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streetsign.jpgThe Art of Goodbye

Like every summer, I had a lot of company in August and early September. And like every summer, I was struck by different visitors’ approaches to leaving. While chewing on this phenomenon during random gardening time, I decided that this is probably one of those “little arts” that no one much considers. So as a public service, I offer these three simple tips:

1. For starters, establish a departure day and time. This is huge and, I think, Fundamental Courtesy 101 for any house guest. This site lists it as the number one rule:

Be Clear About How Long You Will Stay
Make sure you lock down your visiting dates far in advance with your hosts…at their invitation. Don’t ever be vague or hope to stretch out your visit after you arrive. If your BFF says she’ll be busy after Labor Day, book your return ticket to leave a full day before so she has some time to herself.

When I say “establish,” I mean, “communicate it to your host.” If you have a good host, you might be lulled into thinking your host has nothing to do besides spend time with you, but that’s not normally the case. Tell your host when you’re leaving and then leave at that time, or thereabouts (no one will have the clock on you, but if you indicate 1:00, you should be gone by 1:30). Your host often won’t care when you leave and would probably be happy to entertain you for however long (within reason), but that doesn’t mean the host wants it to be an open-ended affair. Plus, if you establish a departure time, it helps your host be a better host. If you’re staying until 7:00 that evening, the host knows she needs to plan for dinner and might want to schedule an exercise walk with you before you leave, but if you’re leaving at 11:00 in the morning, she has to gear her efforts more toward breakfast and helping you pack your stuff.

2. When you start to leave, leave. Although your host would undoubtedly be happy to have you stay another hour (assuming you’re not violating the first tip above), that doesn’t mean your host wants to be caught in the Goodbye No Man’s Land: the driveway, standing by your car, waiting for you to pull out.

3. Use acceptable departure conversation. As you’re walking out the front door, that’s a good time to figure out when you’ll see each other again, to establish potential construction zones on the way home, inquire about the looming weather that could affect the drive, and such. It’s not a good time to turn to the host and say, “So how do you think the Lions will do this year?” or “How’d your garden do this year?” or “What’s the meaning of life?” Those are sit-down conversations, not departure exchanges.

And just in case any friends or family are reading this piece, allow me to go out of my way and state that the foregoing rules were not much triggered because I’ve had problems with house guests. Most of my house guests tend to follow these rules naturally, but I’ve talked with friends whose guests don’t and it drives them crazy.