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Sue’s Bad Holiday Visit

Thank you so much for all the enjoyment that your site has provided me over the years! I’m happy to say that I’ve developed more of a polite spine in the eight years since the events below occurred, and thanks for that are due in no small part to you and your contributors. And now, my horrifying tale:

When I was very young, my maternal grandparents moved far away for health reasons and my family began a tradition of driving the long distance to visit them on certain holidays, including every other Christmas. As my siblings and I grew up and our parents eventually divorced, my mother carried on this tradition with whichever of us were able to come along. By the time I was in college (and working), my increased responsibilities meant that I was only able to make it to my grandparents’ house for one holiday a year, either Christmas or Thanksgiving, and I was not always able to spend much time with them during the summer when they came to visit my mother. Thus, our trips to see them became more important to me than ever and I would get very excited each year as the time approached for us to leave.

I graduated from college in December. That same year, barely a week before our departure date, my mother announced that her friend “Sue” would be joining us for this visit. I was quite disappointed, as this was likely to be my last chance to visit my very elderly grandparents for a long time and I had wanted nothing more than to relax and enjoy the holiday together. Sue was a know-it-all and a busybody who had often annoyed me in the past by giving loads of unsolicited advice and harping on and on about her religion and how I needed it in my life. I knew that it was unlikely that her presence would make the visit relaxing for anyone. I did not discuss all of this with my mother, but did ask why she had invited Sue, as we had never had anyone other than family join us before. Apparently she had asked her to come because she felt sorry for her as another divorced woman and she was worried that Sue would otherwise spend the holiday alone…never mind that Sue’s daughter, son-in-law, and grandkids had already announced plans to visit her for Christmas! I decided to keep quiet and try very hard to have a good time, no matter what. I was determined not to let anything ruin Christmas for me.

Unfortunately, Sue’s bad behavior started before we even left our home state. She at first asked for, then outright demanded very frequent bathroom breaks. Each time we stopped, she would spend several minutes rummaging through the trunk and rearranging things. She spent the entire trip blaring religious music and rambling on about her medications and various ailments. Some of them seemed entirely imagined, e.g., “My lower back hurts—I must be getting pneumonia!” Once she actually screamed and pulled at my mother’s arm, while Mom was driving, because she was excited about something she saw on a billboard! Her antics caused the trip to take a couple of hours longer than usual and we were all exhausted by the time we arrived.

Things did not improve when we finally reached our destination and settled in to my grandparents’ house. Every minute of the day, no matter what anyone was doing, Sue knew the right way to do it and insisted on telling them all about it. For example, while my grandmother was preparing the Christmas turkey, Sue took it upon herself to hang over her shoulder and prattle on about everything that she was doing “wrong” and how Sue would have done it better. And when Mom and my grandmother were doing crossword puzzles together, as has been their favorite shared hobby for many years, Sue would not stop bothering them until I offered to do a puzzle with her (because for some reason she wouldn’t do one alone). She took complete control of the puzzle, insisting that I not answer anything and only write down the words that she gave me. Despite her claims of crossword expertise, she did nothing but make random guesses; I actually had to try for several minutes to convince her that the most likely answer to “a three-letter word meaning ‘distant'” was “FAR.” I could provide many other examples of Sue’s interfering, know-it-all behavior during this visit, but I will leave it with just those two.

Sue was also extremely childish. On Christmas morning, Mom always hands out the gifts to everyone until they are all distributed; then we go around the room in a circle, each person opening one gift when his/her turn comes. This was explained to Sue and it was obvious that no one else was opening anything as piles of presents grew around us. But each time Sue was handed a gift, she tore into it immediately, crowing loudly about the nice things she received. When she finished, she looked around at all of us in seeming surprise and acted as if she hadn’t noticed what we were doing. She then pouted as we opened our gifts because she had nothing left.

When we played our family card game, we invited Sue to join us and spent quite some time teaching her the rules. We made small allowances for her here and there, as she was just learning. We quickly learned, however, that Sue expected us to allow her to cheat outright! Each time she tried, we politely but firmly explained that the rules prohibited XYZ, and Sue always became loudly defensive and said that she may as well just quit if she wasn’t going to be allowed to do that. I wish that we had taken her up on that offer, but my mother always stepped in and soothed her instead.

