My wife and I have stayed in many Airbnbs and have found toxic landlords with funny rules.
I can understand being *fined* for smoking in the house as it requires special cleaning of curtains and sofas to get rid of the smell and make it liveable again.
But some homeowners go to extremes to make your stay annoying: “Check out time is 11am. Make sure you get out of there at that time. My cleaning crew is on a tight schedule.”
We start packing the night before to make sure we are not caught red-handed by the cleaners and handed over to the Airbnb Police, or find more money docked out of our credit cards for dilly-dallying, dawdling about, and hanging around, when we should be out of the door at 11 sharp.
One homeowner asked us to wash the plates, empty the garbage and leave the place neat and clean before we leave. I noticed that we were paying a separate *cleaning charge* even though we cleaned the place ourselves.
Not all landlords are like that though. One Chinese homeowner had stocked the fridge with milk, bread, eggs, tea, green tea, bottled water, a cereal with seeds, and coffee.
One of our difficult landlords said he has provided us with cooking oil, and I finally found it in a cabinet and it was huge, weighing a ton, like the one which you find in Costco, and which your next generation would still be using in the year 2037.
Or like the massive packet of rusks my wife bought from Walmart online; it was large enough to last us for many famines, and the poor delivery guy looked at us strangely when we opened the door to take it out of his hands.
While we are on the subject of humungous packages, let me vent about milk cartons that weigh a ton. Imagine if you’re old and trying to pour a little milk in your coffee mug or tea cup; I would lose my balance and then run around the kitchen trying not to flop on the ground with the heaviest milk carton in the world, like the aerial acrobat in Cirque du Soleil.
One ominous rule from another homeowner: Respect the *quiet* time on week days that start at 10pm, and 11pm on weekends. “Definitely, no partying in this house”. “Respect your neighbours”.
I was not going to take a chance on this one. I am a late sleeper and when everyone went to bed in our home, I switched on the TV to binge on Netflix serials.
I do not usually watch TV like my late mother-in-law who watched Republic TV with Arnab Goswami, the shouting host who would shush all his guests, at a blaring volume, but when I switched on the TV, the sound bar started screaming.
If you haven’t lived in a North American suburb, let me show you how boring and very quiet it usually is; people go to sleep at 9pm, just as the sun is setting in summer, and crooks and the bad people wonder whether they should migrate to some other place more exciting.
I tried desperately to mute the sound bar but the remote was missing, so I ran to the wall and pulled out the plug and the TV picture disappeared into a tiny white dot on the screen.
But the neighbour’s dog had heard the sound bar, and objected. I half expected a cop at the door asking me to show my fishing license or something. “You know this is a respectable neighbourhood, sir.”
For the rest of the night, I watched the show on mute and reading the subtitles. It was a Bollywood movie and when the hero started singing, the subtitles started getting overly romantic and a bit hilarious.
Renting an Airbnb has its advantages, according to my wife, who usually books us into someone’s home. “It is not impersonal, like a hotel,” she says.
Mahmood Saberi is a storyteller and blogger based in Bengaluru, India. Twitter: @mahmood_saberi