So we bought a house.
Unbeknownst to me – a lifelong renter, this decision came with certain stipulations. When we showed up to the house on moving day, the yard looked nothing like it did on the day of the walkthrough the week before. It looked more like a jungle than a manicured lawn.
That’s when it hit me. Oh right. I have to take care of this now. So it was off to Home Depot. Aisle 49. I immediately asked for help - given that I haven’t yanked on a starter cord since the late 90s.
“Hi, I need to buy a lawnmower?” Out of sorts, I spoke in question form.
She responded, “Well, do you have any idea of what you’re looking for?”
I did not.
The orange-aproned assistant looked at me like I was an alien, as opposed to an adult. What grown man knows nothing about the most basic machine of modern American life?
Eventually, she recommended the Toro 22 Kohler Low Wheel Variable Speed Gas Walk Behind Self Propelled model. Cool.
So I lifted one onto a flatbed trolley thingy, checked out, loaded it into my SUV and headed home. There, I unboxed the beast, taking an hour to interpret the assembly instructions and putting it all together. That’s when I noticed something was wrong. Inside the box, there was an empty container of oil. That’s odd. So I looked a little closer at the mower. I turned it upside down. There were lawn clippings caked onto the underbelly. I bought a used mower. Fun.
So I had a decision to make. Return it and start all over. Or fire it up and forget about it. I chose the latter. I mowed the backyard like a pro. But did I stop there? Hell no. I mowed the front yard, the side yard and in between the bushes too. I turned our suburban jungle into our children’s Shangri-La.
I became a man with a mower. And it only took 22 years.
When I arrive at work each morning, I don’t enter on Madison Ave with the caravan of briefcase-carrying commuters dressed in spiffy suits. Nope, I come in the side door with my bike, and up the service elevator. It’s here every day where I meet and greet with the hard-hat wearing, callused-handed workers. They make me feel physically inferior. And they always seem happy. One older gentleman in particular. He’s from Montenegro and he operates the freight elevator on the evening shift. Since I haven’t figured out how pronounce his name, let’s call him ‘Gligor.’ Gligor is a spitting image of Gepetto from Pinocchio. His hair is bright white, his eyes wide and curious. And he loves to carve puppets out of pinewood. Not that last part, but he does love to talk about Eastern Europe. He’s very proud man of his heritage. Which led him to ask me one day where my family is from. I told him Romania. Somehow, perhaps lost in translation, he took this to mean I was literally from Romania. So now, every evening on my way down the service elevator, I get questions like:
“Where were you born?” and “Was it hard growing up there?” and “How are finding America?”
Side note: When I applied for my student visa in college, I wrote ‘Romania’ as my Country of Origin so I guess I had this coming.
One night, Gligor made a special stop on the 12th floor to introduce me to a cleaning lady. “Eric, meet Olga. She too is from Romania. I thought maybe you could talk with her.” Sorry Olga, my Romanian is rather rusty.
Does anything about me scream, or even suggest, that I’m anything other than full-blooded, over-privileged American? I’ve tried to explain, but it’s no use. To him, we’re Eastern European allies. I have no choice, as long as I’m working at this job, I’ll be known to Gligor as the Romanian bike rider on the 20th floor.
My white lie keeps growing and growing, along with my nose.
There’s laughter in manslaughter.
Every letter of my first name is in my last name. #humblebrag.
The # symbol is also called the octothorpe in some parts.
The wheels on the bus do if fact go round and round. The science is still out on the wipers going swish swish swish.
Mute buttons are a workplace safety hazard.
Sex sells and space smells.
In Pennsylvania, administering a love potion is a third-degree misdemeanor.
The word ‘left’ his hypocritical (meaning ‘departed’ or ‘remaining’). ‘Custom’ is too.
Mints can be eaten like candy.
A dentist invented cotton candy (which was also called candy floss).
If you fear Friday the 13th, you have friggatriskaidekaphobia or paraskevidekatriaphobia.
If you fear long words, you suffer from hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia. Which just seems cruel.