One night, Sue sat in the chair that I had always occupied during card games. When my grandmother commented on this in passing—not to complain or ask her to move—Sue had the nerve to say that she wanted to sit in the padded chair because she had less padding on her butt than I did! There were so many things that I wanted to say, but I wisely opted to keep my mouth shut.

On evenings that we didn’t play cards, Sue always took over the television. Regardless of what was on and whether anyone else was enjoying it, she would pick up the remote and say, “Oh, we don’t want to watch this,” and change the channel. This was especially annoying when we returned home from the Christmas Eve service and the entire family had to resort to slight rudeness to convince Sue that we really did want to watch the 1940s Christmas musical program that a local station was airing, rather than the Weather Channel.

My sister received DVDs of some equestrian sporting events for Christmas and when we tried to watch them with Mom and our grandmother, Sue babbled continuously so that we could not hear the commentary at all. We could not turn up the volume because our grandfather was napping in the next room. Our repeated requests that Sue lower her voice were ignored. We never had another chance to watch the DVDs during the visit.

Shortly before our visit, my grandparents had purchased a treadmill so that my grandmother could walk indoors, where she was at less risk of falling and injuring herself. They told all of us that if we wanted to use it, we had to start it while standing on the sides of the treadmill, rather than on the belt, so that we didn’t break it. Not even ten minutes later, Sue came into the room and made some comment about how she’d love to use the treadmill while she was there. Without turning the treadmill on, she stood on the belt and walked a couple of steps before I was able to stop her. My grandparents had to call in a repairman to fix it, which was not cheap! Everyone was sure that Sue had broken the treadmill, but Mom and my grandparents didn’t want to confront her about it and she never admitted to anything. I believe that Mom ended up paying for the repair.

One of my aunts had given my mother a book for Christmas before we left on our trip. She brought it with her to read. When Sue saw the book, she promptly walked off with it and kept it in her room, reading it in bed at night. On one occasion, she asked my mother how far she’d read in the book and then announced, “Oh, I’m farther along than you.” Well of course she was; she’d had the book for days and Mom had only read it for about half an hour! When Mom pointed this out, Sue bean-dipped her. I was of the opinion that Mom should just walk into her room and take the book back, as it was her property, but she wouldn’t do it.

Sue also had a bad attitude toward animals. When my mother told her how much my great aunt’s Yorkshire Terrier loves my little sister, she replied, “He’s just a dog; he doesn’t know anything,” and said that he couldn’t possibly remember her. After church one Sunday, we saw a couple who had left their Jack Russell Terrier in the car during the service. It was freezing cold at the time and I expressed concern for the dog. Sue said, “Oh, I’m sure they cracked a window.” I pointed out that that would only make it worse by letting the wind blow in, and that it wouldn’t be all right even if the weather were warm because the dog could overheat in a car. She said, “Animals are all meant to live outside.”

Worst of all was when a severe natural disaster struck a couple of other countries during our visit. My family and I were riveted to the news and made plans to donate to a relief fund for the victims. Sue, on the other hand, kept telling us that these third-world nations did not deserve our help because they hadn’t sent large amounts of money to assist the United States after several exponentially smaller disasters that our country had experienced within the last several years. She then declared that the event was “a judgment by God on those countries” because of “the gays” and child prostitution. I was so angry that I had to leave the room.

I must say that given Mom’s legendary temper, I can’t believe that she didn’t say a single word to Sue about her behavior! But despite what began to seem like a genuine effort on Sue’s part to ruin everyone’s holiday, we all did our best to grin and bear it and we had a good time anyway. I really enjoyed myself during the all-too-rare moments that my sister and I had our grandparents to ourselves, and at least now we all have some good stories to tell! My mother learned her lesson, though, and never invited Sue on so much as a weekend getaway again. 0116-13


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • shhh its me December 4, 2013, 4:57 pm

    Some of this isn’t rude or even being a bad guest it’s just annoying. Needing to use the bathroom a lot , it’s a need as long as its not to apply lipstick it just is. The treadmill , standing on the sides is a safety thing not a OMG if you step on the piece of equipment, a 250lb person can run on for years, when its off it becomes as fragile as spun glass. Which makes me wonder if LW is exaggerating somewhat for dramatic effect.
    Disagreeing about how much dogs understand isn’t rude and neither is having the opinion animals should be outside. I also don’t think opening present as she received them was rude , pouting after would be.

