I have mixed feelings about airbnb. On one hand, it’s slightly more affordable than hotels and it’s great to have a kitchen when away, particularly with children with finicky appetites…but, nah, I don’t like airbnb. It’s creepy. It’s someone’s house and they live there, so you (or I) just feel like I’m encroaching on their space and I can’t quite relax.
I booked one in April upstate by accident (I like to pretend-reserve stuff on Expedia, because you can cancel with no consequence within a certain period of time, and headsup, Expedia lists private homes in with the hotels and those are nonrefundable. The owner had no idea his home was listed on Expedia.) So the family and I took a road trip for spring break. It snowed almost everyday. The house looked stunning in pictures, and more just, lived in, in person. Very ordinary and suburban. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but when I rent a place, I guess I’m looking for something nicer than our home. Since Husband was sick, I drove to get groceries at this palatial ShopRite. I was fighting a cold myself, so the whole thing turned into a rather slow process. There were like ten lanes of block-long options of organic bread or whatever. I could not help but fill up my shopping cart because the variety and the low prices were so impressive. In the cleaning aisle, an elderly African American man asked me to help him choose a cleaning product between two. I read the tiny ingredients and told him they were identical so recommended the cheaper one. In return, he said “god bless you.” (“Thanks, man,” I said. “I need it.”) As I loaded up my groceries into the rental minivan, I told myself to pretend this was my real life to see how it felt. Suburbia. Suburban existence. Hmm.
The caretaker was great and responded right away to everything I request. He was sweet to the kids. We would see his car, but never see him, so it was sort of, kind of private, except for the last night. After we put the kids to bed, the presence of the caretaker and his female partner was super obvious. It turned out they were living in the basement, one flimsy wooden door away. A strong odor of cooking meat filled the house, and we could hear dishes being thrown and the words “I’m not going to take it anymore!” were crystal clear. As we stood listening, wondering what we should do, Husband urged that I text the caretaker that we had kids trying to sleep, but it felt weird to be part of such an intimate fight with a proximity to my personal self that made me nervous. Like if i text “pipe down,” would that make the fight worse? Would I then hear a doorknob turn and suddenly face the woman’s wrath myself? Have I mentioned I am a big, gigantic chicken when it comes to confrontation?
My hesitation paid off because things settled down pretty quickly and no action was necessary. The next morning, my mom and I chatted about what had happened the night before, and she said “And then they were cooking chili con carne.”
I am bewildered and a little impressed that her nose was so specific. It cracks me up because it’s just weird. Months later, I can say “chili con carne” to myself or to Husband and start laughing.