An email I received this week:
Dear Eric Terchila,
Dimensional Mobile Solutions are one of the most influential software developers, specializing in mobile and tablet platforms. Our solutions for mobile and tablet market have proved to gain extreme success, this is why we are looking to expand our team and gain more representation in USA. We offers you the position of Asset Manager(Invest). You have the unique opportunity to earn over $1380 per week, working from 9 am to 5 pm! This position does not require financial investments. The hiring process is in strict accordance with the employment laws of USA. If you are interested in this position, please send your request by e-mail.
Senior HR Manager, John Merritt
Dimensional Mobile Solutions
My reply email:
Thank you very much for your generous offer. As it turns out, I’m very familiar with your company. The work you’re developing for the new Android OS specifically pertaining to asset management is truly inspirational and revolutionary. Therefore, consider this my official acceptance. My strong background in investment strategy will translate well to this new position. I’m very happy to hear that you abide by the USA employment laws and that you don’t require any fees from me upfront. What a relief. I can’t tell you how many suspicious job offers I’ve received.
One question….$1380 per week seems fair, but does this include a lunch break and dental insurance? Not a deal breaker. Just curious.
I'm very much looking forward to this. I assume I start Monday, correct? Just let me know where to report and where to send my SS# and bank routing info.
I’m at the airport. I need to go to the bathroom. I zip in. Unzip. Do my thing. Zip up. Then zip out. On my way, I see this little gizmo on the wall – prompting me to leave feedback by physically touching this filthy screen. But wait, I just washed my hands, a full lather, whilst singing Happy Birthday (not out loud). Now this tablet of emojis are exposing me to whatever traveling germs are festering on their faces. What do I do? I had a good experience in there. Floors were mopped. Very little backsplash from the wash basins. I felt compelled to press ‘Green Smiley Face.’ So I go for it. Life is short. I cast my vote. It’s my unalienable right and privilege as an American citizen and airline traveler, dammit. Immediately after, I felt gross. So I went back in to rewash my hands. “Happy birthday to you. Hap….” As I’m walking back out, there they are again. These two faces, staring at me, judging me. What to do....
After two and a half years as a freelance Creative Director, I’m leaving the world of sole-proprietorship for a full-time position. Was it scary freelancing/being occasionally unemployed? Sure, at times. Was it rewarding? Absolutely.
Here are the things I learned as a freelance creative:
Not having a steady paycheck often leads to 2pm pillow-screaming sessions because instead of working, you’re lying in bed looking at dead end job boards.
Some freelancers get used to it. I did not. I don’t have the stomach for ‘slow’ – a word overused by people in charge of hiring. In January, slow means the sleepy winter. In July, it means the summer doldrums. In November, it means the impending holiday season. It always seemed to be slow when I was busy looking for work. On the flip side, when you sign on for a long stint and find consistent work, the financial reward is more gratifying than heroine (so I’m told).
Turns out, freelancing is a sales job.
Sure, I worked as a commission-based sales associate at Radio Shack during college, but I was consistently out-performed by the hustlers. Selling makes me feel desperate and dirty. As a freelancer, I never got used to sending out feeler emails, or LinkedIn requests with ‘witty’ messages or hassling work friends and contacts with messages like “Hey there, just checking in.” That part I will surely not miss. I can sell ideas no problem. But I find it hard to sell myself when I really really need to work.
Freelancers are ibuprofen in human-form.
You are called upon to erase headaches for the higher-up who hired you. Apathy is not an option. You are brought in to solve problems, usually because there’s too much work for the staff (who may be worn down by the grind of the project). Your job is to show up with a smile on your face and give them something new and hopefully remedy whatever ails them.
Always over deliver.
If the brief is to write three TV scripts, present six. Better yet, ten. As long as they’re good. And always give at least one idea that arguably goes too far. Something unexpected. Funny or controversial or weird. At one long-term gig, when my freelance partner and I would present our ideas, they’d ask, “So where’s the wacky idea?” Apparently, we built a reputation for pushing boundaries.
Working weekends is awesome.
You get paid your day rate, while you work alongside the salary-based full-timers. #winning
Asking for the best rate is tricky science. How do you know if you’re selling yourself short by going low, or pricing yourself out by asking too much? If they accept your offer right away, you didn’t ask for enough. If they never return your email or your follow up email or your LinkedIn message or your final follow up email, yah, you went too high.
Buying your own health insurance plan will make you want to gouge your eyes out.
