Diary of an AirBnb Host

Phil Collins, hazelnut coffee, and the delightful variousness of strangers

Sarah Smith

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If you’ve always wanted to stay in a third-floor loft in that part of Pittsburgh which is half warehouses and half forest and half old townhouses with prayer flags and Halloween skeletons hanging from the porch, I’ve got good news for you: You can stay in the AirBnb my partner and I are running above our house.

This is _not_ my house. But you get the idea. // Photo by Charlotte May from Pexels

Every time we turn the apartment over between guests, I find J going through his records and grabbing an armful of whatever he thinks the next guest might like. Tinariwen, Phil Collins, Solange, Pharaoh Sanders, Madonna — we’ve got it all. I don’t know how he determines the selection, but it is very serious business, which makes it all the more disappointing that none of our guests have played a record yet. (Are people just anxious around turntables?)

But I do the same thing with books — maybe I’ll add a little Brandon Shimoda and Morgan Parker if they seem really cool.

One of the reasons I typically enjoy staying in AirBnbs is that I find it extremely entertaining to conjecture about the hosts based on the furnishings and condiments. If you’ve ever taken my POV workshop, you know that my whole theory of fiction centers on the idea that every bit of granularity in a character has to say something about who they are, from word choice to narration style to morning egg preferences, and that the secret to rendering consciousness is in making a constellation of decisions which allow the reader to echolocate and inhabit the mind of the character.

So it makes sense that a rented room charged with the tastes and expectations of a human who is not a hotel chain would be as interesting as any character study. Sometimes it’s interesting because the guest quarters are in some part of the house which used to be part of the host’s office or something — like the time we stayed in a poolhouse in Pasadena which, we eventually realized, was the home office of a photographer who produced Ann Geddes-esque portraiture of her little Pomeranian, Mr. Winkle.

But I actually find it equally interesting when the space is completely devoid of such information, because in that event, it serves as a case study of what this AirBnb host considers a normal

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Sarah Smith

Novelist. Tarotist, poet, lazy Virgo. Nothing is real; magic is real. Writing is a way to see in the dark. sarahelainesmith.com, @braindoggies