≡ Menu

No Problem!

An old friend died last winter, and I phoned a mutual acquaintance — I’ll call her Sally — to tell her. Sally and I had been very close friends, but we had kind of lost touch when I moved out of state for six years. But now I’m back, and an old friends had passed away, as old friends will.

Sally and I chatted and reminisced about the recently departed. I was enjoying talking with her, so I invited her up to my place in the country for a weekend, and over the next few days we agreed on a date in February. I had no inkling of what a nightmare this would turn out to be.

Things off to a bit of a bad start. Sally got lost on the main road about two miles from my house. Now, I live in a very rural area, but it’s not terribly remote. No one — and I mean, literally, no one, in many, many years of weekends and guests from all over creation — no one has ever gotten lost on the way to my house. Sally had been there at least twice before, but it was several years ago, so I made sure to give her good directions. She phoned me from the road, upset and confused, couldn’t find the turnoff into the village. I tried to talk her through it, but she became increasingly perturbed and distressed. “No problem,” I finally said. I directed her to the parking lot by the local grocery store and told her to wait there for me, I would drive down and she could follow me home.

When I got to the parking lot, she wasn’t there. I couldn’t understand it. It’s the only grocery store for several miles in either direction. I finally found her at a gas station at least two miles up the road from the grocery store, arguing with the guys in the office. Sally is a very pretty woman, and I got the impression that the fellas — and Sally herself — were rather enjoying the whole business.

Anyway, we hugged, as old friends will. But Sally immediately pushed me away, and cringed back against her the wall, with an expression of disgust. “Oh, ugh, ick, you’re wearing scent!” she cried. I was a little taken aback. I’ve known Sally for probably 20 years. I usually wear perfume or cologne, and she had never mentioned being bothered by it. But I guess you can develop allergies, so I shrugged and told her, “No problem,” that I would shower when we got to my place.

Then she started berating me for my driving directions, laughing, not at her own confusion, but at my inability to communicate. I didn’t really want to get into it — disagreeing with her would have meant getting into an argument, and we were still in the service-station office. So I told her I was sorry she’d had trouble, and we set off for home.

In preparation for Sally’s visit, I had given the house a good cleaning, changed all the bed linens and towels, spruced up the bathrooms, etc. I have two dogs and two cats, and the wall-to-wall carpet can get a little funky, so I had sprinkled some dry carpet freshener around the spare bedroom before I vacuumed. Sally said she couldn’t possibly sleep in that room, she was allergic to scent of any kind.

I have to say, I saw no signs of an allergic reaction in Sally — no sneezing or coughing or watery eyes, no rash or frantic scratching. But, “No problem,” I said, “You sleep in my room, and I’ll sleep in here.” No, no, no, she said, she couldn’t possibly take my bed away from me, she would sleep on the couch in the living room. I didn’t want her sleeping on the couch, and after a protracted discussion I was finally able to convince her that I was fine with sleeping in the spare bedroom for a night.

My sense that this was turning out not to be a good weekend was bolstered when Sally asked me if the sheets on my bed were clean. I told her I had changed all the linens that morning, but she asked me to change them again. “No problem,” I said, and did it. After I had changed all the sheets, she asked what kind of detergent I used. Apparently satisfied with my answer, that I used fragrance-free liquid, she asked if I had a fan or something for the room. A fan? It’s February! “I need to have some kind of white noise,” she explained. “You must have a fan?” Of course, I have several fans, but they’re stowed away in the garage (which is really more of a barn, about 40 feet away from the house), waiting for the warm weather. I told her I would fetch one for her before we went to bed.

During all of this Sally had left on her hat, coat, scarf, and sunglasses. We retired to the living room for afternoon tea, but she still didn’t remove her outer garments. I offered to take her coat and hat, but she said she was chilled from the long drive and would leave them on. “No problem,” I said, wondering if her car didn’t have a heater. I turned up the thermostat a bit.

Sally didn’t remove her outerwear or sunglasses all afternoon. I found it surprisingly uncomfortable, visiting and chatting with someone whose eyes I couldn’t see and who was dressed as if she expected to leave any minute. We spent the afternoon discussing the various deficiencies Sally has discovered in her friends and family over the years, how badly she’s treated at work, how inadequate her salary is, etc. Unasked, she told me how much she makes, and it’s about half again as much as I earn.