    Waiting to be included in the crosswords wasn’t rude I don’t think talking during a DVD was either. A guest that wants to be keep company all the time and is a bit clingy can be a pain but its within a hosts duties to entertain their guests. Which would include asking what the guest wanted to watch on TV. Which leads me to what was rude ……… changing the channel without being offer control of the TV is rude. Spouting political or religious opinions is rude , telling the host how to cook is rude, threatening to stromp out of a card game is rude.

  • Cat December 4, 2013, 5:13 pm

    Had I not met people like this woman, I would not believe it possible for someone to be that offensive. Sometimes the fact that someone “will be alone for Christmas” is a direct result of their past behavior. I have already written about a first-cousin-once-removed who is such an offensive person that I will not allow him in my home.
    I do not think that I would have gone on this little expedition. If Mom wanted “Sue” there, she would have to go without me. If you want to ruin your Christmas, that is your right. You don’t have the right to ruin mine.
    I’d arrange to make the trip later, even if I had to take multiple buses to get there. It took me a long time to learn to stand my ground, but I have given up being a victim of hateful people in the name of “good manners”.

  • viviennebzb December 4, 2013, 5:36 pm

    I am fascinated by Sue for many reasons, but mostly because I never had to endure a trip/holiday with her! Screaming and grabbing someone’s arm while they’re driving? and that’s just the beginning? Certainly this can’t be considered “normal” behavior under any circumstances. She sounds perfectly dreadful, but I’m left wondering regarding the true cause. It seems the mother has tremendous sympathy and tolerance for whatever it is, regardless. I do agree she should not have inflicted this interesting personality on the rest of her poor family. I was exhausted just reading this!

  • goddessoftheclassroom December 4, 2013, 5:40 pm

    OP, you have my sympathy, especially for losing your chair to her. I am just like Sheldon Cooper–I have “my” spot on a sofa (the left end, just as like Sheldon’), and I would stand next to anyone taking it and repeat, “Excuse me, in your in my spot” until that person moved.

    Unless it really was Sheldon Cooper, in which case I would pounce on one of his (very insignificant) grammar mistakes. How I wish “The Big Bang Theory” would hire me as a consultant.

  • Lisa December 4, 2013, 5:42 pm

    So how did Sue end up having a bunch of gifts to open? Did OP’s mom buy them? Or the whole family? I certainly hope she reciprocated.

    And I’d love to get an update from the OP.

    And to those who think this is a troll post… I can assure you there are people like this in the world. Just. Like. This.

  • just4kicks December 4, 2013, 7:27 pm

    @Jane: It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who thought that….LOL.

  • AIP December 4, 2013, 7:33 pm

    If this is all accurate, Sue is one nasty piece of work. To gloat over the devastation caused by the Christmas Tsunami which saw the deaths of thousands of people from all over the world (including a relative of a girl I went to college with incidentally) is foul beyond belief, and hardly the act of a Christian – if she was.

    Nevertheless, the xenophobic “justification” is factually wrong. Take Hurricane Katriona, pretty much every country affected one way or another at least pledged doctors and supplies and most did donate money. But bigots like this never let facts get in the way of a good rant.

    Your manners are far better than mine would have been!

  • smarlo December 4, 2013, 7:42 pm

    I was waiting to hear that she died shortly afterwards. It kind of had that feel…..a final act of kindness by the mom.

  • crebj December 4, 2013, 8:28 pm

    What a story, and what detail. I hope you can get over it.

  • Angel December 4, 2013, 9:33 pm

    Wow, this submission is almost unbelievable. Almost. The most believable part is, no one said anything. Yeah I can definitely believe that! I would have taken up a collection to purchase Sue a bus ticket home!

