(Background: A couple of women from church wanted to stop by this week to see how I was doing, possibly because they'd seen me leaving church early the past few weeks--my pregnant self can't quite sit through three hours. After a bit of back and forth, we agreed on Friday, I suggested a couple of times while mentioning that I had an appointment at 1:00 that day, and we settled on 4:15.)
Friday morning, I did some cleaning and made a batch of muffins, there was still a bit of straightening to do but I figured I would have plenty of time after my appointment to get the living room looking nice, mostly just clearing some books and papers off of the coffee table, folding a load of laundry that I'd tossed on the couch on my way out the door, and straightening the clutter on the computer tables.
Well, the "appointment" turned out to be a class--a long
one--but again I wasn't worried because I knew I had plenty of time before my visitors would be arriving. (Leaving early was not an option, in any case--the class still filled the same purpose as the appointment would have, and they explained later that it was "always" a class rather than an appointment, but they made a habit of not telling people ahead of time...which is its own issue, but not really relevant here.)
There was a bit of a break around 2:00, and since I could see that we weren't even halfway done yet, I took out my phone to text my MIL (she drove me there and was giving me a ride home as well) and let her know that it would probably be another hour or two before I was finished, and I would just call her when I got done. I also noticed I had a new email, sent a little after 1:00.Hi isyris-
Would 3:30 today work for you? Sorry for the last minute change.
I sent a quick reply:Sorry no. Still at my class, don't know how long it will run.
I figured that should answer her question, and pretty much forgot about it. The class ended at 3:20, I got home a little after 3:30, and then went straight into cleaning mode...which lasted about five minutes before I was interrupted by a knock at the door. Yep, it was the women from church. When I expressed my surprise at seeing them here so early, one of them replied with a cheerful, "Oh, didn't you get my email?" I told her that I had, and that I'd not only read it but sent a reply as well. When that got no reaction, I felt like I couldn't just leave them standing there, and did invite them inside, apologizing for the clutter but pointing out that I had only just gotten home from my class and hadn't been expecting company until a bit later. (This got me a cheery, "Oh, don't worry, I have two toddlers, I'm used to it!" as I moved the clean laundry into the bedroom to make room on the couch for them.)
They ate the muffins I offered them, stayed for about forty minutes, and didn't seem uncomfortable at all. I spent the visit straightening the room around them, feeling mortified at the mess, and deflecting repeated questions of, "Wow, you're really far from home here, aren't you lonely?" (This is my home, I have lived here for over a year, and I am a fairly solitary person--however they took my honest response to mean that they hadn't asked the question enough times, so I switched to bean dip and was moderately successful.) The living room was clean before they left at 4:15, and I did sit down with them for a little while once I had finished.
So, I have a few questions:
Was it rude of them to show up forty minutes early, or just inconsiderate? I wouldn't have been so annoyed if they'd shown up just five or ten minutes early. Is there a point at which it becomes rude to be early, and if so, what is it?
Could I have made my email more clear (without resorting to snarky methods like bold face, all caps, and bright red text)?
Is there a polite way to bring this up next time to avoid the same problem? Would it be okay to say something like, "I would love to have you stop by for a visit, but last time you came forty minutes early, and it was a bit stressful for me. Can we stick to the agreed-upon time this time?"
Does anything change if you know that earlier in the week when we discussed a time for them to come over, I suggested "3:30 or 4-ish" as working well for me? Does the fact that I had mentioned 3:30 as a possibility make it okay for them to decide to change to 3:30 at the last minute?
And, extra bonus question
: Was it rude, since they showed up early after being told that it would not be a good idea, to continue with what I would have been doing if they weren't there? I did have things I needed to do, after all, but I wonder if inviting them in might have meant that I had an obligation to sit down and chat instead of cleaning. It didn't seem to bother either of them, but for future reference I would like to know if I was rude.