Local author: Houseguest from Hell | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Local author: Houseguest from Hell

Janet Marlborough
Special to the Tribune

One of the benefits – that’s how I look at it on a good day – of living in the beautiful Tahoe basin is a constant stream of houseguests, the skiers in the winter, the hikers and beach lovers in the summer. Some of the visitors are old friends, and others I don’t know that well: I enjoyed their company on a brief vacation in Hawaii, or at a writers’ workshop in Costa Mesa, gave them my phone number, and expected never to hear from them.

And then one day, they actually turn up on the doorstep to stay for a few days. That’s when I really get to know all their foibles, quirks and phobias. By the end of the week, I vow never again to give a casual acquaintance my address or phone number.

One recent guest arrived fresh from a cruise, gratingly perky in manner, and a constant chatterer. Her most annoying trait was that she always had to be right. Even if the subject was medicine (she had no medical background whatsoever) and there were two female doctors in the room, she still reigned as the supreme authority. Nothing would convince her Arnica was not for colds, not even the label on the bottle that said “for bruising.”

When men were present, she flirted: eyelash-batting, coy looks, soft voice so they had to lean in to hear, and wiggling, especially her backside. Made me want to throw up. The bottom wiggling was also in great evidence when she accompanied me to Jazzercise. No, she didn’t follow the instructor. Instead, she improvised, which mainly consisted of a jiggly gluteal number even when everyone else was doing abdominals or upright rows.

Her expertise extended to geology, too. Hadn’t I noticed all the gold in the lake? She collected a sample of sand which had shiny gold flecks in it, and brought it home to show me. I recognized it as iron pyrites, or fool’s gold, part of the decomposed granite in the basin, but she refused to believe me. I feel sure she took home a bag of the stuff in her oversize suitcase.

She also turned out to be the world’s most knowledgeable golf tutor, advising her fellow players on their choice of club, how to improve their stance and swing, all as she hit numerous balls into the water hazards, and played some of the worst shots I have ever seen.

Similarly with Bridge, cooking, travel, and almost any other subject one can think of, including my life. My hobbies did not appeal to her; for example, writing was too solitary. I should get out more, she said, go to the senior center – didn’t I know I was really old now? This from a woman who is eight years my senior. Didn’t the center hold dances I could attend? She took her live-in boyfriend dancing three times a week, and they met lots of wonderful people there. That’s what I should be doing, along with wearing more makeup – she never appeared without what she called courtesy makeup – and generally paying more attention to my appearance.

Thankfully I don’t have to live with her long-term. If I did, I’d probably take an axe to her, be charged with homicide, only to be acquitted by a jury of my Tahoe peers who understand only too well that “houseguest” and “cruel and unusual punishment” can sometimes be synonymous.

– Janet Marlborough was born in Scotland and has lived at Lake Tahoe for 30 years. She is enjoying retirement, and using the time to write, read and visit family. She is-a member of the Tahoe Writers Works.

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