We went out for dinner to a restaurant in the little town near where I live. Sally took off her hat but retained her coat and scarf, and made a great deal of trouble over ordering from the menu, requesting substitutions and sauces on the side and that the green vegetables not be allowed to touch the potatoes and could they please leave out the carrots? “No problem,” said the waitress. Sally sent back the water because there was too much ice in it. I was kind of embarrassed. I asked her if the salt was okay. “Not too salty?” I picked up the bill after our meal and we went home.

It was a chilly, rainy evening, and I had to take the dogs for a last walk. When I got back, all of us soaked through, Sally had finally taken off her coat. She asked if I had gotten the fan for her as I had promised. I had, of course, forgotten. This time I didn’t say, “No problem,” but I headed back out into the dark and the mud and the wet to get the *&!%($@#* fan from the garage. When I brought it into the house Sally was laughing at me. Laughing hard. “Oh, god, you should have seen the look on your face when I asked you about the fan!” she shrieked, as if this was the funniest thing since the Clinton administration. I made a discovery right then and there: I really don’t like being laughed at. Really, really don’t like it. I don’t think I’ve ever been laughed at that way, with that unpleasant undertone of sly triumph. What was going on, here, anyway? Did she derive a kind of perverse pleasure from uncover my failures as a thoughtful hostess? I handed over the fan and went to bed.

Sally wasn’t quite done with me for the evening, though, and tapped on my door asking for help. She couldn’t find an electric outlet and and couldn’t figure out how to operate the fan. This is a very basic fan with four settings: low, medium, high, and off. I didn’t say, “No problem,” but I set up the fan for her.

The next afternoon we went to a concert at a nearby college. Another old friend of mine, a guy I’ve known for many years, plays in the orchestra there, and we went backstage after the concert. I introduced Sally to him, and he invited us out for a drink. Sally said she couldn’t possibly, she was simply exhausted. On the way back to my house, she asked me how long I had known him. “He’s very good looking, that’s the only reason you’re still friends with him,” Sally said. If he was ugly, she went on, I wouldn’t still be friends with him after all these years. “Excuse me?” I said. “How shallow do you think I am?”

Sally was supposed to stay for another night, and I had prepared, a the day before, a big pot of chicken stew for our supper. She decided she needed to leave right away. “No problem,” I said, and had a nice quiet dinner of chicken and dumplings.

Sally never called or sent me a note or email thanking me for the weekend. And I didn’t call her. About a month and a half later she left a message on my voice mail, upbraiding me for not calling her, telling me not to phone her if anyone else of our acquaintance passed away. “I don’t need friends like you who never call!” she said.

So I guess I’ve lost a friend. “No problem,” I thought to myself.   0408-12


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • GroceryGirl April 10, 2012, 9:01 am

    Who sends back water because it had too much ice? That might be the most diva-esque thing I’ve ever heard.

  • The Elf April 10, 2012, 9:26 am

    PLG, my best friend calls the dropping out as “introvert burnout”. We both do it. Introverts generally find contact with people – even casually- as draining. It’s uplifting to talk with friends, but the day-to-day banter can be difficult to manage when you’re already so stressed. In this time of everyong being connected always, it can be particularly tough to just be alone. Dropping off internet contact is an easy way to ratchet down your human connections temporarily and rest. Since we both do it, and we aren’t stressed at the same times, it can be a little frustrating to keep in contact! But since we both understand the other, there’s lots of forgiveness there too. I think extroverts just don’t get it. Your friend may not be showing attitude, it just might be that he doesn’t get it because he operates in a completely different way. He needs to just accept your drop-outs, clearly, but his misunderstanding may not be mean-spirited.

  • Gloria Shiner April 10, 2012, 10:27 am

    I don’t like ice in my water, but often I get it even when I have specified “no ice, please”. I’ll send it back, even if my dining companions think I’m being picky.

    I also request menu substitutions (no bacon on my salad, no whipped cream on my dessert, for example). Some people think I’m too demanding, but I’m paying for the food and don’t want to eat things I really dislike. On this, I can sympathize with Sally.

  • June April 10, 2012, 11:36 am

    I usually like a fan for white noise, especially in unfamiliar surroundings. It helps drown out all the creaks and appliance clicks. But if it’s put away for the season, I’m fine without it.

