SOURCE ARTICLE: Vancouver Sun, April 14: https://vancouversun.com/travel/local-travel/quarantined-in-victoria-with-the-houseguest-from-hell/
Travel writer Jane Mundy was at her wits’ end with “a covidiot” houseguest
A travel writer finds out that there’s no place like home, except when you’re holed up with the houseguest from hell
I thought I was being a good Samaritan when I agreed to take in an old acquaintance who needed to come back to Canada when the coronovirus started to take over the world. But he turned out to be a covidiot.
I’m a travel writer and way back in early March, when the world was still relatively normal, I was gearing up to go on two European press trips. So when Steve, who had been living in Mexico for years, got in touch and asked if I knew a place where he could crash for a month or so, I blithely offered up my place in Victoria, thinking I’d be away for most of the time he was here.
Steve said he was willing to throw some cash my way in exchange for my spare bedroom, so I thought it would work out well for both of us (news flash: travel writing doesn’t pay well).
You know what happened with that plan. Both my trips were cancelled, the federal government urged all Canadians to come home immediately and Steve and I were stuck living together. I’d like to blame the pandemic, but I really created my own living hell.
I should have recalled what happened when I last saw Steve in 1995. I was living in Vancouver then and he said he needed a place to crash for a few days on his way back from Mexico. I met him at the airport on a cold January evening and he walked off the plane wearing shorts and flip-flops. I’ve always found that annoying.
I remember he brought a bottle of tequila and some fresh corn tortillas. A few days later, after he’d packed up and left without so much as a thank you, I noticed the three-quarters-empty bottle and the tortillas had walked out with him. I laughed at his cheapness but got over it.
How time fogs the memory.
This time around, Steve promised he was toilet-trained, animal friendly, a competent cook and tidy. One of those things turned out to be true — he liked my dog (another news flash: everyone likes my dog).
He was due to fly in on St. Patrick’s Day. I stocked up on food and wine, then cooked dinner so he’d have something to eat when he showed up. He arrived wearing shorts and flip-flops, carrying a bottle of tequila and some dried poblano peppers.
My deja-vu alarm was ringing, but I had no choice but to hit the snooze button. By then, B.C. had declared a state of emergency and had told returning travellers to quarantine themselves for 14 days. That meant I’d have to self-isolate as well with flip-flop man.
A friend had generously offered to pick up groceries and any other necessities while we hunkered down for the quarantine period. I laid out a few ground rules to Steve on that first night. “I’ll cook if you do the dishes. If you want to cook once in a while, I’ll clean up. And if you’re going for a walk, maybe you can take the dog. Deal?”
“Gotcha,” he said.
Quarantine, Day 1:
I discover that Steve doesn’t think the rules of quarantine apply to him. He came back from his morning walk with a Slurpie and a bag of tomatillos from the local grocery store.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Nobody in Mexico has the virus,” he replied. Even if that were true, which it wasn’t, he blithely ignored the fact that he spent several hours in a virus incubator, also known as an airplane.
I told him to stay out of the grocery store and to add anything he wanted to my friend’s shopping list. He wrote down steak and vodka.
I realized we hadn’t really discussed how long he’d be staying. I made the mistake of asking him what he was thinking. “Well, it would be great if I could stay until January,” he said. My jaw dropped so far that he could have seen my tonsils. I left that discussion for another time and went to bed.
Steve came back from his afternoon walk with a parcel he’d picked up from the post office and told me that he’d taken the bus to visit a pal. It’s the first time I’ve heard that he has friends in Victoria other than me.
I used my outside voice this time. “What part of quarantine don’t you understand?”
“Well, I didn’t touch anyone,” he responded. I was speechless.
Steve had been in the kitchen for about two hours, making his “famous” tomatillo sauce, oven-fried potatoes and prepping a steak to slap on the barbecue. I don’t eat red meat, but I joined him for the potatoes (which got cold from being left on the kitchen counter while he grilled the steak) and lots of wine. There was no sign of the famous sauce. “It didn’t work out,” he said.
I came back mid-afternoon from walking the dog and noticed that the cover for the gas barbecue was sitting in the middle of the deck. I went to put it back on when I noticed that the grill was red-hot.
So was my temper when I came back into the house and told Steve that he’d left the barbecue on full blast for the past 18 hours. “Wow, I could have burned the house down.” End of sentence. No apology.
I was still fuming long after the grill cooled down, but I knew the time had come to tell — not ask — Steve when he was going to leave. “You’ve got to go when the quarantine is over,” I said. “We’ll kill each other before COVID-19 gets either of us.”
He grunted, put on the new puffy coat he’d picked up at the post office and went outside.
Days 5 and 6:
He left the toilet seat up, again. His take on cleaning up after I cook is to put his own plate, knife and fork in the dishwasher. So much for being tidy and toilet-trained.
I mentioned the rent we agreed on. He looked at me and left the room.
I am an early riser, but not as early as Steve. At 4:30 a.m., I heard him bumbling around in the kitchen making oatmeal. I tried to go back to sleep to the sound of the spoon scraping against the bowl as he ate it. I finally got up at 6 a.m. and found the bowl and the oatmeal pot on the counter, still dirty. “The dishwasher was full,” he said. I checked to see if there was running water in the faucet and dish soap by the sink. There was.
My friend came by again with groceries, including the martini olives Steve had asked her to get. He made martinis for the three of us, using every cube of ice in the freezer, and we drank them sitting outside, two metres apart.
“We’re over the hump. Only six more days of quarantine!” I said as a toast. “Anyone want another martini?” Steve asked.
Days 9 through 13:
Steve started taking longer and longer walks. He never took the dog. I hunkered down in my office or in front of the TV, avoiding conversation and thanking my lucky stars that I had laid in a case of wine before I got stuck in quarantine with flip-flop man. Steve’s only saving grace is that he doesn’t drink very much. If he’d cleaned out my wine rack, I might have smothered him in his sleep.
Salvation is at hand. Or so I thought. When I came back from the morning dog walk, Steve was getting ready to head out on the town, like it was any other morning.
“So we made it through alive,” I said with newfound cheeriness. “Are you all packed?”
“Remember I told you 10 days ago that you could only stay until the quarantine period was over? That’s today, buddy.”
“I don’t have anywhere to go.”
“Stay with one of your friends,” I said. I was now aware that he knows quite a few people in Victoria because they have been calling since he arrived. I wonder why they didn’t put him up in the first place? But I realize I probably know the answer to that question.
“Well if you’d told me before that you were going to throw me out, I would have taken my chances and stayed in Mexico,” he said.
By now, my temper is as hot as the barbecue grill. “I don’t care where you go, just get out. Now!”
He storms into his room, throws his stuff into a suitcase and calls a cab.
“Thanks a LOT,” he says.
I checked later and discover he has taken the tequila and the vodka. But he forgot the olives, as well as the rent. I guess it’s nice that he thanked me as he was leaving, even though it was sarcastic. But mostly it’s nice to be alone.