Despite the critiques they’ve gotten from the Black community over the last few years, I’ve always been a ‘ride or die’ Airbnb fan and use their service on a monthly basis.
Be it Los Angeles, Paris, Amsterdam or Dubai — whenever I hop on a plane to go somewhere, there’s usually a local Airbnb waiting for me to check into and when I need extra money over the holiday, renting out my own space has always been the perfect solution.
This year I had two spare rooms in my home and in the span of a week they both attracted longterm rentals. One was a researcher from Italy who needed a place to stay for two months while he worked at The National Archives here in D.C, and the other was a quiet, frail blonde guy who looked like Bill Nye the Science Guy‘s son, and needed a room for three months during a “transition.”
As a woman, living with two strangers — let alone two men — wasn’t something I’d normally do, but I planned to barely be home over the next few months. Plus, both guys seemed super mellow in their correspondences, and on the days that they moved in, I had friends come over to sniff them out under the guise of a “girls night” on the couch.
My friends had already become accustomed to this routine. As soon as I’d book a guest to stay in my home, they would get a text that essentially amounted to, ‘Hey girl, I need you to come over tomorrow night and meet my new roommate. I’ll order us pizza’ and for the most part, this had always worked. Guests were tickled to get such a warm reception (and free pizza!) on their first night. And I had backup in case anything funky happened.
And for years, this routine went on without a hitch, until last Friday, when the s**t — quite literally — hit the fan.
Friday morning I caught a red-eye from Los Angeles to Washington DC, and quietly tiptoed back into my home around 6:00 a.m. My plan was to take a quick look around to make sure everything was OK, then take a two hour nap before getting up for work.
The first five minutes were peaceful. The downstairs living room looked clear, the kitchen sink was empty of dishes and you could tell that both guests had been mindful about keeping the communal spaces clean.
This was in large part due to the house rules I’d set up as a prerequisite for people staying with me. I was actually patting myself on the back for running such a well-oiled machine, when I got to the top of the stairs and realized my bedroom door had been busted open.
Anyone who has lived with me knows I NEVER leave my bedroom door open, so immediately I was confused. When I walked over the threshhold, I noticed that the chair in front of my vanity table was covered with black clumps of dirt as if someone had borrowed it to change a light bulb, but neglected to wipe off their shoes first.
I made a note to send a sternly worded text in the morning to both tenants about never going into my bedroom to borrow my chair. Then noticed that the dirt on both the vanity and the chair looked odd. Instead of being soft and grainy, ergo dirt like, it was wet and mushy. When I leaned over, I noticed something red and said to myself, ‘Wait… why does that look like an undigested kidney bean?’
It was at that very second that I realized that what I was looking at wasn’t soil at all because it was human feces. There were piles of it lying in clumps all over my bedroom floor.
That is the point where I nearly lost it.
From what I remember, I knocked on the door of the Italian researcher and without any pleasantries asked, “Did you go in my room?!”
When he came to the door he looked just confused as I had been earlier and said, “No, but I noticed your door was open yesterday.”
To which I responded, “Then how did this pile of s**t end up on my chair?” while waving said chair in his face.
He looked at me like I was a madwoman as he ducked away from the caked up cushion and it’s one, lone kidney bean. The horror on his face let me know he probably wasn’t the culprit.
Without saying a word, I stormed off downstairs to my basement bedroom, with the confused Italian (whose name I’m withholding because he’s been through enough) trailing behind me wearing nothing more than an oversized t-shirt.
When I banged on the basement door and opened it to scream at Nick — my other guest whose name I have no qualms sharing — his frail figure emerged from the darkness.
“Nick,” I said in a strained voice. “Do you have any idea why there are PILES OF S**T all over my bedroom?”
Without skipping a beat he nonchalantly said, “Oh no. I’ve done this before. I got drunk and blacked out.”
His admission hit me over the head like a ton of bricks, because as a Black person, I know for a fact that I don’t have the luxury of going to a white person’s house and taking a dump all over their stuff without the threat of being called an n-word, or even worse, getting shot and killed.
That’s just one of the many things on the list that Black people know better to even think about doing, very specifically because we are Black.
Nick, clearly has never had to live within such boundaries and actually looked at me like he needed instructions on what to do next. Through gritted teeth I told him he needed to go up to my room and clean the mess he made, then I sat on the couch and did every breathing exercise I could think of to hold it together.
It took me a few minutes to realize that my guest from Italy was still standing in the living room, staring at me with bugged eyes as he tried to make sense of why there was a guy wiping up piles of poo upstairs while his Airbnb host sat on the couch looking homicidal.
“You can go to bed, none of this is your fault.” I told him. Then added, “Sorry for waving the poo in your face earlier,” as he cautiously walked past me towards the stairs.
“America is a strange place,” he mumbled more to himself than to me.
When I regained my composure I got up, and found Nick in my room wiping up the turds on the floor with one of my t-shirts, and yet again had to *woosah* away the urge to lay hands on him. When he was done, he got up, gave me a blank stare that eerily reminded me of church shooter, Dylann Roof, then averted his eyes and slunk off without so much as an apology.