  • Shawna R. Nixon December 5, 2013, 12:09 am

    I’ve read through the comments and I’m a little shocked that no-one has mentioned the most likely reason for Sue’s behavior: that she has an undiagnosed mental illness. Rambling, randomly re-arranging things (more than once), insisting that one is right even though one is clearly wrong, grandiosity, not being able to remember rules, even not following clear-cut social conventions and extreme religiosity can all be signs that someone is not quite sane. I have Bipolar Disorder and have had several psychotic breaks. While I was basically recovering, I lived in a group home with other mentally ill people for several years. This behavior rings more than a few bells.

  • Rebecca December 5, 2013, 3:27 am

    I’d not only have never invited her again, but never spoken to her again, especially after her comments about the tsunami victims (I am assuming you are talking about that).

  • The Elf December 5, 2013, 8:14 am

    It’s possible, Shawna. It’s also possible that Susan’s just a boor. Since OP is under no obligation to maintain contact with her, and this was likely a one-time experience, it doesn’t really matter what the source of her behavior is.

  • Abby December 5, 2013, 8:30 am

    For those suggesting OP and her mom take Sue to a bus station and give her the fare– really? I mean, even if there was a bus station close to OP’s town and the fare was reasonable, is anyone really going to say, we’re kicking you out and sending you on a 24 hour ride via Greyhound because you talk too loudly while we are watching TV and we think you broke the treadmill even though we have no proof?

    Sue was extremely obnoxious and I would hate having her along on my trip. But she didn’t do any one thing that was bad enough to justify being exiled (and on a bus, no less).

    The issue here is that it was a very far trip spread over somewhere from 5-10 days (from what I can gather, not including travel days) with people in very close quarters in each other’s company nonstop. Those are factors that could make traveling with anyone annoying. Add someone like Sue, and there’s no way this trip could have gone well. OP’s mom made perhaps a good intentioned but *incredibly* unwise decision to invite Sue.

  • Lola December 5, 2013, 10:08 am

    @Shawna R. Nixon: Don’t be shocked. While it’s common on the interwebs to diagnose folks with mental illness sight unseen, it’s not the norm for eHell commenters. We usually let medical professionals make the calls that are outside of the etiquette purview.

  • Anonymous December 5, 2013, 10:16 am

    @Shawna R. Nixon–We haven’t mentioned mental illness, because we’re not allowed to play “armchair psychologist” here. It’s one of the rules of the forum.

  • NostalgicGal December 5, 2013, 11:02 am

    I honestly would have refused to go if I’d been the OP, and gone at a different time, by myself; even if it meant putting myself in deep hock to afford it. If mumsie couldn’t understand it after I explained why (I do NOT want to share my time with Sue, and I am an adult, I can choose and this is what I choose), tough.

    I did have a few times as a quasi adult (high school age) when I flat out refused to go to my grandparents place for what were legit reasons, and finally at least got them to TALK to me about things and why (the double bronchitis was a bad three months, enough said)

    OP I truly hope you managed to get some time with your Grandparents; and your mom finally wised up and cut ties with Toxic Sue. If not I hope at least you can avoid that tankercar of beandip (Sue). (I do believe this post, I’ve met and had to put up with people like this).

  • Jaxsue December 5, 2013, 12:01 pm

    I can believe the OP’s story, because I’ve known people like this. My mom was a preacher’s wife, and the crap she took from church members (she turned so many cheeks she ran out!) was astonishing. This story reminds me of the time my dad, mom, brother and I were driving from MI to FL for a religious convention. An older church member insisted that we take her along, so she could visit friends there. So, over 1000 miles each way with people you’re not related to? Yeah, that will work out nicely!
    It was awful. She was quite large, so wherever she sat, only 2 people could fit. So we played musical chairs the entire trip. I don’t know who, in their right mind, decides that hitching a ride with a family for a long road trip is a good idea! My mom felt she couldn’t say no. That trip is still a horrible memory.

  • DanaJ December 5, 2013, 3:40 pm

    @Shawna R. Nixon Actually as I read the OP, I did ponder the possibility that Sue may have a mental illness. My mom has a friend who is bipolar and in he years prior to her diagnosis she was… well, a pain in the butt and sometimes downright mean. Her grandiosity often presented itself as aggression and she coould be very controlling and she was very, very impatient (certianly unable to wait her turn for presents and couldn’t stop talking when she was on an upswing) and she could be very cutting and belittling with her comments.

