Ask Amy: Our house-sitter is furious about what we left behind

    DEAR AMY:My partner and I are currently house- and dog-sitting for my parents. We asked our friend to watch our own house while we are gone.

    Columnist Amy Dickinson (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune) 

    We just moved into this house recently. We managed to clean the house up and make it presentable, except for the kitchen. We ran out of time and left clean dishes in the dishwasher and some dirty dishes in the sink.

    Our trash can was also full (trash day was the day after we left), so there were two bags of non-food trash by the back door.

    Obviously, we’ve come to realize that we are the jerks in this situation. We know we should have left a clean house.

    Our friend is absolutely livid. She went off on my partner via text. I followed up with her a couple of days later with an apology and an offer to pay her for her time.

    I said I was aware that paying her wasn’t going to fix the problem, and the offer of payment was to be in addition to the face-to-face conversation she requested when we return.

    It was clear by her response that she was still super-angry.

    Personally, I think that being this angry about some dirty dishes after a week might be overreacting, but I can’t be sure because I’m feeling so defensive about it.

    I don’t know what this face-to-face conversation is going to look like. If she intends to chew us out, I might dissociate and look like I don’t care.

    How do I ask her to keep her temper down?

     Dirty House Owner

    DEAR OWNER:I’m not sure why you are waiting with bated breath for this face-to-face showdown, rather than continuing to communicate in order to try to repair things now.

    I take it that your friend has unloaded via text, and you have responded in kind, but an actual phone (or Skype) call is less passive (read: chicken), and you and your partner would be able to both talk and listen, rather than merely respond to her venting.

    Tell her, “We appreciate what you are doing and we feel terrible about the condition of the house. Everything got away from us at the last minute and we’re so sorry. How are things going now? Do you have any questions?”

    If you have already offered to pay her, follow through. A gift box of goodies sent to her attention and delivered to the house might go the rest of the way to respond to her disappointment.

    After this effort, you should assume that you have cleaned up your mess from a distance. She will either accept this, forgive you, and move on — or she won’t. She doesn’t get to hold you hostage over this mistake.

    “Dissociating” during a conversation should not be an option for you. That’s what toddlers do. Take this out of your playbook.

    DEAR AMY:You seem to think we should all just get along. But how can one talk to people who are OK with ripping nursing babies away from their mothers?

    It is not possible to have a rational conversation with people who support a racist, mentally unstable, mean-spirited administration.

    As a retired fireman, I worked for 25 years with people who were mostly conservative, some of whom I have kept in touch with by email for 20 years.

    They are immune to reason and even to truth. I can and have pointed out to them how they are being lied to and sent them irrefutable evidence of the lie. Not one has changed their minds.

     Frustrated Fireman

    DEAR FRUSTRATED:I commend you for trying.

    We seem to be living in an era of cognitive dissonance. In order to support an administration they want to believe in, some otherwise decent people either accept — or allow you to think they accept — all of the behavior and beliefs of the administration they voted for.

    I do believe in the power of friendship and community to inspire and affect change. I don’t think it is your responsibility, however, to insist that people change their minds for you, even if you are right and they are wrong.

    DEAR AMY:I love the letter (and your response) from “Daughter in a Dilemma.” This daughter was deeply grateful to her folks and was trying to find ways to repay their generosity.

    What a refreshing and affirmative question! Thank you for pointing out that she should “love them in abundance.” That’s repayment enough.

    Grateful Parent

    DEAR GRATEFUL:It’s nice to read about high-functioning families.

    You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.


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