General Etiquette > Etiquette Hell Classics

Classic Guest Story : Ski instructor vs. Clueless Aunt and Uncle

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This is my favorite guest story from EHell and with EHell Dame's permission, I have started a thread to "honor" it. Enjoy! :

Reading the many stories on your site reminded me of my first, last, and only visit to my Aunt and Uncle's home. I was a nineteen-year-old student working almost full time at a variety of jobs to help pay my way through university. Making ends meet was tricky at best most of the time.

One of my aunts spent most of the big Thanksgiving visit with the grandparents that year inviting me to come visit her family for a long weekend that winter and teach my cousin to ski (one of my jobs in the winters was as a ski-instructor). She lived about a five hour drive from my university, so just making the trip wasn't trivial once I counted in time off work and gas money. My mother also quietly warned me that there's a reason nobody in the family visits them. I declined several times on the grounds of needing to work -- especially busy holiday weekends -- to make ends meet and not being able to afford the trip.

My uncle jumps in reminding me how much the cousin loves me and really wants to learn to ski. I suggest lessons. They say she tried group ones, but they didn't work and she's too shy to deal with a stranger one on one. Still, finances don't work. The pair of them finally realize I'm a poor starving college student worried about money (which is a rather foreign concept for them as they are quite comfortable financially). They repeatedly assure me that money isn't an issue here. They'll take care of everything and pay me my usual rate for lessons to make up for missing work. So I agree to make the trip on the indicated weekend -- mostly because I adore the cousin.

Having no Friday afternoon classes that semester, I arrived at their house around seven in the evening rather tired and in need of rest. I'd hit rush hour in a nearby city, it was snowing, and it had not been a fun drive. They greeted me warmly. I give them a small hostess gift I'd knit for them. They just looked at it funny, told me to toss my things in the guest room upstairs, and that I could find sheets and things in the closet. I got into the room to find a stripped bare bed, make it up from the things in the closet, and freshen up a bit.

When I got back downstairs they informed me that they're hosting a dinner party that night for some friends. Okay. Not ideal in my current mood and I didn't bring dinner party clothes, but I figure I can paste on a bright smile and go with it. Then they inform me that I'm not invited and I'll need to steer clear of the house from then until at least eleven. They suggest places I can go like clubs and restaurants.

I'm flabbergasted, but attempt to beg off that I'm too tired after the trip. Could I just rest and maybe do a little studying in the guest room? Absolutely not. It would be rude for me to be in the house and not at the party, but it's an exclusive rotating dinner party thing they do with this group of friends and they can't invite me. Cousin is staying with a friend and I must go out for the night.

Like an idiot, out I go. Hungry and not wanting to spend much money on clubs or restaurants, I grab a small baguette and some cheese from the grocery store, eat it in the car, and find a book store with a coffee shop to haunt for the night. Of course the store closes at ten and I wind up with nothing to do for the last hour but park somewhere and read by the dome light in my car.

Finally back at the house, they inform me we're going skiing the next two days and I should be up and ready by six. The next morning they rush me out the door without breakfast because they were running late and wanted to get there when the slopes opened. They assure me we'll stop for breakfast. We do. At an expensive bakery where they order a bunch of things and don't even ask what I want. After they pay, the aunt turns to me and informs me that everything is good so I should get whatever tickles my fancy. Gee, maybe not having to spend ten bucks to get a pastry and coffee for breakfast? What about that covering everything bit? I hedge that this is a bit out of my price range and Uncle informs me it's less than the food will be at the mountain. I buy the least expensive thing I can find and ask for a cup of water. Aunt sniffs as I join them at the table and makes some pithy comment about how she can't believe that's all I'm having. The urge to strangle grows in intensity.

We get to the mountain. Shocker of shockers, their family membership doesn't include cousins. My uncle argues with the management for quite some time and then turns to me and says, "Well, I guess you're just going to have to pay for your own lift ticket." My jaw drops. I stammer for a long moment and try to politely get across the notion that I wasn't expecting to spend that money nor can I afford it. I hadn't even brought enough funds along to buy lift tickets and have enough gas money for the return trip.

My uncle looks at me incredulously and says they thought the membership would cover it and they didn't intend to pay for it either -- especially after they were already paying me to instruct. Now, I rode with them and have no transport for the hour drive back to the house. It's apparently either buy the lift ticket or sit all day and disappoint my cousin who'd been excitedly emailing me for weeks about the trip. Like an idiot, I dug into my meager stash of money and pay for the lift ticket with most of the funds I had on hand.

I spent an enjoyable morning getting my cousin comfortable on the slopes and used to moving on skis. We actually had a great time together. She's a fantastic kid. Shame about the parents.

Lunchtime comes. I have literally five dollars in crumpled bills in the bottom of my wallet and some random change. There's no ATM. I hesitantly explain this to the parental units and request payment for the lessons as agreed. Recall they were going to pay my normal hourly rate. Aunt passes over ten bucks.

That, um, no. Just no. That does not get you a full day of private lesson time. Not at my mountain. Not at any mountain anywhere.

I explain my normal hourly rate. She indignantly declares that a total rip-off and says she gets group lessons for ten dollars a day as part of their family membership. And this has what to do with our agreement? Give me the couple thousand dollar membership fee and I'll work for ten bucks a day, too. Cousin pipes up that mom wouldn't pay for private lessons at the membership rate either because it was too much. Apparently somebody wasn't as shy as reported.

At this point I realize there's just no point in trying to deal rationally with these people. I take my ten bucks and get myself some tea, soup, and a big stack of crackers. Aunt again makes a remark about how little I'm eating. My violent fantasies move from strangulation to beheading.

