When you are on the road few things are better than having a place to crash for a night or three. Whether they be relatives (as was my good fortune last weekend), friends (like this past week) or former co-workers from eight years and fourteen time zones away (like tonight), having people who will welcome you into their homes is pure bliss for the traveler – particularly if your gracious hosts have young kids and/or toys to keep your own road-weary munchkins emotionally stable for another day.
If the gods of the itinerary are really smiling on you, your gracious hosts will, after providing you with free range of things, leave town.
But before that kid-in-the-candy-store giddiness gets out of hand, you’d be wise, fellow freeloader, to keep a few things in mind. After all, you might pass back through on your way home and want to crash again.
-- Not all appliances are created equal. Familiarize yourself with the finer workings of things like the electric stove and the washing machine. And the shop vac while you’re at it. Know where the fire extinguisher is. Pull the pin ahead of time.
-- Easy on the Nutella. People always say ‘Go ahead and eat whatever you want.’ – the unspoken caveat being ‘then replace it you scrounge.’ Don’t eat a lot of one thing; sample every open box, bag and container in the pantry, it’ll be impossible to tell how much you’ve scarfed. Same goes for the liquor cabinet.
-- Addendum to the above: Shuffle the canned goods around.
-- Don’t stress about locking yourself out or losing the house key. Pick a back window or side door and leave it unlocked and leave the key on the kitchen table, right on top of the note that says ‘Make sure everything is locked, including (that side door).’
-- Alternatively: Get a spare key made and tape it to your lower abdomen. Either way you go on this one, introduce yourself to the neighbors before they call the police.
-- We all have bad habits. Don’t leave incriminating evidence around, particularly in the kids’ rooms. When in doubt, don’t flush stuff either. Just be sure to take out the trash, a simple act of reputation-preservation which also scores points with your hosts, as they will think you are actually trying to be helpful. (Apply same concept to dirty diapers.)
-- Refrain from advertising on social media where you are house sitting. Forget about strangers, you don’t need your friends dropping by.
-- Sports fans: Know where the CANCEL button on the remote is for when the DVR suddenly starts recording two shows at once and totally cuts off the Giants game right when they’ve recovered a fumble in overtime of the NFC Championship game.
-- Bring and use your own laptop. Some people know how to find out where their pc has been, virtually.
-- Any pets in the house? Nip that potential disaster in the bud and lock the creatures out. They can’t tell on you. Then again the neighbors can, so let the monsters into the garage at night. Feed them beer.
-- Email people you want to talk to. Tell them your host’s phone number.
-- You don’t have to note what channel/station the TV/radio was on when you got there. You should, however, think about what channel/station the TV/radio is on when you leave. And how loud.
-- And come on, no matter how good that game/show/movie is, keep your ass off the crème sofa in the living room with the off-white carpeting and eat your damn pizza in the kitchen.
These pointers do not of course comprise an exhaustive checklist of ways to avoid house sitting catastrophe. They merely reflect bits of useful wisdom garnered from experience. Please feel free to add your own, and together let’s help maintain the good standing of the feckless, freeloading cheapskates of the world.