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The Hospitality Cold Shoulder

I have a quite large family on my father’s side, though for a number of reasons there has never been much contact amongst all of us.

As an adult I have befriended one of my cousins, and my brother and I often spend time with him. A few years ago the three of us, to our joy, got an invitation to another cousin, “Eric”, for his 30th birthday party. We hadn’t seen him more than a few times in our adult years so this was a pleasant surprise. He lived with his wife in a small village where we hadn’t been before so we asked him if it would be ok to spend the night since it would be a bit of a drive. Yes, of course, he said, and sounded really happy about it.

The party was initially fun. Eric’s wife was a bit snotty and didn’t speak many words to us, and her apparently close friend, “Sandra”, was even a bit rude. But we stayed out of their way, thinking that maybe they don’t meet new people often, or something. Eric and the other guests were really nice. However, Eric was really partying and soon starting to get quite drunk so the other guests left one by one.

The history in our family is that the elder relatives are from another country. So we started talking about it and listening to evergreen songs from this culture that we all grew up with. This amuzed Eric a lot but seemed to really piss his wife and Sandra off. They immediately started ranting about how “horrible” the music was, “how can anyone listen to this sh*t” and loudly put on their type of music instead (the hit charts), totally ignoring Eric’s obvious disappointment.

So we tried to hang out with Eric in a corner, while the other two behaved like school yard bullies, whispering, giggling and giving us dirty looks.   Suddenly the two of them decided that they wanted to go out. Apparently they had already called a taxi, and stated that all of us would be going to a night club. We were not very familiar with the bigger city they wanted to go to, but we knew this club and it is a place that we certainly wouldn’t have a good time at and that had an entrance fee we would not be happy to pay, all three of us being students at the time. Eric was in no state to go anywhere so we politely suggested the obvious – that we stay with him in the house and we could all have a drink together when they come back from the club. Sandra snapped, saying that we had no right staying in the house and it was their decision as hosts what they want to do. (Yes, the friend said this.) Eric was hardly realizing what was going on, but when his wife tried to literally drag him towards the door, he protested, wanted to sit down and wondered where those lovely old songs had gone. The wife ostentatiously shut the lights. If we hadn’t all been drinking, we would, of course, have left and driven home at this point, but there was nothing else to do but to agree and help them outside with poor Eric.

The taxi was already waiting. We realized that they had ordered a regular sized taxi and not a mini bus (common here and for the same cost as a regular) so obviously all six of us couldn’t fit in the taxi. We quickly got most of our things from inside, but trying to say that there were more of our items upstairs, they said “Leave it! You don’t need it in the club.” So there we stood, in the middle of nowhere – Eric’s wife quickly locking the door to the house and jumping into the taxi with Eric and Sandra. Before they closed the door they shouted that there would be a bus leaving soon and that we could call their cell phones when we got to the club. And the taxi drove away.

We were baffled. We went to look for the bus stop, and found that the last bus had left quite some time ago, thinking they probably knew about that. So, our options? Spend a lot of money on another taxi and go look for these awful people, in a club we don’t want to be at and in a town that is unfamiliar to us, and even further away from home than we already were? And was it even sure they would be there and that we would find them? We knew there wouldn’t be any pub in the small village we were in, and taking a taxi to go looking for one would probably be pointless since it would soon be closing time for everything but the biggest clubs. So we went to our car, slowly parked it right outside their house, thinking that we would have our last beers and some sandwiches that we luckily had in the car and sit and chat until they came back. We only had the number to Eric’s cell phone and called him but no answer. We actually had quite a good time in the car, given the circumstances, but got tired after a while and tried to sleep in the small and uncomfortable car. Thank god it was summer.

The next morning they still hadn’t come back. We phoned and sent several messages to Eric, but nothing. We would soon be sober enough to dare to drive, but we had some important things left inside the house. And we certainly didn’t feel like ever visiting again.

Around noon Eric and his wife suddenly show up! They happily explain that it was a long taxi ride to the club so to save money they went to Eric’s parents’ house to sleep afterwards since it was closer. They didn’t ask what we had been doing and acted totally unaware of the fact that we had to spend the night in our car. They even talked about the yummy brunch that they had ate before they left! I did however, see a little glimpse of shame in Eric’s face.   We got our things and drove home, and haven’t spoken to them since.

We speculated afterwards that maybe, for some reason, Eric hadn’t told his wife that we were coming and that she thought that we were crashing the party. But there are no old grudges that we know of and we were nothing but nice. Unbelievable how anyone can behave like that – and how someone can be such a door mat to one’s spouse.   1210-10

{ 52 comments… add one }
  • penguintummy January 4, 2011, 8:11 am

    I don’t think that it is rude to ask to spend the night at someone’s house. If there is drinking going on, it is much safer to organise something like that than try to drive yourself home drunk or spend a lot of money on a taxi, which may not be available anyway. People recognise the danger of drink driving and this is a perfectly sensible option to avoid a possible tragic outcome. The cousin could have said no when he was asked about spending the night.

  • Maryjelly January 17, 2011, 12:56 pm

    I am the OP.
    TheOtherAmber: You are very alert 🙂 I live in a European country (not UK), and the other culture mentioned is a neighbour country, but the two cultures are very different. It is obvious that this had something to do with her behaviour, but why marry Eric if it’s THAT horrible? I also know that she and Sandra sometimes hang out with other relatives, and though we all grew up here, we are all proud of our background.

    What makes this even worse is that Eric is childhood friends with my other cousin that came along. So he especially, would be far from being considered a stranger. Also, asking to stay over under the circumstances would not at all normally be considered rude here, when it comes to this we are probably less formal than americans. We did paint ourselves into a corner, but it I don’t think it is especially naive to not have “ourageously mean wife” as a possible turn…

    We can only speculate in why Eric’s wife and Sandra behaved like they did – but we have heard from some other relatives to us and Eric that being rude is not very unusual for them, though this event is extreme. I know we didn’t do anything wrong. Her not knowing that we were coming is only a theory. The house was big and had several rooms where we could have stayed. There was no formal dinner either, so if she was surprised there is no reason she should have been uncomfortable or angry to that level, especially since it was clear Eric was happy to see us. And really, IF he hadn’t told her in advance, wouldn’t she notice at our arrival that Eric was expecting us and that we would not be to blame?

    Yes, we could have confronted them the day after, but we were tired and just wanted to go home. We also were, and still are, more sad and disappointed, than angry about it. I don’t think that we will ever be friends with Eric – if so, it will have to be his move.

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