    That’s all in the past now that her condition is very much under control, but some of the family rifts she’s caused have never been repaired. Luckily, today she does have a lot of close friends and a good support network. She’s sad about the relaive who never want to see her again, but she has a good community of friends and family who have stood by her.

  • amyasleigh December 5, 2013, 6:56 pm

    I’m put in mind of Gandhi’s alleged saying: “We would probably all be Christians, if it were not for the Christians”. I’m no great admirer of the Mahatma, but I feel that he nailed it there.

  • Debbie December 6, 2013, 10:31 am

    I know someone all too much like Sue (except for the religious aspect) – a know-it-all, inserts herself in every conversation, etc. So I believe this story is true. And once you have one of these people on your hands, EVERYTHING they do, including taking “your” chair, will grate on your nerves. In my case she is one of my friends but I limit my time with her and do a lot of bean-dipping as needed.

  • Goldie December 6, 2013, 11:07 am

    In my recent relationship, my then bf often had his various friends of all genders and ages join us for extended road trips or vacation. My learning from that experience was that, even with the people you get along fine when you meet them for a couple hours here and there, they can get on your nerves really quickly when you’re in each other’s company 24-7. While some of our road companions had indeed been pretty tactless (I particularly remember an older French woman, who knew a bit of English, but spoke French to me and around me for the entire week, even though she knew I couldn’t understand a word – sometimes she’d speak to my bf in French and I would hear my name, and the two of them would just keep talking like it was a totally normal thing to do), most of the time we’d just all be tired of each other’s constant company and clashing personalities due to being so close together for so long.

    So with that in mind, I would say most of Sue’s transgressions were really due to OP having to spend a lot of time in her close proximity, and not breaches of etiquette overall. Having to take frequent bathroom breaks is not rude; forcing your passenger to hold it in when they cannot, is. If treadmills broke anytime anyone stepped on them when they’re not running, gyms across the country would be out of business due to having to replace their treadmills on a weekly basis. (I have a treadmill at home too, have had it for years. It’s a cheap one from Walmart. It has been stepped on many times by many people while not running, and it still works great.) So in my opinion, Sue gets a pass on both bathroom breaks and the treadmill. Really the only breaches of etiquette that I saw were the constant changing of TV channels, and cheating in a card game, then pouting when called on it.

    The whole story should be a lesson to all of us – don’t take people on a road trip with you that you don’t know very very well, and guarantee that you and everyone else in your company can get along with them for the entire trip. Sue should’ve stayed home and everyone would’ve been happy.

  • Anonymous December 6, 2013, 2:14 pm

    The other thing that gets me is, Sue wasn’t about to be “alone for Christmas” (although, why that’s a bad thing is beyond me–I’m a raging introvert, and I’d love to spend Christmas alone at least once in my lifetime). Anyway, no, she wasn’t in danger of being “alone,” because the original plan was for her to spend Christmas with her family. OP, if you’re around, why didn’t Sue stay with her family as per the original plan?

  • Marozia December 6, 2013, 5:09 pm

    Yes, we have one of those as well in our family. The family member (FM) who comments on how everyone is doing everything incorrect, the cooking, cleaning, child-rearing, etc.
    I decided that a long walk with the dogs was in order, so I asked FM to come with me. “Why do they have to have red & yellow collars and be muzzled?” she said. “Restricted breeds”, I answered. For a woman who knew ‘everything’, she knew nothing about dogs! Then she prattled on about my ‘vicious breed’ (while the dogs walked calmly and quietly beside us, and not pulling on the leads), and her opinion of them. That’s when I said ‘FM, you’re the one who needs the muzzle and who is the restricted and dangerous breed’. After that, she behaved herself. Later in the day, I saw her outside, stroking the dogs and playing ball with them and commenting on ‘what good doggies you are!’. We never had any trouble since.
    Muzzle Sue!

