The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Carolyn Hax: Housesitter plays unwilling host to backyard block party

(Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post)
3 min

Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: I’m house- and pet-sitting this month for a close relative. They have a pleasant house and a pool. I know they are generous with neighbors as far as the use of the pool goes.

However, I didn’t think I’d be living in a public facility for three weeks. The 40-something neighbors have taken to coming and going as they please, and even treat me like an interloper, instructing me in the use of pool equipment, how and when I should lock gates, etc. — as if they own the joint. Last weekend, they and their drinks and snack bags were here for six hours on Saturday and four hours on Sunday while I worked and fumed indoors.

I just received a text informing me that some of them will be coming at 5 p.m. to “hang out.” I just want to chill alone and use the pool. My relative will be mortified (and possibly angry) if I text back telling them I prefer privacy until she returns, but I’m so angry. Dare I send that text?

— Fed-Up Housesitter

Fed-Up Housesitter: Send it. “I will be using the pool at 5.” If you want, “You’re welcome to come at X.” Assert yourself, civilly but without apology.

Re: Housesitter: No, no, no!! The homeowner should have told the neighbors that the pool and yard would be off-limits while they were gone. What if someone got hurt? Text or call the owner now and tell them you don’t want all the neighbors coming onto the property while you are responsible for it.


Anonymous: This feels right, thanks.

One week later …

Hi Carolyn: I have an ironic update for you.

Before I could send the text last Friday warding off the neighbors, I glanced out, and to my vast irritation, two women already were serenely floating in the pool, as if they owned the joint. Coolers and snack bags on the pool deck, Bluetooth speaker blasting their music.

I took the dogs out and admittedly was pretty hostile; I gave curt one-word answers to their attempts at conversation, pointedly asked them to replace things when they leave, and otherwise was unfriendly and unwelcoming.

Well, karma got me. The next day, a frail, elderly rescue dog became very ill. I let my relative, the owner, know, and soon Pool Invader No. 1 barreled in the unlocked front door, having been called by my relative, who figured I’d need a driver, which I did.

Invader was already on the phone to the animal ER, informing them we were en route, and her SUV was idling in the driveway. AWKWARD. We ended up spending more than three hours stuck together in a tiny exam room, making occasional conversation. I was cringing at having to accept help from someone I’d been very rude to.

The next day, my relative said, “Never hesitate to tell my neighbors you don’t want visitors at the pool area.” The dog seems to be okay.

— Fed-Up Housesitter again

Fed-Up Housesitter again: As long as the dog is okay … I mean, it reads like a long, sitcommy PSA for establishing terms upfront, welcoming karma graciously (ahem) and voicing your limits kindly before you’re shaking with suppressed fury. Thanks for catching us up.

Reader comment, speaking for many:

· The pet sitter update made my week. That’s it. No questions. :)