    If Sally really was allergic, you’d think she’d say something before coming to stay at someone’s house.
    But I would like to hear her side of the story, remembering that Goth wedding situation. 😉

  • Xtina April 10, 2012, 2:36 pm

    What happened to Sally in those years that the OP had lost touch? It sounds like she’s decided that she’s more interesting if she has all these quirks and changed her personality–seems like it really must have been dramatically different from when they were friends before. At any rate, she’s a bad guest and a bad friend–no loss on the OP’s side, I imagine!

    @Gloria Shiner–yes, hearing the other side of the story is always illuminating, but even if the OP embellished the story a bit, it would still be hard to make up THAT much stuff about one person! 🙂

  • MidoriBird April 10, 2012, 9:05 pm

    Some scents and perfumes certainly do produce an allergic reaction in me, that’s for sure.

    I sleep with the fan on winter or summer for the droning hum, or as they put it here, white noise.

    I must use scentless, dye-less detergent in my wash.

    If I find ice in my soda I’d requested no ice in, it’d be sent back with a polite request for a replacement.

    If I were a guest at another place and these came up? Unless it had to do with perfume or smokers and an asthmatic attack, keep my fat mouth shut. How rude this woman is!

    More curiously, I wonder what has made her change so drastically over the years? While one can develop allergies at any point in life, this woman sounds like she has become super high-maintenence.

  • Mina April 11, 2012, 5:52 am

    I too require a fan for white noise (I have terrible tinnitus), but here’s the thing – I bring my own. And in addition to a power cord, it also operates on batteries in case there’s not an outlet around. In a pinch, I have an iPhone with a white noise app I can run.

  • --Lia April 11, 2012, 6:10 am

    I can explain about ice water. I think I could write a book about ice water.

    There is a difference in temperature between water that has ice in it and water that does not. Ice water is 32 degrees (0 in centigrade). The water will be 32 degrees whether the glass has a lot of ice or a little. Scientific fact. (Unless you come up with absurdities like the glass being the size of a swimming pool and currents). A lot of people don’t know this and think a glass of water filled with ice is somehow colder than one with only a little. (I suppose the one with only a little could melt, and then the water would start getting warmer, but then you’re not talking about water with ice in it anymore.) There is a difference between water that has ice and water that has none. Water that does not have ice in it can be warmer.

    For those of us with sensitive teeth, the temperature of the water can make a huge difference in how we enjoy a meal. Cold water can ruin it. Room temperature water enhances it. For that reason, when I sit down, I always ask for “room temperature water.” I do so hoping to save the server a trip since they’re likely to bring me ice water the first time around if I don’t specify.

    I have worked as a waitress and know that special requests are one of the hardest things to handle when waitressing. For some reason, you get in the habit of doing the same thing every time. You go to the wait-station a hundred times a day and put ice in all the glasses. When someone asks you to skip the ice, you forget in the time it takes you to walk from the table to the wait-station.

    Not only that, different customers can mean different things with the same request. Some people want bottled water. Some people say they want no ice when they mean hot tea. You can try your best and still get it wrong. In an effort to make it easier for the server, I end up saying things like “plain water, with no ice, just straight from the tap, at room temperature.” I don’t do this to be picky. I do this so that I enjoy the meal. When you think about it, the request isn’t really that difficult, but I understand that it can sound that way.

    And none of the above information has anything to do with Sally’s behavior! It sounds like she set the server up to fail. If she said nothing about ice when she sat down, she waited for the ordinary order to arrive, then complained when it did.

  • Enna April 11, 2012, 11:35 am

    @ Gloria, it’s different if you specified no ice and it comes with ice. Some people just don’t like icey cold water others may have senstive teeth. I think what the OP was getting at is Sally sent hers back because there was too mcuh ice in it, not that she wanted no ice.

    OP this Sally sounds odd. You are better off without her. Since she’s said don’t contact her again then don’t.

  • kristine April 11, 2012, 10:32 pm

    While I sympathize with the hostess. I must point out that some people are allergic to scents but have no symptoms visible to another, they just get a blinding headache and nausea. I am one of those people. I would classify it as a sensitivity to the chemical fumes, but not necessarily an allergy. But scents can make me very ill.

    As another sufferer of tinnitus, I understand the white noise request. However, I bring ear plugs. It does make the screeches I hear much more intense, but it does block out other stacatto noise which might wake me, being a light sleeper.

