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If Armistead Maupin had lived in the era of Airbnb, then this might be a tale of the city . . . airbnbvibrator

Oh, tales of urban living. Tales of renting out my apartment on Airbnb while I go away on writing retreats this fall. Tales of living in a world that is changing so fast every ten years many facets of how we live are barely recognizable. Especially in the Bay Area, where rents have climbed from my $333 a month days when I first rented a room in 1997 to Q1 of 2014 when the median rent for a San Francisco apartment is now $3,200.

I have been renting out my one-bedroom apartment three or five days at a time while I go up north to write. My guests have been lovely. Sheryl left homemade jam in the fridge, Himoko from Japan was sweet, and the others have been entirely respectful and gracious that I have opened my home to them.

Enter Rick. Rick made a request when he inquired about the apartment. He wanted a pot and pan since he would be here for five days. I said, OK, I will get you a pot and pan. (If I could go back in time, I would say “Sorry buddy, no special treatment for you.”) (The backstory: I have celiac disease, which means I need to be super careful about gluten; this is a medical issue, not a preference. I put away pots and pans when guests come because I can’t expect they will read every ingredient label to be sure they are not using gluten.)

On the day of Rick’s arrival, in addition to arranging for the professional cleaners to come and make the place oh-so-spotless and shoving all my random belongings (bills, dirty laundry, etc.) in the closet, I went out looking for a pot and pan. I found a gleaming new pot and couldn’t find a suitable pan at the local hardware store, and decided, I’ll let him use one of my pans and replace it later.

Rick arrives. He is in his mid-twenties, from New York, here on furniture business. He is no-nonsense, no-pleasantries. When I say, “How are you?” he responds very quickly “fine” and doesn’t ask how are you back. I give him the keys, and I’m off.

An hour and a half later the phone rings. I answer while driving up north.

It’s Ethan from Airbnb. Never before have a I gotten a call from Airbnb. If guests had questions or concerns, they just wrote me directly.

“I want to get your side of the story,” Ethan says.

“My side of the story?”

Rick has some complaints. “He says the pan is not usable. He says it’s dirty.”

“Dirty? I cleaned it in a rush before he came but if he doesn’t like it he can clean it. There are sponges.”

“He says there is a stain on the sheets.”

“That’s an ink stain. The sheets and the towels and the bathroom rug were all washed this morning. They are all clean.”

“He says there is an ink stain on the couch.”

“Yeah, there is an ink stain on the couch. I have had that couch for ten years. That stain is in the photo that is on the website too.”

Ethan says, “You’re right. The couch is an unnecessary complaint.”

Here it comes. Ethan tells me, “He went behind the headboard of your bed and he saw that you have a vibrator. That made him very uncomfortable.”

“What he was he doing looking behind my headboard?”

“He said he was looking for a plug.”

“There are many other plugs in my apartment. That’s very invasive. Tell him to stop looking at my stuff.”

The upshot: Ethan mediated an agreement. Rick got $134 off his bill to go to Bed, Bath, & Beyond and buy new sheets, a duvet cover (made no sense, there was nothing wrong with the duvet cover), and a fry pan. I was off the grid in a place with no cell phone service, so I agreed via email. A day later, I wished he were just out of my place.

What did he do with the vibrator? I will never know.

I met Jessa while I was away and told her about his vibrator complaints.

She couldn’t stop laughing.

“OK, first thing, you should have hid your vibrator better.”

“Yeah, I know. Lesson learned. What about my books? Maybe he’s freaking out because I have sex books. In the future, I will write in the profile, ‘need to be okay with bookshelves that contain books like The Tao of Sexology: The Book of Infinite Wisdom.'”

“People always want to look,” she says. “I was staying at an Airbnb in Marin. I couldn’t resist looking in the closet. The coat closet. There was, get this, a skinned wolf hanging from a hanger. Head and all.”

We are all voyeurs, but if you snoop, you might not like what you find.

Here’s the thing. People use Airbnb because it’s affordable and you get to have an authentic experience of living in a real neighborhood in a real home. It’s not a hotel. You cannot expect to stay in a home stripped of personality. If you want to stay in a real person’s home, you have to realize, it is a real person’s home. That person, if she is a woman, may have a vibrator. Or a wolf hanging in the closet.

When I came back, I found a messy kitchen. My other guests had taken care to wash up everything they used. Rick left disinfectant wipes that protect against H1N1 on the kitchen counter. Clearly he was a man concerned about contamination. I felt bad for him for being so controlled by his fears. He also left a large bud of pot. I had a feeling this was not a gift for me, but rather, a forgotten item.

I needed to do something to reclaim my space. Energy clearing, as it were. I stripped the sheets he bought (dark boy colors) to wash them and then I took that bottle of disinfectant wipes and wiped off the head of the HItachi Magic Wand. Just in case.

Ahhh, home sweet home.

Postscript: Some have commented that I should throw away the vibrator. In that case, Airbnb (or Rick) should buy me a new one.