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Life as a Scot in California

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Unexpected Guests

Posted by berkeleyscot on October 13, 2008

What to do when someone rings your doorbell?   If it’s not the UPS or FedEx man, this poses an etiquette dilemma.

Is there a social obligation to invite an unexpected caller to come in? Does it depend on the caller and why they want to come in?

A social visit usually starts with a phone call and a time is arranged. An expected visit is not an interruption.

Most people, who come unexpectedly, say, “Hope I’m not interrupting…” They know that you’re not sitting waiting for them to come.

It was different, in Buckie, when I was growing up.

The daily routine for women at home was to spend their mornings doing housework.

Mam did all that then changed her clothes after lunch and was prepared for ‘callers.’  Scones and pancakes had been baked and the kettle was always on.

Calling time was 2 to 4. At 4, the ladies packed up their knitting or embroidery and went home.

In Granny’s day, visiting was more informal. In fact, it wasn’t visiting at all. The neighbours were all part of the fishing community and shared their lives.  Doors were never locked and neighbours wandered in as they pleased.

They helped each other with laundry, taking care of the children, nursing those who were ill and laid out the dead.  It was a community that didn’t have to be organized and didn’t have rules.

But I live here, in a community that locks doors and, for the most part, frowns on hanging out laundry.

A few years ago, there was a knock at the front door, followed by pounding on the door.
By the time I got downstairs, someone was trying to break down the back door.

The advice the Police gave me was “Always answer the doorbell!”  Then thieves know you’re at home.

But sometimes, there are thieves who don’t come to steal your stereo, or computer, but come to take your time.

I’ve lived through all three situations. What to do?

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