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The 5 people you never want to invite to the cottage

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Part of the joy of cottaging is hosting friends and family—relaxing with those you hold nearest and dearest, and showing off your little slice of paradise.

Except, sometimes, your nearest and dearest turn out to be whining, insufferable freeloaders who make you want to spend the entirety of their visit in a boat. On the lake. Alone.

To avoid that scenario (and we’ve all been there), here’s a field guide to some generic guest types you want to look out for. You know, the ones who will turn your precious weekend at the cottage into an inescapable stress-fest.

1) The Princess 

Call: “Wow, it’s really small.” (Also: “How do you put up with no air conditioning?” “What do you mean, the bathroom’s inside?” and “You should really consider installing heated floors/a hot tub/a saltwater pool.”) 

How to recognize: The Princess (who, despite the name, can be male or female) will be wearing wildly inappropriate shoes and generally carries a suitcase exclusively dedicated to hair-styling tools (which will blow at least four fuses over the weekend). 

If encountered: Do not attempt to engage in traditional cottage activities. Ply gently with alcohol to maintain a minimum degree of mellowness.

2) Empty Handers 

Call: “Oh, sorry—the grocery/liquor store was closed.” (Also: “What do you mean the nearest store is two hours away?”)

How to recognize: These seemingly hapless folks show up at your door with nothing of any value for the cottage collective and often lack basic personal items like sunscreen and bug spray. A familiar, more irritating variant is the Empty Hander who has dietary restrictions and fails to provide substitutes for standard cottage fare.  

If encountered: Send to town with a list of needed items if a store is close. If not, stretch planned meals with pasta. (Curse quietly if guest is gluten-intolerant.) And, just for sanity, always have a healthy supply of wine/burgers/chips on hand.

3) Guzzlers

Call: Mostly recognized by the incessant droning of your Sea-Doo or the continuous splashing of shower water. (Also: “I could use a refill!”)

How to recognize: Guzzlers have little sense of proportion, leading them to indiscriminately use gasoline/water/beer without regard of cost or dwindling supplies. Sometimes seen augmenting existing stores with inferior substitutes (replacing your craft microbrews with Coors Light, for example). 

If encountered: Do not offer unlimited use of gas-powered watercraft—suggest that use be confined to afternoons so as to “fully enjoy the sunshine.” If necessary, invoke a “no noise before noon and after 4” policy. If Guzzler is hogging the shower, turn on the kitchen sink tap, briefly. Repeat as necessary. Learn to drink bad beer.

4) Free-Range Parents

Call: “Oh, they’re fine. Just let them run.” (Also: “We don’t believe in restricting their expression.” “Just ignore them.” “Aren’t they creative?”)

How to recognize: Free-rangers are selectively blind and deaf, so expect to see smiles and relaxation even in the face of wanton destruction/ear-piercing noise. Offspring are frequently loud, inquisitive and energetic, seeming to take up far more space that their small size would indicate. (Variant: fur-parents who smile as their enormous/elderly/socially maladjusted four-legged child mauls your one-room cabin.)

If encountered: Distract offspring with outdoor activities like scavenger hunts, science experiments and sporting contests. Indoor activities like colouring books and jigsaw puzzles may also be effective. Quietly discuss cottage rules — which, of course, are in place in the interests of safety — with Free-rangers.

5) Extra Guesters

Call: “I hope you don’t mind that [insert name of someone you’ve never met] tagged along!” (Also: “You won’t even notice they’re here.”)

How to recognize: Extra Guesters are most often spotted with their extra guest, who is frequently a) sullen teenage son’s even more sullen girlfriend, b) a heretofore unknown significant other or c) a close relative recently out of rehab/prison who needs a “nice getaway.”

If encountered: Try to be polite to (possibly unwitting) extra guest. Stretch planned meals with pasta (see “Empty Handers”). Keep an extra sleeping bag on hand. Be scrupulously explicit with next year’s invitation.

Have you met up with any of these guests-from-hell? Share your horror stories!