Why has just dropping by to visit someone fallen by the wayside? Is it a generational thing? Something that my over-studious, YUPified,* helicopter-parenting,* research-before-purchasing* generation nixed? (*guilty as charged)
That said, being on the receiving end of a mid day drop by makes me nervous. My to do list and writing pages are about to burst into flames along with my head when someone drops by too long. That said, no one really does anymore. In general.
While I’m nostalgic for the days when people of all walks of life just stopped by my parent’s house–as an adult who’s lived through the “baby-must-nap-now-or I’ll-lose my-mind phase,” or the “I’ve-got-deadlines-out-the-wazoo after (insert: vacation, flu or taxes)-phase–” I kinda get it.
Growing up, I recall how exciting it was when someone went out of his or her way to stop by. Indeed it was interesting to have a local farmer and his cute son stop by to talk “weather” and access to fields, or neighbors drop by in need of tools or equipment or books. Sometimes they didn’t stay long, citing dinner was on or chores to do, but sometimes she or he wound up staying for dinner.
In prepping for this post, I thought I’d check out what others had to say on this. I thought I’d research cultural differences on “dropping by” in some big academic database and regale you with clever cultural insights and a couple intriguing statistics on how “dropping by” has changed over time. That was after all my original question.
Instead I would up with nothing. Dead ends, drop offs and “dropping by” in any form but in a social visit sense. So, I reverted to a method I don’t condone. For students. For me. For anyone. The open road of google. Hitchhiking this road for information opens up all kinds of doors. Many that leave you wishing for something more solid, less freakish.
However, I did find, one website—projectbritain.com—indicated that the phrases “drop by anytime” and “come see me soon” were common social idioms in Great Britain that weren’t meant to be taken literally. Probably just as we Americans love to answer “Fine” to the question, “How are you?” Whether we’re fine or not.
And unlikely as it seems, on Ask.meta.filter.com, one self-named responder—“madajb”– suggested that the custom of dropping by may be more class specific than regionally specific in the US. This seems to make sense. At least it would have in my upwardly mobile middle class childhood home. My mother would certainly have wanted to wash the garden dirt from her fingernails and coiffed her hair before my father’s graduate school friends showed up. For those things they planned. All other drop bys were subject to watching our work-in-progress or being asked to help shell walnuts or peas or pick apples during their drop by.
In the end, putting ideas of lofty research aside and using the most logical search engine out there–my brain–I’d probably agree with those in the negative about unannounced visits, because, I’ve been known to tell people on the phone or at the door that I have an appointment I need to leave for.
Perhaps it’s more the carefree life of a child that I miss more than the unannounced visit. I’ll let you know a decade from now if I ignored you and sat at my computer writing as you tapped at my door for an unannounced visit.
As they say in England: Drop by anytime.
What are your thoughts on unannounced visitors? How tight is your time? And how do you deal with people just dropping by when you don’t have time? What is your opinion? Is dropping by a cultural, regional or class custom?