Dear Miss Post,
My etiquette question relates to the proper response to a visiting family member informing one that’s one house smells of excrement. “Thank you” seemed incorrect, as did so many other phrases that leapt to mind.
Said family member’s concern was touching, even if said member arrived at 9-ish (when I was not yet risen), used an emergency key to enter, decided that my house was malodorous and (on the hottest day on record for March, 95 degrees) kindly opened all the doors and windows (so that my sensitive wooden musical instruments might crack and explode).
I did not make an issue of these events, as I understand that being concerned only for one’s own comfort is not ideal in a hostess. But I must confess, by the time said visitor departed to an air-cooled home in the mountains, and my own home was wretchedly hot and only to grow more so, all thought of hunting for any offending odor had left.
Instead, I sprawled upon my fainting couch, my mind a sea of bitter hatred. This bitterness only intensified after I confided my plight to another visiting family member, who politely suggested “etiquette dictates a guest is always right — even when wrong. But in this case, some Airwick wouldn’t hurt.”
I have always lived by the “open door” policy. But these events have strained the limits of my hospitality as well as my Lenten Christian forgiveness. Guest or relation, one may not be both. I do grant the existence of a minor aroma, but were they not rude as self-designated “guests” to have commented? And more rude still as “family,” who did not bother to lift a hand after lifting a nostril?
So, dear Miss Post, I appeal to you.
I wish to remain a model of manganimous hospitality, but I fear changing the locks at this juncture might be taken as rebuff and cause a familial rift. Perhaps closing the house altogether and going abroad for a few months to Italy on pretext of visiting the new Pope would be best?
Your advice in this matter would be most welcome.
With highest regards,
PS I grant that my upset would have been less had I not, for the previous two days, been trying to track down the source of a toxic, burning, electrical smell. The source of the aroma, I thankfully discovered later that evening, in the study. A large surge protector battery backup was melting down — a gift from the first visiting relation, whose sensitive nose was apparently not able to distinguish excrement (which was not there) from a toxic electrical meltdown (which was).