They arrived one Sunday afternoon in the depths of a miserable and empty winter. They checked out our pet-friendly room, with a view to an extended stay of about six weeks. She was quiet, with a friendly smile. He was large, loud, and faintly objectionable. But the dollar signs in my eyes overcame the warning signs in my belly and I chose to overlook the fact that the dog, a scruffily nice black Lab called Brodie, tended to flinch if you raised your hand to pat his nose. I quoted a slightly inflated price by way of compensation for putting up with them. They agreed instantly and asked to move in right away. This was odd, we joked among ourselves that he was probably on the run. Maybe he’d pissed off the Mafia, they were moving from Guelph in a big hurry after all. Bit of a ‘family’ town is Guelph. Speculation led to the pooling of twoonies.
He was allegedly big in movies. He had pals in Hollywood don’t you know, and he made marketing DVDs for blockbuster films. We smiled politely and made those impressed noises that you produce when you are trying to stifle a giggle. Typical movie mogul behaviour, hiding out in a B&B, paying cash and driving a rental car. We inferred for ourselves that he probably did make DVDs but that they might be less than blockbusters. Probably less than tasteful, possibly less than legal.
Six weeks extended into six months and they showed no signs of leaving. He was unpleasant company. Accusing Pinky of theft went down like a lead balloon as far as I was concerned, especially since the missing wallet was usually to be found in the pool filters. Quite why he insisted on carrying cash while swimming I never did find out, but I spent more time than is amusing defending Pinky’s honour with my hands up chlorinated workings rescuing a hundred dollar bill covered in bits of goo. He also had an irritating habit of emerging from the pool, wrapping his ample nether regions in a towel, dropping the dripping drawers and leaving them outside the kitchen door. We didn’t quite see why we should pick up his soggy smalls but the alternative was to leave them there all day for the appreciation of other guests. While we’d been empty he’d been just about manageable but as we filled up with families and kids his attitude began to affect business. Their marital arguments spilled over to the breakfast table and he was refusing to pick up after the dog.
I was actively looking for an excuse to evict them when he played into my hands by running out of money. Our agreement had been that he’d pay weekly in advance. When he came up short I hid the grin as well as I could while explaining politely that he had breached our contract, so we would call the four days he’d paid for their notice period.
His rage was instant. Red in the face, yelling and blustering, he told me that he would pay what he damned well liked, when he liked and would leave in his own good time. I couldn’t make him go and he’d like to see me try. We were in my kitchen, nose to nose. Well, he was taller than me, so more nose to medallion maybe. I backed into the corner by the telephone (and the door) and lifted the receiver. Using my best ‘control a 2-year-old tantrum’ voice I explained that the situation could go one of two ways. He could go quietly to his room, whereupon he and his family would have four days to find somewhere else to live; or he could remain abusive, in which case I would call the police and have him forcibly removed on the spot. Of course, to an American, the English accent sounds patronising at the best of times, now I really was being patronising he was beside himself with fury, but his wife got the point and managed to remove him from my nasal region.
I double checked my legal rights, wrote a formal notice of eviction and waited the four days. I probably could have removed them immediately but I really did want to give them time to find new accommodation, his wife hadn’t upset me. And I liked the dog. It was hell. He did his big production numbers at breakfast time, in front of our other guests… he would see me in court, I had no idea who I was dealing with, I couldn’t afford to fight his lawyers, he would bankrupt me. He peppered his rants with little quotes from Law and Order, dramatic lines like ‘cease and desist!’ That was quite funny but it was wiser not to snigger. I stood my ground and as each day passed his threats became a little tamer. Ben, whose job it was to check each law he invented, just in case any of them were real, kept a running tally of the threats. ‘It’s like watching a balloon deflate’ he said. ‘Yesterday we were going to be bankrupted, today he’s suing for moving expenses.’
On the day of their removal, when it appeared that I wasn’t going to be changing my mind, he switched to emotional blackmail. How could I throw them out on the streets with nowhere to go, and the dog limping and all? I pointed out that he had had four days to organise new accommodation, that I couldn’t be held responsible for his failure to bother to do that…and that it was him who had kicked the dog. I printed off a copy of every paid invoice, added a copy of the eviction notice (advising that here was the evidence he needed to sue me) and told him when the door would be locked. I had taken the precaution of inviting a couple of friends over to ‘hang out round the pool’. They brought their (large) husbands with them, just in case. Having finally realised that he didn’t know who he was dealing with, my least favourite guest finally left.
When I apologised to Ben for bringing such unpleasantness into his home he said, ‘it’s ok Mum, it’s been very interesting. We get told at school that if you stand up to a bully they back down but I’ve never seen it done before.’ We had some wise chats about dealing with angry people and he treated me like some sort of heroine. Although I was appalled inside, and beginning to dislike the person I was becoming, we thought it was over.