Back in America

“Any woman who wants to date you right now isn’t worth dating.”

These were the words told to my buddy by his critical mother. As he relayed their interaction to me, the line resonated.

It’s been almost two weeks since coming back to America. Part of me is grateful to be home, the other part still feeling entirely disconnected as I wade through the late-winter heat of Florida.

My slice of humble pie has been doled out in the form of sleeping on the carpeted floor of a shared bedroom, plus dealing with an Airbnb host who completely despises my existence.

I’m sure this will all make a great story one day, but for now my back and neck have broken out in acne sores that itch every time I go to sleep at night.

No one ever promised the road to greatness, or even financial security, would be easy. There is a certain romance to riding the bus lines filled with shady characters who would probably stab me if there was a guarantee that repercussions wouldn’t come. It’s like getting to experience an alternate reality, one where I didn’t grow up in a middle-class neighborhood with all the comforts of stability that every child deserves to have.

This period of struggle isn’t all bad. At least I got Saint James here with me. He sleeps in until 10 A.M. and then bikes off to Starbucks every morning, leaving me quarantined inside the four walls of our room until dinner time. At that point I mercifully walk downstairs and hope the matriarch of this transplanted home doesn’t take umbrage with me cooking chicken on her stove top.

“I found grease in the blender yesterday,” she said not too long back.

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Her words didn’t make any sense, considering the only thing I put in blenders are fruit, spinach, and whole milk. But she’s the type of bird who needs to be heard, and I’m just the unlucky soul who has drawn her ire this time around.

It wasn’t until I got down here that I realized this Airbnb has received disproportionately poor reviews. In line with my distaste, all the reviews complain about the wife, which then leaves her tolerant husband to defend her honor by replying to all the one-star ratings.

My turn to write this place a review will come in two weeks, bringing about many thoughts on the practice of writing reviews on Airbnb.

Reviews carry so much weight on the internet, and in the case of something as intimate as an Airbnb, a damaging review could leave a homeowner without bookings for months.

That means that if I condemn this woman and detail her abhorrent behavior, I could be taking money out of the family’s collective mouth.

This is the tricky part: deciding if I as the customer should lower my expectations and not write a review that will be perceived as negative.

I could take the high road and say that everything went great. This will avoid a confrontation on the internet, but I don’t feel this specific listing has earned that favor.

Airbnb is not a charity. It’s a service. I’m not in this house due to the good graces of some random homeowner. I’m here expecting to receive a semblance of hospitality. If I don’t receive that service, it’s not my responsibility to bottle those emotions up simply because it makes the homeowner’s life more difficult.

This same situation happened in Shanghai a few years back (wow, noting the elapsing of time makes me feel old).

A friend and I took a bike tour orchestrated by an entrepreneur on Airbnb. It was supposed to be a four-hour long event, including a trip to a local restaurant, plus a bar.

But three hours later, and without a visit to a bar, the tour abruptly ended.

“That’s it,” the tour guide smiled, then said goodbye.

Because I can be shy, and hate being confrontational, especially with women, my friend and I left. When my phone dinged and Airbnb wanted me to write a review the next day, I did.

Here’s what it looked like:

 

Naturally, our host did not take kindly to my review, and then proceeded to go nuts. She sent me nasty emails, wrote disparaging comments on my social media, and even threatened to contact people she said could throw me in jail or have me deported.

Her reaching a level of hysteria, OVER AN AIRBNB REVIEW, was mind-boggling. But it’s exactly what I’m trying to avoid this time around.

Some people would tell me to play nice and move on quietly, that life will move along and I won’t even think about it in a few weeks. Perhaps true, but I hate that mindset. It doesn’t force people to be accountable, and then my brain is left to agonize over someone else’s shortcomings.

It doesn’t seem right to cater to an Airbnb host’s feelings and business. If I went to a restaurant and was served an undercooked burger, few would expect me to simply be quiet and move on.

But as individuals become more entrepreneurial with the advents of Uber, Airbnb, etc., it will be interesting to see how society begins to measure a service. Only time will tell if my measurement is accurate.

***

Days have been going by quickly lately. I can see why the old-timers say life is short. I’m almost 28 years old, and besides Discover telling me I have an “exceptional” credit score, there are no material items I possess that would make anyone envious.

Last week I wrote about the Florida dating scene, lamenting its strange inhabitants. Some of you thought it was relatable and funny, others sent me messages commenting on my inability to get laid. Frankly, the latter isn’t terribly off.

I’ve come to this realization: I’m not a kid anymore. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not a man either. I’m simply in this awkward middle ground.

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It’s no longer cool to be a young man figuring things out. I’m getting to be that age where the money has to come in. I have to provide for a woman, but also myself. No more gallivanting around the world in the name of debauchery and experiences.

The shift in ideology is difficult. I’m not well-trained in conforming to what the job market wants. I much prefer to create my own market and take a lesser paycheck. But as bills pile up and rent becomes more expensive, it’s time to blend those two universes, to put to good use the education my parents spent their hard-earned money on.

Or else one day my mom may also levy me with a spirited critique of any potential significant other.

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