door, he continued to ask ME detailed questions about the locations of various neighborhoods, and K for computer support.

I was ranting for a bit after that little encounter, much to K's amusement. Yes, we're ready for Mr. Whiteside to leave, and we are going to set a date tonight. I would really like to have my house back.

*For those of you who are not familiar with this piece of theater, I highly recommend renting the 1972 version with Orson Welles. I haven't seen the 1942 film version but it is also supposed to be wonderful.

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