How to be a perfect houseguest

Summer is a mobile time, with visits to friends and relatives dotting the calendar. Those visits can be fun, or they can fall flat. A lot depends on you. When you park your suitcase and tennis racket in someone else's home, be prepared to be a model houseguest. The key word is -- adapt. Mesh into their life style and don't make them adapt to you. If you move into a fast-paced household, you might feel as if you're always running with your shoes untied, but stay with it. You'll get the hang of the pace in a day or so. This spinning schedule is often easier to adapt to than the prim-and-proper household where there's always a linen napkin beside your Wheaties. Whatever the circumstance, dovetail with your hosts' modus operandi.

So you're ready to be a good houseguest? Then here are a dozen hints.

Keep your ``quarters'' in order, whether it's an entire bedroom or a lumpy mattress in the corner of the living room.

Don't clutter the house with your belongings. Nobody likes to weave around a houseguest's obstacle course.

If your host or hostess works, stay clear of the bathroom in the early a.m. Wait until they're off and running before you shower and dress. A minute here or there can make them miss the bus.

Keep your demands to a minimum. You don't always have to get your hair done on Tuesdays and jog in the evenings.

If they eat sardine sandwiches for breakfast, join in. Be game for new experiences.

Let the others dictate the TV schedule. Any episode you miss is bound to turn up on the tube when you return home; reruns have that sunrise reliability.

If there are children in the family, enjoy them. It's sometimes hard to strike a balance between not-too-much and not-too-little attention. Parents like you to appreciate their children, but not take over. Be sure to keep your nose out of the disciplining process. That job belongs to Mom and Dad. Even ``little suggestions''from you are out of order.

So your hosts have three dogs, a cat, and 11 goldfish? Oh my. You'll just have to adjust to this domestic zoo. Nothing less than tigers in the basement should raise your ire.

Always pack a good book in your suitcase. You'll catch on as to when to pull it out and read. It's thoughtful to give your host and hostess time to sort out their personal schedules and problems without outsiders at their elbow.

Now and then, put a treat on the kitchen counter -- a bunch of bananas, a loaf of bakery bread, some jam your hosts might not buy because it doesn't fit their budget.

Don't expect your hosts to play butler, maid, cook, and chauffeur for you. Pitch in and help. Dry dishes, fold laundry, vacuum, and take those dogs you love so much for an outing.

Now here's the tricky one. Don't visibly ``tiptoe.'' There's nothing worse than houseguests who make it obvious they're adapting.

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