If you take anything away from what I say today, remember this: Anybody can be an Air BnB host. So there’s this woman named Ms T who I have been crushing on for a couple months. Ms T decided to roll down to New Orleans to visit during our three days off in the city. We booked an Air BnB close to the rest of the gang, paying our money in advance to secure what was billed to be a pleasant, four night midtown experience near the historical district. I was excited.
Well, things don’t always go as planned … thus began our one night in the fetid depths of Hell.
Our Air BnB hosts were Frank and Donna. Frank is a food artist at a museum. He is skinny, has a rat-tail, and slight tremors in his hands and legs. Donna is a career bartender with tattoos covering her arms, knuckles, and neck. They both, unbeknownst to us by the Air BnB listing, suck down cigarettes.
The door was unlocked when I arrived. My ass hurt from sitting on Q*Bert, my sturdy steel-framed disc bike. Q and I have been getting along famously—but it was time to put him up for a few days. We had a awesome ride that day, going over big bridges and dirt roads on our way into NOLA.
Having the door unlocked was not super chill, even if there had been anybody in the apartment. Turns out our Air BnB is on the fringe of one of the worst neighborhoods in New Orleans. A rudimentary search around our host churned up a map highlighting a high population of sexual offenders and a history of violent crime. So, where was everybody?
Frank was at work, drawing ketchup squiggles on hotdog platters and Donna was off slinging beers. Ms T was dropping Rachel off at the host, a lovely family with a lovely home in the uptown district. Eyes followed my lycra body into the apartment.
I walked inside and coughed. The apartment smelled like a big fat ashtray. My eyes stung. I worried about my asthma. I pulled Q inside and lay on the floor. It was dirty, and gritty, and covered in cat hair. I suppose that explained the Pet Status: Some Pets part of our reservation. There was a cat named Charles. Charles would later piss on my tent.
Donna rolled in and introduced herself. She had a husky voice and quite the cough. Her tattoos were complex. Baby Cash rolled across her knuckles in black, gothic lettering.
Donna was so nice as to give me a tour of the apartment. “So this is your room.” A mattress on a tile floor covered in cat hair, a window with broken blinds blocking the harsh lighting of a busy street, the room temperature somewhere in the 80s.
“So this is the bathroom.” A small, dirty space.
“And this is the kitchen. The oven and overhead lights don’t work. Put your name on whatever food you bring back or we’ll consider it fair game.” In the kitchen sink were a pile of dirty, stinky plates. They smelled like burnt tobacco and old nacho cheese.
And that was the tour. I could tell that Donna and Frank took a lot of pride in their living environment.
Ms T came back and pulled me into our room. I heard an argument from outside our window and a shattering of glass. It was hot. I sweated through my bike pants and onto the sheets. Ms T told me about her first interaction with Donna.
“She showed me around smoking a cigarette. Then, like a minute later, told me this horrible animal abuse story about one of her friends who fed her cat acid! They had to put that cat down and her new cat is the replacement!”
I showered, changed, had an asthma attack, and requested we leave the apartment and see everyone else. Two miles away and our friends were in heaven. Another fabulous Keys to Freeze host with all the love for our team. I was immensely jealous.
That night, after Ms T and I had navigated the littered streets to Magazine Street for a sausage and a beer, we met Frank.
Frank was drunk. He was upset that we were upset with the space. He insisted that they would smoke outside—“that we would be so virtuous as to smoke outside during our stay.” A very kind gesture.
We fell asleep in the heat of our room. Their air-conditioning, we found out, was also broken. I sweat through the bed and to the floor. When we opened a window the sounds of the busy street corner blasted us. Conversations, arguments, music, and traffic invaded our space. I might as well have blown up my air mattress and slept on the street for all the good this room was doing for me.
Donna came back from the bar at three. Frank was still up and listening to house music, bass reverberating off the tile floors and into our room. Donna clanged around in the kitchen until four, listening to music and making some dish that, in the sink that morning, looked like burnt scalloped potatoes.
When I woke up I had another asthma attack and cat hair all over my face. We had run out of toilet paper in the bathroom and so I held in my morning poop until we managed our way to a coffee shop.
We moved out that morning and back in with the rest of the Keys to Freeze team, my first experience as a paying Air BnB customer a failed one.
So, in reflection, let me say this—I am not just being a big old baby. Having worked in the service industry I understand what it means to offer yourself to your customers. You have to take pride in what you do to provide a comfortable experience for whomever you are servicing. Frank and Donna’s Air BnB was a slapdick affair that reflected in our miserable night. That Frank and Donna both work service jobs and still failed to perform as an acceptable host gives deeper insight to their lives. I hope that Frank and Donna find more fulfillment in their work than they do as hosts, otherwise I imagine that they lead truly miserable existences.
Anybody can be an Air BnB host, but I think that it’s difficult to find a great host. In Chapel Hill I lived in the Purple House and we rented out a room with Air BnB. I met excitable and interesting people who were happy to be alive and sharing their experiences with me as I wrote from the couch. They loved our space, and our location, and the people of the Purple House. I assumed that all experiences would be as positive as my time in the Purple House. Not everyone is equipped to provide that comfortable experience, and there are people out there—Donna and Frank included—who can ruin your time in a new place.
So beware! Anyone can be an Air BnB host! I cannot say it enough! ANYONE CAN BE AN AIR BNB HOST! So choose wisely, oh traveler, when making that reservation.
For those concerned, things worked out. I am drinking coffee in uptown New Orleans, writing in a wonderful house fully stocked with toilet paper.