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For a time, I sublet a spare bedroom of mine in Brooklyn on Airbnb. I was a Superhost, which meant I sported a listing with great reviews and provided a quality stay in New York City. But, every success story is a product of surviving nightmares. Here are my three favorite Airbnb tales:
Catfish and Grits
I was turning the big 30. I had the time of my life that night at my public birthday party. What’s a public birthday party? It’s the party I share on social media, set at a convenient bar, and open to anyone to attend. I have a lot of friends from all over the NY comedy scene, so this is my way of celebrating with as many of them as I can at once.
I got drunker that night than I have ever been in my life. My friend Annie says I tried to kiss her in the cab ride home. This is unbelievable; I am a ‘Golden Gay’ (meaning I’ve never touched a vagina outside of the moment I was born. I am only superseded by ‘Platinum Gays’ who were born by Caesarean section). But, I was inebriated and out of my mind, so who knows, and we do have to believe our female friends when they say you tried to kiss them.
I got home and decided I wanted food. It was 4 AM. My Airbnb guests were asleep in their room. They were this sweet German couple on their honeymoon. I had recently become a Blue Apron subscriber, so I pulled out my leftover catfish and cheese grits meal that I had made earlier that day. I threw it in the microwave and set it to five minutes. I think I wanted it ‘piping hot,’ but I also maybe didn’t understand time at that point. I shambled around the apartment while I waited, making too much noise and singing to my dog.
Bing! The timer goes off and without thinking I throw open the microwave door and reach inside. But my hands miss the Tupperware container and instead I grab the glass plate underneath it. It is a thousand degrees and my fingers burn and weld to it. I scream and reflexively throw the dish into the air. The catfish, cheese grits, and glass plate smash into my Airbnb guest’s door. They wake up screaming. I scurry onto the floor, trying to clean up the mess with my bare hands, and I cut myself on the shards of glass. I’m bleeding all over the food when my dog Star bounds over and starts gorging herself on the cheese grits mixed with my blood. “Now, she has a taste for my blood,” I think, as I vomit into catfish-blood-grits-glass-dog drool mess. My Airbnb guests open the door to this perfect image of a ‘Markle Moment.’
They were very understanding about me being a hot mess on my birthday and kindly opted not to leave a review of their stay.
This bro and his bro-friend rented one-night only in Summer. They informed me they would have some guests over but would keep the party to my rooftop patio. “No problem,” I thought, eying the King Bro. He was football-player-drop-dead-gorgeous, the kind of straight-acting dude my porn-addled brain has decided is the epitomy of hot. I think I may have said yes to anything he wanted (oh, I pity myself sometimes).
I got home late that night from working at the theatre and could tell someone was asleep in their bedroom. But above the apartment, I could faintly hear the party on the rooftop. I later learned the bro-friend had drank too much and conked out early to bed. Thinking nothing of it, I threw myself into my own, exhausted from a long day.
As previously mentioned, I’m a Golden Gay, so I’d never heard with my own ears a woman trying to orgasm, but that’s the sound that woke me up at 5 AM. She was moaning through the wall — it seemed like the sound was reverberating inside the walls — and I could hear King Bro grunting and panting. Inebriated, they were fucking on my living room couch against the wall to my bedroom. I couldn’t believe how loud it was. Why weren’t they in their bedroom? Oh, because bro-friend was sound asleep, and lacking another option, they were going buck nasty on my leather couch.
I tried to ignore it, be chill about it, just go back to sleep. But 21-year-old King Bro could not make this girl cum. She was moaning and groaning, pitch rising and falling like a vacuum being turned on and off, and kept saying, “I’m close, baby, I’m so close.” Well, she never made it across the finish line despite 45 minutes of effort. Him spent, they gave up, and roaring silence returned to the apartment.
There was no going back to sleep at this point. I was livid. Let alone how egregious they’d been, this was against Airbnb policy — you only get to sleep in the room you paid for. I don’t care what people do in that bedroom — you wanna fuck, you wanna smoke pot, you wanna call your mother, just don’t do it where I can see or hear or you. This was too much, and so I dialed Airbnb Customer Service.
They put me right through — I’m a Superhost, afterall. The guy who answered spoke broken English though and had some trouble understanding what I was telling him. He came to the conclusion that I needed to document what had happened — in case the guest disputed my account and it became, a ‘He said; he said’ situation. “Take a photo of them,” the Airbnb rep said. “What?! I think they’re naked,” I replied. “Can you try to crop the photo just to show them from the neck-up?” he asked.
