I traveled for a family wedding this weekend because I believe in showing up. I had not seen the cousins in over a decade, and was happy to catch up. Unfortunately all of the local hotels were $300 a night, which seemed a bit much for just me. Seemed a bit much even if I was sharing with my girlfriend who could not come on this trip.
I asked around to see what people more familiar with the city suggested. Friends sung the praises of AirBnB, but I was wary. Many cities are seeing these poorly regulated accommodations destroying the rental markets for people who have lived there for decades. I did not want to contribute to people being priced out of their homes. I try to engage in the economy in ethical ways when I can. There are times it is just not possible (see clothing), but I think every small choice can make a difference. I try to make as many of them as I can.
I was surprised to learn that many of my very anti-capitalist, anti-gentrification activist friends were also encouraging the use of AirBnB in this city in particular. I cannot recall their reasoning at the moment, but it was apparently compelling enough at the time.
I found a host who did not mention being “420 friendly” in their ad and booked with them a month ago. I was surprised when they sent so many messages that were thinly veiled attempts to make it feel like I was staying with a friend and not paying to stay in a stranger’s home. I only responded to what seemed pertinent and focused on the rest of my life.
This week I realized I did not know the process for the Day of Staying in a stranger’s home. I sent my host an email on Thursday explaining that this was my first stay and I did not know the protocol. I tell the host when I expect to get in to the city and ask how to enter their home. I hear nothing.
I don’t want to hound the host with messages but I’m starting to worry. On Saturday before I fly I ask the host again how to enter their home. I receive a text saying I’ll hear soon. I hear nothing. My plane lands and I ask again. Another text saying that they’ll text me the location in an hour. A train to their house and no communication in that hour.
I am outside their door. Precisely when I said I would be, and I don’t know how to get in. I wait. For twenty minutes.
Then a hale of excuses. All of them nonsense. I’m not in the mood to be friendly. They made me wait outside in the heat with my luggage for twenty minutes because they failed to communicate. They offer me a glass of water and ask about my plans. I do the bare minimum of polite conversation and wish them out of the space.*
They finally leave and I can get gussied up for the wedding. Things seem better. I enjoy the wedding and stay out incredibly late. I dance. I laugh. I hold a baby. It is a delight.
I return to my host’s building and the damn key is sticking in their apartment door and not opening it. I fiddle with it for 10 minutes before texting to ask if there is a trick to opening it. I hear nothing and fiddle for 10 more minutes before convincing the old door and lock that this key is designed to turn the locking mechanism. Then the host lets me know that nobody else has ever had a problem with the door. This fact does not matter to me – other people’s lack of problem does not impact me in any way and is a useless bit of explanation. *
I do my PT and go to sleep in this stranger’s house. I am delighted to leave in the morning and get my stuff together promptly and leave the key on the table before taking myself out without a shower because the host has not made a towel available to their guests. The website did not tell me I needed to carry my own towel. I know that Douglas Adams taught me better, and I apologize to Adams in my heart and go about my day a bit grosser than intended.
A few hours after I leave I get another text asking me if I enjoyed my stay and asking for feedback. Readers, I ignore this text. They are not my friend and I am not getting paid to teach them how to do the bare minimum of hospitality. Telling them that my experience in their home makes me want to forego this strange economy does not seem particularly fruitful.
This will be my last Air BnB stay. I like hotels. I like that there will be towels and doors that open. I like that you can shut your door on strangers making awkward small talk. I like that no one makes you stand in the heat outside of a building for twenty minutes because they refused to tell you how to enter their premises. I like that I can shower.
How do you respond to the sharing economy forcing faux friendships on people as a way to normalize this new behavior?
*I do not tell my host any of my snarky thoughts.