It's rude to just show up at someone's home, uninvited. This was a lesson I didn't necessarily learn as a child. When I lived in a suburban neighborhood, it wasn't uncommon for me to go next door and ask a friend if he or she was available to play. When I lived in Armenia, I had a friend whose home I used to visit unannounced. I had sort of an excuse in Armenia, though, since the phones were mostly useless there. I still cringe when I think about it, though. Dropping in on people seems very rude to me now, and I don't do it unless I am absolutely positive I won't offend, even if someone tells me I have a standing invitation.
My husband's ex wife did not share my reluctance to drop over unannounced. In fact, "ye olde surprise visit", as Bill calls it, was one of her many tricks. She generally did it to people who were "nice", especially if they cared about her kids. It was mostly relatives that got the "pleasure" of a surprise visit. She'd just pack up the kids and go, showing up on their doorstep. She did it to Bill's parents many times. It never occurred to her that they might have other plans, or they might not be feeling well. Or maybe they just wanted peace and quiet.
Bill's family would never turn Ex away, even after the divorce. They wanted to see their grandchildren. Ex was well aware of that fact and exploited it to the hilt. She knew the kids were her ticket to the family circle, even though by the time she and Bill had split up, most of the family couldn't stand her. She'd always be armed with them when she'd come by, looking for food, lodging, and information.
I'm sure that if Ex had less assertive friends, she would have done the same thing to them. On the surface, it seems like a friendly visit, even if it's inconvenient. Look deeper, though, and you soon realize it's disrespectful. Let's look at what happens when someone like Ex pops by with the kids. She rings the bell, startling Bill's dad and stepmom, who may have been lingering over coffee, trying to decide what to do with their day.
They open the door. There's Ex. She's driven in from several states away. She has the kids with her. They look tired and hungry. It's a kind and Christlike thing to do to invite them in, even if they had other plans. And putting up with Ex is a small price to pay, since it's been awhile since the grandkids were last allowed over. They let her in and she proceeds to park herself at their computer and let the kids run amok in their home. They make lunch, which Ex determines isn't to her liking. Then Ex feels free to opine about how she thinks the in-laws' Catholic beliefs are bullshit and Mormonism is the only true path to God. She spends a couple of days in their home, leaving them exhausted and bewildered in her wake.
Now, if Ex had been some stranger, the in-laws probably would have felt free to ask her to leave. But she's my husband's ex wife. She'd pulled "ye olde surprise visit" many times when she was Bill's wife. It never occurred to her that there were new boundaries, now that they were divorced. And the in-laws were loathe to try to enforce them, since they knew she'd hold the kids over their heads. Consequently, they got the surprise visit several times, even after the divorce. The element of surprise makes it less likely that the forced visit will be rebuffed. She shows up looking tired and hungry and, being nice, compassionate people, they take her in… and she takes advantage of their kindness.
I use Ex as the example in this post, but this type of thing happens pretty often in certain communities. While hanging out on RfM, I've read many accounts of people getting unexpected drop by visits from church people. Hell, it happens frequently in my neighborhood, as church people go door to door, knocking and ringing doorbells on Sundays or evenings. They think they're "sharing a message", but they're really more likely interrupting someone's peace. The element of surprise puts the victim at a disadvantage and manipulative types are quick to capitalize on that.
This isn't to say that a drop in visit isn't sometimes welcomed. Sometimes it's a pleasant surprise when an old friend or family member happens to be in the neighborhood and comes by unannounced. Certain people can get away with it at any time. I would never turn away my mother or mother-in-law, for instance… not that either of them would ever dream of showing up uninvited. Perhaps that's WHY I wouldn't turn them away, besides the fact that one of them gave birth to me and the other gave birth to Bill.
It can be hard to deal with someone who just drops in, especially when you are a nice person and don't want to hurt another person's feelings. However, for your own good, it's probably best to tactfully but firmly explain to the interloper that you need them to call before they show up. A true friend will understand why they need to call, but will certainly not begrudge you your privacy if you tell them their unexpected visits are causing distress. Someone who doesn't care about you or have respect for your feelings will be deeply offended if you remind them that the courteous thing to do is call first before popping by.
This post, of course, doesn't apply to surprise homecomings!
This mom is clearly delighted by this surprise visit!