As soon as I can possibly get away, I take the cousin out for a pleasant afternoon teaching her Stem Christie turns and getting her off the bunny hill and onto the beginner slopes. The group lessons must have been lousy because the kid picks it all up very quickly. She's also very gracious and thanks me several times for all the help. Apparently being dumped on my mother for the summer had taught the kid some manners because she apologizes for her parents' behavior and hopes I'm not mad at her. Yes, the eight year old completely outclassed her parents. I praised her heavily for it, too.

So, homeward we go. Yes, we stop at the bakery again on the way home. No, they don't pay for anything for me. I order nothing. Aunt mocks again. Cousin gives me half of hers claiming not to be very hungry. Bless the kid. I was starving after such a workout.

We get back to their place and I just start packing. The aunt and uncle can't believe I'm leaving. I'd agreed to spend two days giving the kid skiing lessons. I point out that I'd expected to have my lift tickets covered and be paid my normal rate. They call the rate ridiculous. I apologize, but insist that I simply can't afford to miss this much work and spend another sixty dollars on a lift ticket the next day.

They indignantly insist that I get the fun of skiing. Oh, yea. A day of bunny slope and beginner trails with an eight year old neophyte in tow is a ski instructor's idea of a fun day skiing. I love the kid dearly, but that was work. The good kind of work, but work nonetheless. Also, I have a staff pass at my mountain and don't normally have to pay for the fun of skiing.

They throw a hissy fit that I promised and cousin will be hurt. Ha! Cousin the non-shrinking violet got the big picture better than her parents did. I promise to assure cousin I'm leaving for reasons having nothing to do with her personally.

Acting very put out, they grudgingly offer to pay for my lift ticket the next day if I'll just stay. They don't want to disappoint cousin and since I'm being so difficult about it, they'll split the unexpected lift ticket cost with me. Since cousin is so great and I'm not likely to be able to pick up hours at work on no notice anyway, I stay. More the fool am I.

They insist on going out to dinner that night. There's a long awkward moment where I get the impression they're expecting me to pick up the check. I don't. I imagine their heads exploding instead.

Sunday: Make ordeal out of paying for lift ticket? Check. No breakfast at home? Check. Stop at expensive bakery twice? Check. No help with lunch? Check. Cousin caught onto this, orders big and practices sharing? Check. Seething parents at her antics? Check. Make mental note to self to do something wonderful for the kid when I get a chance? Check. Wonder how strong acid would have to be to disintegrate these people? Check.

Just when I think it's over, they have plans for Sunday night. Just the parents. Another dinner party with the exclusive friends at somebody else's house. They point at a folder of take-out menus and tell me the kid loves pizza. Then they bolt before saying another word leaving me to baby-sit for the night. Did they leave money to buy the kid her pizza? No. Do I have more than a couple crumpled bills in the bottom of my wallet after buying a few cups of tea at the mountain? Nope. Is there food in the house I could use to make dinner instead of buying it? Unless I want ketchup and soy packets on some moldy bread, nope. Convince self doing time for murder really isn't worth it even if it would keep the crazy people away from the perfectly nice kid? Yup ... barely.

I slap on a smile, load the kid in my car, and go searching for an ATM in the unfamiliar town. Luckily I'd remembered seeing one near the book store. I empty some funds out of my meager bank account and take the kid out for pizza. What else can I do? Not feed her? Abandon her and go back to university? None of this was the kid's fault. She seemed downright mortified that this was happening at all and kept apologizing for her idiot parents. And how bad does it have to be if a third grader is mortified by their parents' lack of class?

We actually have a fun night out at a thankfully inexpensive and pretty decent pizza place the cousin suggested. We got lost a few times trying to find it since she only knew it was near her school and didn't quite have the directions thing down, but all part of the adventure. The cousin and I still laugh about having to ask a guy in a clown suit for directions. We still don't know what was up with the clown suit either. There wasn't exactly a circus or kid's birthday party nearby.

The next morning, the idiot Aunt and Uncle inform me they have a hockey game. They're going to take cousin and pick up breakfast on the way. I'm supposed to tag along and try to get an extra ticket. I cut my losses and develop a sudden deep desire to make it back to university before the library closes.

A few days later, my mother calls. Apparently the Aunt called her to complain that I visited for the long weekend, took advantage of their hospitality, didn't help out with anything, and stuck them with the check when I took them out to dinner!

And they wonder why nobody in the family likes to visit them.


I remember this story. I found it very sad. My heart went out to that poor girl. She was put in a horrible, horrible, position.

I don't think the writer could have really done much to escape the situation. I guess she could have stood up to her aunt and uncle on the first night (with the dinner party issue) and insisted on returning to their house after getting herself a cheap, quick dinner somewhere (as opposed to staying out all night).

I guess she could have also left on the Sunday (after having to pay for the lift pass the previous day). AND she could have presented them with an invoice for services rendered (including the baby-sitting) after she returned home.

But I remember how incredibly hard it is sometimes, to be assertive when you are so young, and dealing with family members. I just hope that poor girl had nothing to do with Rude Aunt and Uncle again.

I actually thought she was fairly assertive compared to some of the submissions I have read on this site because she ends the visit early.  I think that she might have also might have told the aunt and uncle to take a "flying leap" early in the visit had she been torn about her feelings for the girl, who is polite. 

I think that had I been in mother's shoes, I might have had a long talk with the aunt about how to treat guests, especially broke college students.

Cz. Burrito:
I am completely shocked that an 8-year old raised in that environment was as aware of her cousin's needs and as kind to order excess food in order to feed her cousin.  She sounds like a really sweet kid.

I also kind of hope that Mom's response to Aunt's complaining was, "Oh really? I heard she provided $$$ of private ski instruction and you never paid her a dime."


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