That’s when I went from being angry to being scared.
I’d covered the Charleston church massacre and Parkland school shooting for work, so I have a reference for a lot of these young men (often referred to as incels) who commit these crimes after being labeled as frail, seemingly mild mannered loners, who appear “harmless”. But then emerge from the dark with rifles and start shooting at everyone.
Nick, fit that profile and had even mentioned in passing that at 31-years-old, he’d never had a girlfriend (which is a typical lived experience for incels).
As I watched him retreat down my stairs back towards the basement, my adrenaline kicked in and I quickly texted a friend that I was coming over, while gathering the luggage I’d just walked into the house with a 30 minutes earlier.
As soon as I heard Nick go to the bathroom, I ran out of my house and hopped into the Lyft I had waiting outside. I didn’t realize just how scared I was until we safely drove away and I noticed how hard my hands were shaking while I called the Airbnb customer service line.
I told the operator that my guest had busted down my bedroom door, taken a dump on my vanity chair, left piles of feces all over my floor, wiped his stained hands all over my sheets and pillows and THEN pulled out his penis and peed in my house slippers.
I confessed I wasn’t just upset at what he’d done, but also worried about his mental state. And the rep seemed sympathetic at first. But when I told her I planned to call the police and have him removed from my home, she asked me to hold off and let Airbnb contact him instead.
“We may be able to peacefully resolve this matter and get him to leave on his own,” she explained.
I took that advice for about 20 minutes, until I got to my friends house and both she, and my coworkers advised me Airbnb was just trying to cover themselves and I needed to get the authorities involved immediately.
They were all proven correct, because for three hours customer service gave me the run around, until finally I’d had enough and started writing about that morning’s events on my social media accounts.
And it very quickly made the rounds.
Once my post got traction, I got an inbox message from the company’s Twitter account asking for details so they could help me expedite my complaint.
After four hours it seemed like Airbnb was finally working on my case in earnest, so my friend and I drove back to my house and called the police to meet us there.
Coincidentally, we drove past a cop car just one block away from my home and figured he’d probably be dispatched to us and show up in a few minutes.
Boy were wrong.
It took that cop 45 minutes to drive the one block over from where he’d been parked.
“I wonder if we interrupted his nap,” my friend quipped as he stepped out of his car looking like he had JUST finished Thanksgiving dinner.
From the onset we knew he wasn’t taking us seriously. When we went in the house he was gone for five minutes and came back actually smirking. Apparently, the same Nick who had been glassy-eyed with me that morning, had somehow morphed into “Puss in Boots” for the police, played victim and gotten the cop to feel bad for him.
All in those measly five minutes.
“He’s really sorry ma’am,” the D.C officer explained. “He’s so humiliated. I think the kid has a drinking problem and doesn’t even remember sh**ting all over your room. All we have is your word for it. Plus, this isn’t even illegal.”
That’s last part made me chime up and point out that defacing property IS most definitely illegal and that Nick had already confessed, so we were past, the “IF he did it,” point.
The cop looked dejected by the news of the confession and tried another tactic.
“He’s harmless,” he opined. “While I was in there I asked him what he would’ve done to you if you’d been in the room when he busted in. And his response was ‘I honestly don’t know.’ And that’s when I told him, ‘You’re small so she probably would’ve whooped your tail!”
The officer chuckled at his own anecdote as I stood there red faced with my hands balled in a fist.
Let me get this straight, a 31-year-old man just admits to you that he doesn’t know WHAT he would’ve done to me had I been peacefully sleeping in my OWN bed when he broke into my bedroom. And rather than be alarmed by that confession, your respond by assuring him that I — the big Black woman — probably would’ve been the bigger threat?
On what planet is that not a problematic statement?
In the end the cop felt so bad for Nick that he didn’t even escort him off my property, and just left us all standing there on my porch.
It’s one thing to constantly read, or even write, about the disparities in how police treat white people as opposed to Black people, but that still doesn’t prepare you for how demoralizing it is to witness and be subject to it in person.
That officer took one look at me, then at the man who destroyed my home and chose a side with him based on race and gender rather than on merit. Not even a stinky pile of dung could free him from that bias.
Had I been a wispy Reese Witherspoon look-a-like, and my guest been a brother from the block, something tells me the response we got would have been drastically different, with the officer insisting my assailant leave immediately or risk being arrested for trespassing.
The way the D.C police handled my situation felt like a second betrayal, and it’s by the grace of God that Nick didn’t have a gun on him or turn violent after that cop drove off.
As for Airbnb, after I had my own teary-eyed chat with a senior member of their solutions team, they agreed to pay me for the entirety of Nick’s three month commitment, sent both me and my Italian guest to a hotel for the night, and are paying for the cleaning crew that showed up, and the replacement of all my s**t-stained property.
And as for Nick, well apparently he was able to book a new Airbnb room within hours of this incident and is now staying with an unsuspecting soul who has no idea that he uses the bathroom in random places when he’s drunk.
If s/he happens to be reading this, in the words of Whoopi Goldberg, “You in danger girl!”