I've used Airbnb many times while traveling abroad, one of which I've even documented on this blog. I don't require much of where I stay: just a place to sleep, shower, and where I can keep my belongings while out and about. I prefer my host to be helpful, but not overbearing. And now I need to add, I'd also prefer my host not to be a nitpick - because if you're a nitpick, then you probably shouldn't even be a host.
I came to stay with "Marie" in Munich by a series of mishaps, which makes this story even more frustrating. I had my friend give me advice on where to stay in Munich, and I narrowed it down to Marie and "Stuart." I would be arriving super late, so I messaged both hosts and asked if they minded a late arrival. My friend then told me Marie's location was much more central than Stuart's, so I decided I would stay with her pending response. Except Stuart responded to my message first and invited me to stay with him, and at 6 am on a Tuesday, I groggily checked my email and clicked yes without thinking.
Then Marie messaged back that she would allow me to arrive late.
If I canceled on Stuart, I would have to pay a cancellation fee. My friend said it was worth it. I messaged Stuart I was no longer coming to Munich. He told me he was sad because he had wanted to practice his English. I felt bad.
Weeks later, I actually arrive in Munich and go to Marie's. She had messaged me the day prior and reminded me how to get to her place, or rather how to not get to it.
"Do not ring when you arrive, like it says on the listing!" she wrote. "I share the gate with my neighbor. Go straight through the gate, do not turn left, do not ring the door you think you want to ring, do not ring any door, do not even come."
Since the directions were so specific, I reminded myself of the "house rules" she had listed. All she wrote was "be clean" and "no meat or fish in the house!!" But she did serve breakfast.
She saw me walking up upon my arrival (I did not ring at the gate!!!), and she opened the door. "Hello! I am Marie."
"Thank you so much for letting me come late. I hope you didn't have to wait up!"
"It is fine. I do not have work tomorrow. How did you get here?"
"I took the bus."
She stared at me. I waited, unsure what to say.
"How?" she repeated.
"I took the bus."
"Bus. Like, the..." I realized this was a translational thing. "Bus." I thought of Stuart who wanted to practice his English. Did Marie, too?
"Ah! Okay, let me show you everything." And so began my tutorial in how to be an Airbnb guest at Marie's. The front door wasn't a big deal. She just told me to leave the key by the door when I went and to not take the key with me to the airport. Duh.
"That happened once," she explained. "Also, remove your shoes when you enter."
"Do you want slippers?"
"I'm good - unless you want me to have slippers."
"Unless. You. Want. Me. To. Have. Slippers."
"I'm fine then," I said.
We headed up the spiral staircase. This is where things started to get weird. On the staircase, staring out a window, was a dressed, armless mannequin woman. Marie did not comment on her. She just kept walking up the stairs. Okay.
"Wait here," she suddenly directed me. "Don't come further. I was airing out the house before you got here, and I need to finish airing it out."
"Okay, no worries."
I assumed she had gone into my guest room to finish airing it out, though I wasn't sure why I couldn't come into the room if she was just shutting the window. But then she popped back into the staircase and shut the door behind me. "This is my bedroom. Now let's go to yours."
I would not have been able to see into her room, door open or not, from my angle on the staircase no matter what.
"Here is the bed. Here is the wifi. In the morning, please open the window and air it out, but close it before you leave. And when you shut the window, please shut it this way." She demonstrated. "Not this way." She demonstrated not shutting the window.
So you mean, shut it? I thought.
"Okay," I said.
"Now the bathroom." We returned to the second floor near the armless mannequin that Marie did not acknowledge this time either. "Here is the light. It's a pull switch. Now here is the tub, and the curtain is hanging over here."
One thing I've yet to understand about Europeans is why their showers are so old school. They never have curtains that wrap around the tub if they have a curtain at all. In Copenhagen, my host had us shower in an open room and then rake up the water. I always feel like I'm in Angela's Ashes, and I haven't even seen that movie.
"And when you're showering, be careful about this," she indicated the porcelain soap holder. "It's very delicate. My last guest threw the shower head around and, uh, I don't know the word."