    I also have Reynaud’s syndrome (wow, I must sound like a mess!), in which my extremities can lose warmth, to the point hey cannot regenerate heat, and need an external source to alleviate that frozen feeling. It can happen in temperatures that others find comfortable, and sometimes I need to keep on my scarf and gloves, and maybe my coat, even when it is socially awkward. I can’t drink beverages with ice- it chills me to the bone. Not doing what I need to results in pain and discomfort.

    In any case, none of this dismisses the rudeness of the final contact. It makes all the other special accommodations sound suspect of source. Be glad she has no inclination to visit again.

  • Lindsey April 13, 2012, 9:47 pm

    This story is really annoying, it’s people like her that make those of us with actual issues look horrible. I’m very allergic to a whole lot of things, like to sleep with certain noises, and have food allergies and sensitivities that make me ask for lots of substitutions and whatnot when I eat. And I get migraines triggered by incredibly random things. But you know what? I know all of that and I PLAN for it, instead of being rude about it. I tell people I’m going to stay with all of the problems I might have, I bring my own white noise generator (which you can find for pretty cheap nowadays), and I tell the waiter at the beginning of the meal what I can’t consume. And for psychological issues, well, that’s not really much of an excuse in this case. I have a friend who absolutely cannot have food touch each other on the plate (something this woman apparently had problems with), it’s a huge issue, so she carries around those disposable, divided plates or just asks for everything in different bowls/plates. When you have real problems, you learn how to adjust to dealing with it in the real world, you don’t just assume others will magically know and adjust.

  • Darla May 7, 2012, 4:11 pm

    Adding to good things said by Lindsey, kristine and others.

    I know people who really do have chemical sensitivities. (not really allergies, but most of them use that word because it’s more easily understood by people who don’t have sensitivities)

    They would never go anywhere without checking FIRST about chemical use. They always tell people in advance that they can’t tolerate perfume, air freshener, etc. I don’t mind doing the extra work to make the house livable for these friends, because I have seen how sick they get, and their company is worth it.

    I need a CPAP to sleep. I bring one with me whenever I travel. If I needed a white noise generator, I would bring one with me.

    I think Sally is not so much rude, as mentally ill. Her behavior as described was chaotic and inconsistent. It’s possible that, just as she couldn’t find the one and only grocery store in the area, she also could not find her way around the social situations.

  • Pat E. Cake May 25, 2012, 12:15 pm

    OP – I about wet my pants laughing when I read this story!! It sounds like several people I know all rolled into one. I can’t tell you how many times I have put up with diva-esqueness, and haven’t been able to produce a polite spine. However, with these type of people, I don’t think even a polite spine works. They’re either insecure in some way, or want to get one over on you somehow. How lucky you are not to have to deal with “Sally” on a regular basis.

    I love the way you wrote this story. The recurrent theme of “No problem,” had me in stitches. Even though you might not have meant this to be funny, it was hilarious to me because it echoes my feelings about the divas in my life.

    I’m confused about one thing, however. The OP writes that “Sally” noticed her musician friend’s comeliness, and decided that the OP would have been hitched up with him if he was UGLY. Because the musician friend was HANDSOME, the OP hadn’t dated him yet. Does anyone else see this as an insult but me? “Sally” was saying that the musician friend was too handsome to hook up with OP. Was this a blatant insult, or am I missing something?

    I only noticed this because I have a “friend” who would do all that “Sally” did and more, including boasting about how much she makes, laughing about how ineffective my communication is, right down to the part where she calls a week later and blasts me for not bolstering her fragile ego by telling her what a great friend she is. I am certain that my “friend” who reminds me so much of “Sally” would have taken the opportunity not only to insult me about my inability to hook up with a cute guy, but would also have flirted with my cute friend herself, making for an awkward situation. However, I commend the OP for her solid moral comeback – “How shallow do you think I am?” OP did not accept the insult, and defended her platonic friendship with Cute Musician Friend.

    So, “Sally,” here’s to you and all the divas in the world who make our lives miserable. May those of us who have to suffer with folks like you one day be able to turn our bend-over-backwards-for-you-the-ungrateful-guest/friend “No problem!” offerings, borne of good breeding and polite manners, into a firmer backbone.

  • Shnon October 3, 2012, 2:18 pm

    This was fantastically laid out, thank you for the laugh, OP.