Madison, WI–Exclaiming confidently that “one day she’d deal with that,” area woman Danielle Brook exited out of an email about her retirement fund and proceeded to browse Instagram’s “explore” page for 20 minutes while at work this afternoon. “I just figure that what I really need to do is sit back and let my 401K work for me,” she said. “I shouldn’t touch it too much.” Imagining that it’d be like when she’d write a paper in 10 point font and watch it magically grow when she enlarged it to 12 point font at the end, she assumed that one day decades from now she’d open her account and have plenty of money to retire comfortably. Her Instagram explore page, which featured photos of attractive women on beach vacations, tips about how to exercise the tricep, and videos of drunk college girls falling off tables, kept her blissfully entertained as her retirement fund exploded by $0.02 each month in the background, setting her up to retire by age 130.
“Okay, let’s use our magic powers. Everyone visualize the door opening and how much we’ll laugh when it pops open. Close your eyes. Ready?”
This is not something you want to hear your Airbnb host say.
“We’re doing it!”
This is not something you want to hear yourself saying in response, especially not with sincerity.
Nevertheless, it’s what my friend and I found ourselves doing one fine morning on our road trip. Our home for the night had been an Airstream trailer in our host’s backyard, and now we were stuck. And I had to pee.
Our stay in the trailer had started fabulously. We had hauled our luggage up the stairs, tossed our backpacks into the aisle, and collapsed on a daybed padded with throw pillows. (It was time for our daily siesta, after all!) Our host had explained through our email correspondence that the trailer didn’t have a functioning bathroom, but we could use the restroom in their home. We considered this nothing but a minor issue, especially taking into account how delightful our little spot was. Windows surrounded the bed, allowing the afternoon sun to warm my legs and the baby blue curtains to tickle them as they fluttered in the breeze. Pure bliss!
Unfortunately, my friends, bliss does not a story make.
The next morning, I woke up around 8:00 desperately needing to use the bathroom. I tip-toed over my friend, turned the trailer handle, and pushed.
No problem, I thought. Just push some of these levers. Surveying the locks and buttons on the trailer door, I might as well have been looking at an airplane control panel. There was one metal post sticking out, a “step on” switch (which I could only assume lowered and raised the trailer stairs), and three sliding locks scattered all over the general door region.
I messed with these as quietly as I could, my friend’s peaceful face only inches away from the chaos. I pulled a lock, turned the handle, and pushed and jiggled the door until the whole trailer shook. I walked away (as if trying to fake the door out into thinking it had a break), then ran back at the it, kicking and karate-chopping and throwing my being against it until it shook again and I thought my bladder might give out.
After a few minutes of red-faced, frustrating struggle, I resorted to waking my friend up. Half-asleep, she tried the handle and pushed. “Call our host,” she said, and turned back to sleep.
Twenty minutes later, an ethereal woman with a pile of brunette hair pulled into a giant looping bun walked into the backyard waving her arms. “What happened?” she called. “You’re locked in?”
“I don’t know what happened, but we closed the trailer door and now it won’t open. Maybe there’s some trick to un-jamming it?” I added, trying to not sound like the hysterical idiot I felt like.
“No, this has never happened before, and I don’t have a key,” she said, hands on hips, surveying the scene. She jiggled the handle and pulled, the rocking waking up my friend. That’s when she said it: those fateful words that told me we weren’t getting out anytime soon. “Okay, let’s use our magic powers. Everyone visualize the door opening, and how much we’ll laugh when it pops open. Close your eyes. Ready?”
“We’re doing it,” we responded. And we really were–with gusto. (Our swim coaches used to have our team do this while preparing for big races in high school. The idea wasn’t so different here, right?)
“Shoot,” she said. “Alright, I think there are some keys in the shelves beneath the sink. Why don’t you look there and drop them to me through the hole in the back closet.”
