It’s too late on a Tuesday to be writing this blog post. But more often than not, that’s when I feel like writing—too late at night, when I should be in bed getting rest for the responsibilities of the day to come. It’s the witching hour. The magical hour. I’ve tried to write at normal times and it seems that somehow those times just won’t do. And so here we are.
I spent last weekend visiting family at my dad’s in Dallas. I drove up from Austin to meet up with my mom, brother, sister-in-law, and two toddler nephews. My mom had driven in from Shreveport with their rental van. It was a grand homecoming—my brother’s side of the fam had come all the way from Africa for the month to celebrate Christmas. I drove up from Austin for 48 hours because I wanted to be a part of the crazy—and I was, oh I was. And it was all sorts of wonderful. But that’s not what I feel compelled to write about.
I feel compelled to write about the Airbnb I booked for the trip. My dad has a nice two-bedroom apartment that I was more than welcome to stay at. But I looked at the roster of folks who would be occupying that space and I said to myself, Self, you’re going to want your own space, even if it’s just for the night, to ensure that no one wakes up afraid and crying and wakes you up in the process. So I booked an Airbnb.
My only Airbnb experience prior to this has been destination Airbnbs, booked by my dad or by my friends for their premium locations in fabulous cities like Toronto, Canada and Charleston, South Carolina. And all of those experiences have been fantastic.
This one was…lacking. And I mostly blame myself.
I can be impulsive about decisions most people rightfully take their time making. Things like where to live or who to live with or where to stay on a trip. Where some might make their decision after careful consideration and deliberation, I make mine with a combination of my gut instinct and what’s convenient.
Over the course of my life, I’ve lived with nearly twenty different strangers (Craigslist roommates) and have had apartments in areas people don’t have apartments, like Midtown Manhattan and Chinatown in NYC, and have taken up residence in Ghana, Africa, even. All of these things I’ve done pretty much on a whim. And mostly, that’s worked out for me. But when it hasn’t, it really hasn’t.
For instance, before I moved to Ghana last year, I moved into a garage apartment in Austin’s neighborhood of St. John’s, which was dirt cheap…for good reason. It was broken into within three months of living there. I spent the next three months trying to stay, and then realizing I’d never feel safe there again, and then trying like hell to get out, and eventually moving to Ghana, Africa, where I had family and where, though I didn’t articulate this to myself until I came back, I later realized I actually thought I’d feel safer. (Truthfully, I hadn’t picked a bad spot. Ghana is one of the safest countries in Africa. So maybe my impulsive logic is usually still sound.)
So when I picked this apartment to stay in one night in Dallas for $60 that was a short drive from Dad’s, I didn’t even realize I’d ignored some very important warning signs until after the deal was done, so to speak.
For one thing, it was right off of 75, a major expressway in D-Town for those of you who don’t know the area. If I had given that any thought at all, no “nice” apartments are ever located right off the freeway. That’s just not how real estate works.
For another, it had 3 stars. That’s 3 stars on average. That means someone on Air Bnb had probably given it 2 stars before. 2 stars. Yikes.
But I didn’t consider any of that while booking. I thought, It’s close to my dad’s, and it has close to 5 stars. That’ll work.
If we don’t count the red flags I blatantly ignored upon booking, my second first signs that this place would not be the refuge that I’d thought it would be could have been anticipated after my contact with the host about check-in. I told her I’d want to be there by 11:30. She asked if she could have until noon, because her guests from the night before weren’t leaving until 11:30.
If I’d really thought about it, that only gave her a half hour’s clearance to get them out, change the sheets, take out the trash, and clean the bathroom. That’s ambitious, to put it mildly.
But I didn’t think about that. I told her noon was fine.
Then she told me that I’d also need to bring my own towels, as some guests in the past had stolen hers. I thought that was weird, but again, ignored that thought, and instead just assured her that I would, indeed, bring my own towels.
When I got there at noon, my host, a nice-looking girl in her early to mid twenties, greeted me at the gate to let me into the apartment. I was in a rush to get to my dad’s, so I didn’t really even give the place a second glance. It was fine. Sparsely decorated, but fine. There was a couch in the living room—no TV but I didn’t need it. Basic Target art on the walls. Shockingly few tchotchkes, like, “nobody really lives here” few. And faux finery—fake hardwood and granite, but those kinds of “upgrades” are what’s to be expected in mid-level apartment.