  • delislice December 7, 2013, 4:50 pm

    Sometimes, as has been noted, behavior you can put up with for an hour or two does not equal being able to spend a week (or two!) with.

    I’ve had my MIL visit at Christmas for what turned into an excrutiatingly long couple of days. She fiddled so vehemently with one of the blinds, trying to get it to close even tighter, that she broke it. She rearranged everything in the pantry. She fretted aloud about whether I was cooking the turkey safely. We decorated the tree wrong. Etc. I don’t think I could have survived a visit of longer duration.

    That’s why it’s risky territory to invite a non-family member to share a vacation or other extended stay. Unless you absolutely know whether you could live with the person 24/7, it could backfire.

    I absolutely believe this story. Hovering over Grandma, criticizing the cooking, breaking the treadmill, talking loudly and nonstop, forcing your music choices on others, dictating TV viewing choices… Yup, I know people like that.

  • Pamela December 7, 2013, 4:59 pm

    Anonymous, is the OP certain that Sue’s family was coming to visit her? Is it possible that Sue claimed they were coming (in order to make herself look better, that is, that she had a better family situation than she actually did) but it wasn’t true? I wonder if the OP’s mother thought (or found out) that that was the case, and that’s why she invited Sue.

  • Mabel December 8, 2013, 9:55 am

    I dearly hope your mother ended her “friendship” with this woman. I’m sorry she was so awful on your trip to visit your grandparents.

  • Dust Bunny December 12, 2013, 10:25 am

    Dumb question: What the heck is “bean-dipping”? I’ve Googled and Googled and all I’m getting is recipes and that urban dictionary reference to flicking someone’s boob, which I find it very hard to picture a middle-aged religious nut doing to another woman.

  • Robert December 13, 2013, 12:14 pm

    I have to disagree with “shhh its me” and a couple others who commented that Sue’s talking over the DVD was not rude. I cannot disagree more.

    When one puts on a film to watch, they want to get involved in what is happening on the screen. It does not matter if it is an equestrian documentary with a commentator or if it is the latest Hollywood blockbuster. If a film is put in for the family to enjoy, then it is the film they want to hear. Talking over it, even to just offer an “oh, I like the outfit on that character” or “that was a great jump that horse made” is rude and shows little to no consideration for what the other people in the room may want to hear.

    Adding to this, Sue had no way to know the hearing capabilities of anyone in the family. As someone with quite substantial hearing loss, I get infuriated when people talk during a film. If they don’t know my disability, I will gently inform them and ask that they keep comments until the film is over. But, more often than not, people don’t. Comments like “that was funny” or “I love that actress” just ruin an entire film for me. Once you have decided to add your comments, I missed something that was occurring on-screen. I’m there to enjoy the film, not the comments and commentary of my fellow audience members.

    I keep in mind what my aunt used to say in those situations. She would pause the film, turn to the offending party, and ask “Are you in this movie?” When they would reply “no,” she would just say “Good, now let’s keep it that way.” I’m not as confrontational about it as she is, but the point is the same.

  • stegosaurus January 11, 2017, 1:20 pm

    I am the person who originally sent in this story. Although I realize that it is vanishingly unlikely that anyone will read the comments now, over 13 years later, I feel the need to clarify what I meant when I said that Sue broke the treadmill. By walking on the belt while the treadmill was turned off, she caused the belt to be pulled off its track, rendering it unusable. None of us was able to fix it, so my grandparents had to call in a professional.

    Everything that I wrote in the story is true. In fact, I left out quite a few things in the interest of length. For example: our grandparents’ house has two guest bedrooms. Our original plan was for Mom and Sue to share one room, and my sister and I to share the other. When we arrived, however, Sue announced that she had changed her mind and would prefer to have her own room. This resulted in my mother and I sharing the bed in the other room and cramming in a cot for my sister. It was miserable.

    • stegosaurus January 11, 2017, 1:21 pm

      I’m sorry; I should have written, “over 3 years later!” Oops.

    • Kristine May 10, 2017, 9:36 am

      I read your update! I’m going through ALL the archived items (Thank you, Admin, for the new setup that makes this easy). And I DO read most of the comments (Some of the most interesting stories are located in the comments).