Twenty minutes and lots of rocking later, she surrendered. “My partner is on a bike ride, but he’ll be home in 45 minutes. He’s a man, he has keys; he’ll figure it out.” My friend and I agreed this sounded like a good enough plan and assured her that we had enough air.
Little did she know, air was not the issue. I didn’t want to come right out and admit to this perfect stranger how badly I needed to go to the bathroom, but unfortunately after another half-hour of waiting, I could bear it no longer. Next thing I knew, our hostess was attempting to shove a jar up that same tiny hole in the bottom of the trailer.
Another painful half-hour passed before her partner returned, first trying the keys, then busting out the power drill in attempts to remove the entire door. When that didn’t work, he tried lowering the trailer, but not before he popped up in the window to introduce himself. “Who am I rescuing here?” he asked. “Oh, hi! Nice to meet you.”
Down, down, down went the trailer, and my friend and I exchanged nervous glances as it pitched side to side. Is this really where we’d die? Not in a car accident or a plane crash, but in a tipped Airbnb?
Finally, our hostess decided we could USE THE EMERGENCY EXIT THAT HAD BEEN THERE THE WHOLE TIME, a process that involved nothing more than removing a piece of tape to release the back window’s screen. Whatever. We emerged triumphant but haggard like the rescued Chilean miners, tossing our backpacks out ahead of us and into the garden. Sweet freedom!
Our hostess thanked us for coming and apologized again for the inconvenience. We apologized for breaking her screen, which I suppose is just the Minnesotan in both of us, apologizing for something we really shouldn’t. Overall, I’d still consider our stay a good time, even one of my favorite places on the trip.
I do have to wonder if her guests for that night had to crawl through the back window, though.
I’m curious to hear about others’ experiences with Airbnb. Do y’all love it? Have you had a wild experience? Please, tell me!
Before I sign off, here are just some highlights of the trip, photo-style.
Nothing brings people together quite like being the victims of a shitshow, especially at the hands of Sun Country Airlines.
I saw this bonding of humanity first-hand yesterday when I flew out of the Humphrey Terminal, or “the small terminal,” as it is informally known. This terminal is a joy because once you exit security, it takes maximum 5 minutes to get to your gate. There’s no tram to catch, no moving walkways, no stress. It feels like you’re in Margaritaville. OR SO I THOUGHT.
Being “the small terminal,” I cast aside my usual anxieties about arriving to the airport 2+ hours before my flight, deciding that I could begin my Uber voyage when I’d usually be arriving. Time of flight departure: 7:00 AM. Time on the clock? 5:00.
My Uber driver did his darndest to make it around the labyrinth of summer highway construction, but despite his best efforts, it made a dent in our time, and we rolled up at 5:45 AM. “No problem,” I reassured him. “It’s the small terminal.”
I strutted into the airport grinning, the words “today is the day I go to LA” thumping in my heart and plastered on my face. Ah, but what was that in the distance? Past rows and rows of empty baggage lines, I glimpsed chaos: hoards of people clumped in front of one desk, the group overflowing into the hallway.
No. I blinked, thinking maybe this was a desert mirage already.
Shouts and the sound of gunfire confirmed in was real.* When I got in the line for passengers with boarding passes, a line substantially shorter than that for general check-ins, I felt relieved. Phew, I thought. I’m in the right lane, there are only twelve people ahead of me, and it’s all going to be okay.
Minutes passed, which I knew because I kept impulsively checking my phone, resisting the temptation to text every person in my contacts “UGH GONNA MISS MY FLIGHT.” Then one of the desk employees called out in a strained voice, “All passengers for Fort Lauderdale, all passengers for Fort Lauderdale! Come up and form a line on the left side!”
The family ahead of me sighed. Kids, parents, and youth groups rushed under the line divider and formed a new line next to ours.
“This is ridiculous! They just keep pulling people!” The father in front of me exclaimed, looking around at the many lines. His daughter pointed to a woman in the other line who was wearing black and white patterned bell-bottoms. “We would have been right behind her!” She said with a smile on her face. That woman was only four from the front.
