I had strangers sleeping in my house. My wife, Alice, had turned our extra bedroom into an Airbnb. The guests—I couldn’t keep track of them all—were an unknown quantity, so I locked my bedroom door every night. Alice liked putting scones and jelly packets on the kitchen table in the morning and making small talk. I didn’t.
We had an Israeli, a German, and many Americans visiting relatives at the Cleveland Clinic. We had a grad student studying Amish settlements, which are a county over from us. I didn’t talk much to the guests because I couldn’t see going deep with people I wasn’t ever likely to see again. I just said “Hi,” and if asked, I would give mini spiels on the history of the Shakers (we live nine houses from Shaker Heights, Ohio). Another favorite topic: Will Ohio go for Trump again? Beats me.
One overnight guest came with a colleague who wasn’t preapproved by Airbnb. He had no track record with the parent organization—no previous stays, that is. The guest and her colleague were traveling across the United States, supposedly selling office supplies to veterans’ hospitals. The colleague—the unvetted one—had pants that seriously sagged. We’re talking four inches below the waist. Would he like marmalade and scones for breakfast? I didn’t want to find out. The couple was standing in our driveway, next to their van. My wife called to me, “Bert, come down here.” I was up in my office—another spare bedroom (Alice and I are empty-nesters, so we have some space). Also, I’m a landlord who vets renters all the time: by age, current landlord, education, criminal record, income. I keep it legal, mind you. But I said to the woman and her colleague, “You’re not coming in here.”
“Why not?” she said.
“This is my house.” That seemed legal enough for me. They left.
Once a guest left a used diaper in the wastebasket. Why not put the diaper in a plastic bag? We weren’t making big money on this, either—Cleveland isn’t San Francisco or Manhattan. Fifty dollars a night. (We made double for the Republican National Convention in 2016.)
When visitors asked Alice for sightseeing advice, she often told them about the nearby bakery, sandwich shop, and Shaker Lakes—all within walking distance. But most of the visitors didn’t sightsee. They drove to the clinic to visit their sick relatives.
Soon, the whole situation made me sick. It wasn’t fun sleeping in my own house with the bedroom door locked because I thought somebody might jump me.
Finally, Alice took up Uber driving, which got her off Airbnb. She got a bonus from Uber for exceeding 20 rides. Then she quit. She didn’t like the driving part. She’s a gym teacher and mostly flies the “gig economy” flag in the summer. Now she is studying online to be a Pilates instructor. That seems harmless enough, though she’s trying to get me to do the splits. I could hurt myself. But at least nobody else can.
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