"Yes, that. But be careful. It's very rare. There's only one in a hundred like this," she caressed the soap holder, "so it was very difficult to fix."
I was confused why she had fine china in the tub, but okay.
"Also, when you're done showering, wipe down the tub. Do you see, I have no mold? There is a reason. Wipe down the walls, the tiles. No mold, right?"
"No mold, got it."
"Make sure the curtain is inside the tub, too. Not outside the tub. And you can use this rug on the ground, but take it off the floor when you're done because it is fresh. I don't want it getting too dirty."
"And then open the windows. We must air it out. What time are you showering?"
"Could I shower tonight?"
"Sure. So you shower and open the window, then I will close it before bed. Okay?"
"Mm, hmm," I nodded.
"Also, the toilet. Please only put toilet paper in it. Nothing else. Or it will clog. Anything, it will clog. Nothing else."
She stared at me.
What else is she expecting me to put in the toilet? My travel brochures?
"Finally," she said. "The door. Please do not slam it." She demonstrated it. "My son and I are here, and do you hear it? It will wake us. See, you close it like this. Softly. See? Like this. Not like, no, not that way. Like this. Softly." She demonstrated three times. "Guests always forget that. It's inevitable. But please. Try to remember."
By this point I was thinking, if you have to demonstrate how to shut a door three times, you might be a little too neurotic to be an Airbnb host. You have to be flexible if you're letting strangers into your house. You can't expect them to remember every little rule, especially if there's five item checklist to using the bathroom before remembering to scrub behind your ears. I wondered if I would mess up when I showered tonight.
"And what would you like for breakfast?" she finished.
I wanted to say eggs, but since no meat or fish was allowed in the house, I thought that was too edgy. Cheese also might be pushing it.
"What do you have?" I tried.
"Yes, but organic."
"That works for me."
"Soy or milk?"
I was surprised she had milk. I said milk, but then I felt like it was a trap. "But I drink soy," I added.
She hadn't understood what I said.
"But. I. Drink. Soy."
She squinted her eyes.
"Never mind," I said. "I'm going to take a shower."
"Take. A. Shower."
"All right. Don't forget the door."
"Of course not."
"Do you want a robe?" she asked.
"I'm good," I replied.
"But how will you get from the bathroom to the bedroom?"
"I'll just change in the bathroom."
"I'll. Change. In. The. Bathroom."
"Oh! My English, it's not so good."
Upstairs, I prepared my clothes for going to the shower when Marie knocked. "I forgot," she said. "Do you want coffee or tea in the morning?"
She noticed my bare feet. I had removed my socks.
"Do you want slippers?" she asked.
I looked at my feet and at her face. "I'm good. Unless you want me to have some."
"Unless. You. Want. Me. To. Have. Some."
She frowned. "I think yes. I'll bring them."
Why didn't you say so from the beginning? I thought. Of course, the slippers she brought did not fit me well. I worried I would slip down the staircase and take down the armless mannequin along with my front teeth.
In the bathroom, I went through the checklist. Shut the door softly. Shower curtain inside the tub. Be careful of the porcelain soap holder. Only toilet paper in the toilet.
I fiddled with the shower head to get water to come out. I adjusted the water speed. The shower head was not attached to the wall. It rested across the hot and cold water knobs. As I turned the hot water on, the head somersaulted and bounced into the tub, missing the porcelain soap holder by an inch. Holy cow. No wonder it had cracked previously.
It flashed through my mind what would happen if I cracked the holder: I would pack up and leave. I would say nothing. I would find a hostel for the night.
After showering, I laid across my bed and began drafting this blog post. Halfway through, it hit me. I ran downstairs to the bathroom, slipping into my undersized slippers and jumping at the sight of the mannequin because I kept forgetting she's there. I had messed up. I didn't forget the door, but I did forget to hang the shower rug and open the window!!!!
Marie had already beat me to it. I wondered if she'd poison my Muesli. At least I was only staying here one more night.
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