I thought this probably violated some sort of privacy law, not to speak of@common human decency. So, I made a lot of noise getting out of bed and walked out past them to beeline for the bathroom. As I had imagined, they were buck-ass naked on my leather couch, a condom wrapper visible on the floor. My commotion woke them up, and on my way back from the bathroom, I saw they’d put back on clothes and were cuddling — again on my couch. “Aha! I’ve got you now,” I thought, and whipped out my phone to snap a shot. But I forgot to put the phone on silent, so it made a shutter sound as I took the photo. This is the photo (face blurred for privacy):
She’s looking right into the camera like, “What the hell is this creep taking my picture for?”
As I prepped to email the photo to Airbnb, there was a knock on my door. The girl was gone. King-Bro begged me to drop the case. He was extremely apologetic. I’ve never felt I had so much power over someone in my life. “What do I have to do to fix the situation?” he begged. No, I did not prostitute his ass for sexual favors, despite the porno set-up I found myself in. But I told him truthfully I could ask Airbnb to compensate me for the Security Deposit on his stay in amount of $150. So he ran outside to an ATM and returned with $150 cold cash for me. We agreed to not leave each other reviews, and he packed up and got the hell out of my apartment with his very confused and sleepy bro-friend.
So I earned $150 to listen to some bad heterosexual intercourse. Not the worst way to make a buck.
The time had come. It was one week until my trip to Bali. I’d booked the three week trip months ago as a treat to myself to rest, restore, and reflect on my three years of running The Annoyance NY. I’d set-up everything perfectly: while I was gone, my replacement to run the theater would stay in my apartment rent-free in exchange for taking care of my dog and managing my Airbnb. The apartment was booked out for the foreseeable future, and I had modest savings to really make the most out of my trip!
His name was Tom, and he was a world-traveller. He dressed solely in capri-pants and carried only a dusty camping backpack for luggage. He was fascinating. We chain-smoked cigarettes on the rooftop, and he told me his life adventures. He was one of the few Airbnb guests I’ve ever socially hung out with. Though he only stayed one-night with me, I was grateful to have gotten to know him and absorb his life wisdom before my big adventure.
Three days later, I heard a scream from my guest room at 3 in the morning. There were bedbugs crawling on the sheets, several of them. The dreaded plague of NYC — the thing I’d heard was possible but never confronted on my own — had hitch-hiked their way into my apartment. My Airbnb guest caught them on video. Blood-sucking monsters. Terrifying.
First, I had to appease my guests, who were rightfully upset about discovering them. I knew a single “bedbeg” review would tank my listing forever. I gave them a cash refund for their entire stay, bought a steam cleaner and helped steam clean all their luggage, and put them up in a nice hotel for remainder of their stay. Though I was too ashamed to outright ask, they were kind enough not to leave a review.
Second, I told my friend who was dogsitting and staying over about the situation. Fair enough — she couldn’t handle it and decided to find other lodging. I tried for another friend to watch my dog or board her to no avail. So I booked her via Rover.comto stay-over with some Ukrainian women I’d never met who lived in Bedstuy.
And then, I had to beat the bug. I had four days to accomplish total eradication. I couldn’t financially survive cancelling my bookings while I was out of town. I threw out every bit of bedding and pillows right away, not even bothering to try hot water washing them. I took an hour-long Uber to the Home Depot in Gravesend, Brooklyn because there was a ‘$5 travel anywhere in Brooklyn’ discount. I threw $500 down on bed bug covers for both bedrooms and all new beddings and pillows. I bought bed-bug killing spray galore and face masks. I loaded up a return Uber home and went to town on my apartment.
It didn’t work. I found traces of them that night, so I alerted my landlord, and he called in a Pro. He exterminated the room, tore apart furniture to spray into the wooden beams underneath and anywhere they could hide. He hit every spot except behind the framed picture in my Airbnb room, which is where I found the colony still alive and hiding the next morning. So the exterminators came back again, this time with a crew of four of them, and doused the apartment until it smelled like lemony-death.
Strung out of my mind, and getting on a plane in less than 24 hours, I decided to board up the room. It looked like the West Wing from Beauty and The Beast,a dilapidated mess of disassembled furniture, bared behind a DO NOT ENTER sign. I moved all my Airbnb bookings to stay in my bedroom (where the bugs had not been discovered at all) and prayed for the best. No one entered the Airbnb room until I returned from Bali three weeks later and found that, thankfully, it all worked. The bedbugs were destroyed and have not been seen since.
I learned from the experience to be grateful for even the littlest things — like the fact that I had a landlord who moved expeditiously to handle the situation and that I was still in the States when the crisis bloomed. What would I have done if I was already in Indonesia? I can’t say for sure it was Tom, the backpacker, who brought the plague, though that’s who my money is on. It could have been just a happenstance of living in NYC. I hear they can infest even 5-star hotels! All told, I lost about $2000 on the situation, but shit happens. Life goes on, as does my Airbnb. Cause at the end of the day, the revenue pays my rent in NYC and allows me the freedom to write long stories on Medium.com, and that makes it all worth it.