I won’t tell you the name of the dude, or of the organization that was having the meeting, because I don’t want the world’s worst Airbnb host Googling himself and finding out that I wrote something, thus compelling him to emerge from his nicely appointed New York apartment and come looking for me. I am a conflict-avoider. But sometimes conflict barges in uninvited. Sometimes you find it on Airbnb. Or, as I now call it, ScarebnFlee.
Here’s the scene: A business meeting in New York, out of the office. Someone booked a nice Airbnb apartment with an outdoor patio. I was in town for this meeting, so hey, I could sleep there too and avoid expensing a hotel room. I was a little apprehensive because I’d never used Airbnb, but I’ve read the stories about horrified owners returning to find Fatty Orgy Cake Smush ’15 in full swing. It seems like there’s less risk on the renter side. User reviews are there to ensure that civility and decorum are maintained through righteous transparency. Such is the way of the sharing economy.
It all started off fine. I buzzed the apartment, and after a moment a guy appeared at the door and let me in—the owner. “Your group is upstairs, to the right,” he said brightly, and I thanked him and went in. I kind of wondered where he’d go for the night. Maybe he crashes on a friend’s couch and gives him a cut on nights when there’s some Airbnb action. In any case, not my problem—or was it? (This, aspiring writers, is what’s known as “foreshadowing the return of the psycho Airbnb guy.”)
We’d all planned to be there pretty late. Dinner and drinks are conducive to brainstorming. But at some point, the owner texted an unexpected commandment: Remember to be out by 9 pm. This occasioned a little back and forth, as the contract said we had the place till the morning. At which point he said he’d be back very soon to throw us all out. This was about two hours after he graciously let me in.
True to his word, he burst in and started yelling “Everyone get out of my house!” Now, there were a dozen of us, mostly guys, some of them big. But that didn’t prevent our Tasmanian devil from straight-up grabbing people like he intended to Road House us out the door one-by-one. Right away, the devil grabbed one of my coworkers by the throat and began shoving him off the patio, toward the front door. My latent meathead tendencies activated, and I wrapped up the aggressor and pulled him off. He was stronger than he looked. Does krokodil give you the strength of a dozen men? After the throat-grabbing, someone called 911, which is a good indication that you’re heading for a less-than-five-star Airbnb review. “Great location, nice kitchen layout, owner assaulted everyone and we called 911.”
Right around this point I got the feeling that he might throw one of us down the stairs. Maybe it was my keen intuition, or maybe it was the fact that he said, “I will literally throw you down the stairs.” I’m quite sure those were his exact words, because after the initial chokehold I started surreptitiously shooting video with my phone. It’s not the greatest footage, because I didn’t want Mr. Bates Motel to realize he was being taped for potential evidence. In fact, I didn’t want him to notice me at all. When in the presence of crazy people, it is my policy to refrain from engagement. Pull him off your coworker: Yes. Attempt to discuss Airbnb cancelation and refund polices: No. Maintain an awareness of the proximity of the kitchen knives: Yes!
Concluding that I would not be sticking it out for the night at this particular pad, I took my suitcase downstairs and awaited the cops. Four NYPD officers arrived, and I debriefed them on the handsy fellow waiting upstairs. “Looks like he got you there,” said one of the cops, gesturing to a tiny scrape on my thumb, a bloodied cuticle. So he did. But I’m no hero. I mean, you can call me that. I won’t correct you. But I’m not like “Status update: feeling super brave.” That doesn’t exist. I looked.
I hoped they’d perp walk him back down in cuffs and I’d tell him that I peed on his toilet seat (even though I certainly didn’t because that would be rude), but the cops returned empty-handed. “Well,” one of them said, “you can’t cure crazy.” A second cop added, “I don’t know if I’d rent that Airbnb again.” They didn’t want anything more to do with this guy than we did.
And we left it at that. We all went out to dinner, and I booked a hotel room. One question remained unanswered: Who showed up at 9 o’clock? I don’t know, but I’m betting they brought cake.