I got the keys and got out. I’d also told her in casual conversation I wouldn’t be back until later in the evening, which I now think was a mistake.
When I got back at the end of the night, the parking lot was full of tricked-out cars and trucks with lift kits that I hadn’t noticed earlier. Also, there were quite a few people hanging out in the parking lot after 10 pm, which doesn’t exactly mean drug deals were going on, but doesn’t not mean that either.
Finally, the place reeked of pot. And it had not before. So. There was that.
Of the parking lot shenanigans I’ll say, that’s what you get when you’re staying a hop, skip, and a jump off the freeway. Of the pot, I decided that, likely, this was the one place the host could smoke it, and so, knowing I wouldn’t be back for hours, she’d taken advantage. Who could fault her for that? (Me. I could. Cause I’m judgey that way.)
And the pot smell wouldn’t have even been that big a deal to me (though I don’t smoke it), but the kicker was that, upon pulling down the comforter, the sheets were covered with long, dark hair. And, to steal an adaption of a Churchill quip randomly because I can, that was the kind of bullshit up with which I could not put!
I change the sheets when my PARENTS come to town. If a guest was coming in town you can better believe I’d make sure the sheets were fresh.
I was legitimately grossed out by the sheets situation. 20s something Leigh might have just crashed, but 30s something Leigh was borderline vomiting over the state of the bed she’d paid money to sleep in.
Could I have gone back to my dad’s? Sure. But that wasn’t happening. I’d made my decision. I was staying in this Godforsaken place. And so I did what I had to do: I threw her pillows onto the floor, and grabbed a throw pillow from the couch. I put a shirt I’d packed onto that throw pillow to use as a barrier. I locked the bedroom door from the inside. I slept on the comforter in my clothes, and used the towel I’d packed as my blanket.
And I lay there and alternately laughed and felt sorry for myself until I fell sound asleep.
The next morning, I didn’t shower. I took what I heard growing up was called a hooker’s bath, which is probably not PC to say but, it’s what I know it as. It involves washing your face and your underarms in the sink and throwing on deodorant and perfume (or in my case, body spray) and calling it a day.
And I texted the woman that I’d checked out and left the keys on the counter, like she’d told me to. Then I went to my dad’s and enjoyed the rest of my day.
I’d made the decision the night before that I wasn’t going to give her a bad review, because I wasn’t going to put energy toward doing one more negative thing in a universe that was lousy with it.
Also, because I’d seen her bookshelf on my way out the door that morning, and it included a ton of Jesus books (which made me feel like she was searching for something on this earth, like we all are, goddammit), and also a few self-help books, and, one book that stood out to me in particular: Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace.
That one was the kicker, because a few months back, my mom had gifted me with his second book, Total Money Makeover. And so I knew what his first book probably included: a lot of guidance on how to get your finances in order. And I imagined this young woman was taking his lead on the side hustle advice, and was renting out her place sometimes so that she could make rent.
I imagined her as someone who desperately needed to finally live alone (something I could well understand), but who couldn’t afford it, really, and who was determined to make it work. I didn’t want to screw that up for her with a bad review, future guests be damned.
But then, Air Bnb kept pestering me with emails. How was your stay? How was your stay? How WAS your stay?
I finally gave in when I realized some parts of my review would go to the host, only. So I bit the bullet and said she should change her sheets and take care of the pot smell. I told myself this bit of advice would likely help her in the long run.
For the public review, I gave her the same 3 stars I’d seen myself. And I wrote a very honest, very short statement:
[The host] was super responsive. And the place is close to a lot of cool things to do in Dallas.
I’m leaving others to read between the lines that I couldn’t read through myself, but then, that’s our problem, isn’t it? Us gut-bookers. Bless our hearts.
Share with me, people, what would you have done in my situation? Also, try anything scary lately? I wanna hear your stories! Leave ’em in the comments. And please share this post with anyone you think will find it amusing. I live to make people laugh, and I love it when people like the silly things I write.
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