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The sky is falling, and I don’t think my current guests will rally and help me hold it up. I have an uncooperative couple in my studio and a too-chatty young woman in my front room. I can’t keep my house together. I feel trapped. It’s Airbnb Hell Week.
What changed? Just last week I felt plucky and positive. In my last blog entry, I seemed so upbeat. All that talk of the personal side of hosting, of inspiration for kindness – what’s happened to my attitude after just one week?
I have my first in-home guest, a sprightly 22-year-old named Dalya, whose youth and enthusiasm endeared her to me when she first arrived a week ago Sunday. After just a day or two, though, Dalya was comfortable enough to work my nerves, telling me the details of her life. I could hardly get a word in. I should have been happy that she was enjoying her summer job in LA, but I felt like a camp counselor. The difference was that I couldn’t possibly try to enforce Quiet Time at 7 pm.
Dalya’s a nice person and a good guest, who washes her own dishes and keeps quiet when I’m sleeping. Still, couldn’t she keep a bit quieter when I’m awake?
From the start of this booking, I was a nervous geek, unable to adjust to an in-home guest. I felt responsible for her, more so than my other guests or my long-term tenants. After deciding to host in my house, I had tried to prepare in advance for the impact on my lifestyle, but, as with most situations, I couldn’t foresee every problem. I hadn’t had time to store all the stuff I’d moved out of the guest room. It ended up in my bedroom. The walls closed in. In the bathroom, I hadn’t figured out how to add more towel racks. So, I hung my bath towels on the dresser drawers in my bedroom. I tried to make it work, but I couldn’t calm down.
A few days after Dalya checked in, my house became infested with fleas. She didn’t bring them, of course: I have a dog and three cats, and lots of squirrels in the yard. I face infestations at least once per summer. The fleas don’t bother me much. This time, however, I had a paying guest, and I was mortified. I doused my pets with flea medication, but the fleas didn’t subside, so I called in the pros to treat the whole interior, and I warned Dalya in advance.
It felt so strange, letting the pest control guys into what was now Dalya’s room. Oh, I got quite sentimental! Love the window view! Here’s the old table where I used to paint! I couldn’t spend much time there, seeing as how it was now Dalya’s private space and the pest guys were about to spray poison on the floor. I missed having that room, though.
And, I didn’t feel like myself. I worried about every little thing. Having someone in the house made me so conscious of the coffee cup I left on the kitchen table, or the blouse I tossed on a chair. It was hot that week, and I wondered if I should have installed an air conditioner in the guest room. Dalya had come to LA for a new job, and each morning she was up and gone early, returning around six in the evening. Even in her absence, I couldn’t relax.
I kept my pets, and the litter box (YUCK!), in my room overnight, so that Dalya wouldn’t have to worry about cats slipping out the front door when she left for the day. That, however, led to other problems. With all the assorted junk in my bedroom, the cats managed to knock things over, usually in the middle of the night. Somehow they knocked down their heavy glass water bowl. Loud bang. Would they wake up my guest? They didn’t, but they left a brownish stain in the shape of Australia on my once-clean carpet. Why does water leave stains?! I decided to place their water bowl on the floor. Clever! The next morning, they knocked my bath towel into it. They also broke a favorite vase, and they knocked down a stack of books.
Dalya seemed fine. I just couldn’t get used to another person in my home, and I didn’t always feel like hearing about her day. I was a nervous, inadequate host, but she didn’t seem to notice.
By Monday night I really needed an escape, but my favorite retreat – my best friend’s back yard – was no option, as he was out of town. I huddled in my crowded 10” by 12” bedroom. I binge-watched “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” on my tablet. I blasted the fan.
How had I managed, decades ago, to live in a house with six other girls? This Airbnb thing was a young person’s game. I hadn’t had a roommate since Ronald Reagan was president, and I wasn’t adjusting well.
I had no guests in my studio for Tuesday, so I decided to retreat there in the evening. I could crank the air conditioner and get a start on prepping the place for my Wednesday guests.
Then, at 4 pm, our power went out. Oh no! The heavy heat, no air conditioner or fans, no TV to distract me from my worries. And, did I mention that the fleas had returned?
Dalya came home, unruffled by the blackout. She made dinner (splattering grease for me to clean later,) and I sat with her. Candles flickered; fleas re-settled on my dog. The night got hotter.
I herded my pets and went to bed, but I couldn't sleep. The electricity was still out; I had fleas all over the place; I was trapped in my little room with a battery-operated lantern and a couple of cheap candles. And three cats. The lights came back on at 2:30 am, and I thanked the heavens and turned my fan up high.
My next guests for the studio were due to check in at 3 pm on Wednesday. I had a blackout hangover – the after-effects of ten hours in the dark, disconnected from the world. At least the weather had cooled some. Then, Wednesday at 2:40 pm, the guests were at my front door. Normally I’d have no problem with guests arriving twenty minutes early. This time, however, I felt worn out and frustrated, still waiting for towels to dry and still needing to give the studio a final check. I was irritated, but I tried not to show it. I got myself together, greeted them smilingly, and showed them to their space. But I worried that I had initially come off as annoyed. Michelle, the woman, reminded me of someone…
“I’ve got it!” I exclaimed. “You look like the actress Rebecca de Mornay!”
“Rebecca de Mornay! She played the psychotic nanny in that thriller, The Hand That Rocks the Cradle!”
“Oh, well, don’t worry,” said Michelle. “I’m not a psychotic nanny.”
I could see the review already: “When we met, Carolyn seemed annoyed, and she compared me to a psychotic nanny.” I remembered that de Mornay had also played the prostitute in Risky Business. Should I have mentioned that instead?? Either way, I don’t think my comment went over well. I resisted the temptation to Google the actress and show Michelle that I was actually complimenting her.
Michelle and Joe managed to break a few minor house rules: they used my tenants’ private outdoor area, and they left the side gates wide open. They ran the air conditioning late into the night, when it had already cooled down outside. But at least the power had returned before they arrived, and they always seemed content when I checked on them.
Then late Sunday night, as soon as they got back to the studio, they launched into a screaming fight. It was after midnight – what do I do?
She: “You’re pig-headed! You won’t even [bleeping] listen to my opinion!!”
He: “Well, you’re from a small town!” (delivered as a serious insult)
I’d had problem guests before, but this was the first time I was faced with a screaming match after midnight. How do I handle it? I worried about my tenants, my neighbors, my other guest. Luckily, they quieted down after about five minutes – and then I heard the air conditioner blaring. Temperature outside? 65 degrees.
Meanwhile, Dalya found a place in time for her check-out date this Sunday. She cuddled with my dog and said, “I’m going to miss you so much!!” She was talking to the dog, I should note. She didn’t seem interested in me or my house or the little things I’d done to make hers a comfortable stay. It’s okay, though. She’s young. She’ll soon have a new roommate to talk to.
I don’t know what’s been tougher this week, the big-deal problems like the power outage and the fleas, or the tiny annoyances that poked away at me. I think it’s the little things, the crashing vases and the spattered grease. The little things kept me on high alert for several days. Did my nervousness affect my guests? I don’t think so. But I won’t know for sure until I read everyone’s reviews.
Carolyn is a teacher & host.
c. 2015 by author
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