Monday 21 October 2019

Sinead Moriarty: Why it's no sin to want a little notice before people 'pop in'

Gone are the days when the ‘good room’ was a shrine to the unannounced visitor. Stock photo
Gone are the days when the ‘good room’ was a shrine to the unannounced visitor. Stock photo
Sinead Moriarty

Sinead Moriarty

When I was growing up, people popped in to our house all the time… unannounced. They didn't call the day before to prepare you for the popping in, they just arrived on your doorstep.

My mother did not have a heart attack when the doorbell rang. She did not throw herself on the kitchen floor, so the visitor couldn't see that she was in. Nor did she put her coat on and pretend she was on her way out, or fake an important call on her mobile (to be fair, there were no mobiles, but you get the picture).

But now when our doorbells ring or buzz unexpectedly, we panic. Who in the name of Jesus could be calling to the house unannounced?

What type of a lunatic just pops in? It must be an electioneer or the postman. It could not be an actual friend or family member.

I have friends who have admitted to lying on the hall floor to avoid being seen and having to answer the door.

Others have snuck out the back door and hidden in the garden. Others have simply ignored the bell and pretended it wasn't happening.

Gone are the days when the 'good room' was a shrine to the unannounced visitor. Gone are the days when the wedding china was only used for callers-in. Gone are the days when home-made scones and cakes were always fresh from the Aga.

I have to confess that I am not a fan of people just popping in. I do like a text or a phone call first. Mainly, it's so I can quickly tidy up my very untidy house.

But is it actually rude to arrive on someone's doorstep without giving the person notice? A lot of people do consider it to be poor form to arrive unannounced. They believe that you are putting pressure on the person to host you, when that person could be busy, or just trying to relax.

The problem is that people who pop in always seem to come at the wrong time. Like the one morning you didn't get dressed before 11am; or the day you left the breakfast dishes on the counter because you got distracted by an email; or the day your dog decided to poop in the hall; or the evening you were trying to help your child re-create the Titanic using only toothpicks and Pritt-Stick for their school project.

But how do you politely tell someone that it's not a good time, without making them feel unwelcome and shunned? Is it OK to say: "I'm so sorry, but now is not convenient for me."

As difficult as this seems, especially to us Irish who would rather gnaw our arm off than face any type of confrontation, being upfront will make things easier in the long run.

And sometimes you really need to be firm with your boundaries. I have a cousin whose husband gave his mother a house key.

Her mother-in-law doesn't even ring the doorbell before bursting into the house. So far, my poor cousin has been caught in her underwear, roaring at her kids, feeding them takeout pizza on a Tuesday night, and in the middle of a blazing row with her husband.

It's not a sin to want quiet time. It's OK not to want callers while you're having a family dinner, or are trying to work, or are trying to catch up on housework, or watching a movie with your partner. It doesn't make you a bad person to want a little notice.

People should give you the courtesy of a little warning before they de-camp on your doorstep.

After all, our homes are our havens from the noisy world. We are entitled to relax at home without having to worry about tidying up, having snacks in the house for visitors, or whether the wedding cups are clean.

Next time you're tempted to pop in to see a pal or family member, do yourself a favour and send them a quick text first.

Irish Independent

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