Time on the clock? 6:05 AM.
“All passengers for Atlanta, all passengers for Atlanta!” Another crew of neck pillow-clad jet-setters ducked under the line and dragged their suitcases past every other pissed-off passenger. The line had grown even more frenzied. A group behind me became particularly vocal as they observed the ebbs and flows of the crowd. “Are we moving forwards, or are we just getting closer together?” One woman asked after we took one measly step. “They’re just pulling everyone in front of our line! How is that fair?” “Sun Country used to be top notch, but it has really gone downhill.” Then the woman asked the guy next to her, “So are you flying to Boston for work or for fun?”
Wow. I had assumed they were lifelong friends, but evidently they had just met. Already the family in front and I had established we were both going to LAX, and that if they called our flight up, I needed to stick with them. “You’re part of the family for the day,” the mom said. In that moment, I was happy to be adopted. The mood there reminded me of scenes in apocalyptic movies like The Day After Tomorrow where the regular citizens are trying to escape and people are crowded together and turning against one another but also coming together to fight for their lives. In this case, the four overworked Sun Country employees were the rich and powerful, and they were feeling our wrath, our ignored discontentment bubbling over.
Soon enough, they called LAX to form its own line. It was 6:20. The family ahead of me looked back and nodded to be sure I followed their lead. A charismatic woman who oozed news anchor vibes filed in behind me and guided me from line to line as we continued to be moved around. I think I imprinted on her. “Good luck,” we all said to each other as we checked our bags and rushed to security, giving forlorn glances over our shoulders as if someone might be left behind and killed by the imminent natural disaster.
When we finally arrived to the gate, I saw the family; they’d stopped for coffee and tea after getting through security. “We made it!” The mother cheered when she saw me. On our flight, the news anchor woman stopped to ask about my trip on her way to the bathroom. While I did not enjoy that stressful experience and will never again neglect my duty to arrive 2 hours before a flight, even at the “small terminal,” I was glad to meet those people, and I hope they’re enjoying L.A.
By the way–I’m in L.A. to take a West Coast road trip with my lifelong friend, my partner in debauchery and class projects, my Nathan Fielder’s-wife-to-be. She lives in Los Angeles, so we’re starting here, then journeying up the coast to Vancouver, B.C. beginning tomorrow. Stay tuned for stories of eating, praying, and loving!
*There was not actually gunfire, but it FELT like there could be.
I was moved by a fit of inspiration after eating an airport fruit cup whilst traveling to Seattle, Washington for my cousin’s graduation a few weeks ago. This little ditty goes out to anyone who has fallen prey to Caribou Coffee’s “fresh fruit” assortments, which give melon everywhere a bad name.
Lament of an Airport Fruit Cup
Oh, Airport Fruit Cup, you cost me 5 dollars,
but took so much more of my pride.
When at last I found a fork to eat with
it seemed like you wanted to hide!
‘Where the hell does this thing open?’
I asked, searching for truth in this one life.
Straining and struggling and pulling to death
you stayed shut, the start of my strife.
Oh, Airport Fruit Cup, you were leaking juice,
but from where I could not detect.
If I achieved my goal and pried you open,
Grapes, pineapple and juice would you eject?
We were crammed together in economy class,
just a breath from the nearest stranger.
The man next to be wore a tweed sportcoat;
he watched me strain and could feel the danger.
Then, hark! An Opening! Disguised as a hinge!
You opened with a warm welcome.
But your $5 price tag mocked me with glee,
and I wondered if I could be more dumb.
Your melon was tough, your grapes rather soggy,
And I really don’t mean to complain,
But the pineapple was so tough that out of fear for my bridge,
From eating, I had to refrain.
Oh Airport Fruit Cup, you triumphant bastard,
you fickle lover, you fair-weather friend.
To top it all off, you spilled on my shoes,
and that’s where our journey ends.