Put the tablespoon down. Because the only policy you can afford has a $1500 a month premium and a max-out-of-pocket of $12,000. That doesn’t include corrective surgery or frames or contacts. Thanks, VSP. So hold off on the eye-gouging.
Other lessons I learned…the difference between a W2 &1099 and LLC & S-Corp. Okay, I still don’t totally know the difference. Someday.
I hate-loved freelancing. At the end of each year, I made more money (but worked less) than I would have full time, but I had to sweat it out the entire way. I worked on new projects constantly, but rarely saw any project through to the end. I stayed sharp and learned how to work in different ways with different people, but wasn’t at any place long enough to become part of the culture.
Freelance has its merits, but I’m totally fine working really hard and having some security. And a little less pillow-screaming and eye-gouging for a while.
Last year, I wrote about my ambitious - if not obsessive - project to read all the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction winners going back in time (I knocked out 2017 – 1994). I’ve picked up the pace a since then. 1993 – 1953 (40 years of Updike, Faulkner and a whole heap of slavery) is officially in the books. Sorry, I couldn’t resist the obvious pun. Here are the best page-turners of the bunch:
1990 – The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love – Oscar Hijuelos
The story of Cesar and Nestor. Cuban-born performers who become famous in NYC playing Mambo in dance clubs in the '50s. Some scenes are sexually explicit if you’re into that.
1986 – Lonesome Dove – Larry McMurty
Texas rangers Woodrow and Augustus go on a cattle drive from southern Texas to Montana in the 1870s Old West. Few novels should be 1000 pages. This is one.
Then, a big jump until the next great book (with the exception of Norman Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song in 1980 about Gary Gilmore who’s on Death Row. I’m leaving it off because it’s pretty much a non-fiction story. Although it’s a compelling read if you have a free month…1100 pages). Just like music, the 1970s were mostly forgettable. Let’s skip to 1961. For the best three-year stretch of novels in American history.
1961 – To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee
Hard to argue with this classic about racial tension, hard work and responsibilities of parenthood during the Great Depression. Atticus Finch is one of the most iconic literary characters ever conceived.
1960 – Advise and Consent – Allen Drury
Drury was a Washington correspondent so he used his knowledge to write a captivating story about the internal workings of DC. The President nominates a polarizing candidate for Secretary of State. Lies, deceit, paranoia, corruption and blackmail ensue. Totally unrelatable today, right?
1959 – The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters – Robert Lewis Taylor
Jaimie and his father venture from Kentucky to California during the mid-19th Century gold rush. En route…tornados, fires, famine, outlaws and Indians. Lots of Indians. Epic, unforgettable story.
30ish books to go. Why are they getting longer? Why can’t I understand anything William Faulkner writes? Why doesn’t the library circulate books pre-1950? This project is making me tired. But why stop now?
I'm the map!
I’ve made a concerted effort - to attempt – to muster the strength – to dig down deep – to not just stomach children cartoons, but to somehow try and enjoy them. I’ve experience a certain degree of success. Bubble Guppies is incredibly well produced, with catchy songs and substantial storylines. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (although a bit dumbed-down) is fairly entertaining as well as familiar. Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is educational and teaches practical principles. For example: how to properly potty train. “If you have to go potty, stop and go right away. Flush and wash and be on your way.” Never a wiser lyric has been written.
But goodness gracious, Dora The Explorer, we need to have a talk about your friend Map. Dora, your adventures are fun and exciting. I love trekking through a rainforest and navigating a cave and climbing a waterfall in order to save Baby Jaguar. But…your sidekick ‘Map’ needs to go. Immediately. Warning: the following video may be unsuitable for young children, and adults alike.
If there was an award given to the world’s most annoying 30 seconds, it would be that - a segment edited into many of Dora’s adventures when she needs a trusty guide. This shrill voice haunts my dreams. Who wrote, cast and directed this character? Did they do it on purpose, to ruin people’s lives? Map, do you really need to tell me 15 times in a row who you are?
I’m annoyed. I’m annoyed. I’m annoyed. I’m annoyed. I’m annoyed. I’m annoyed. I’m annoyed. I’m annoyed. I’m annoyed. I’m annoyed. I’m annoyed. I’m annoyed. I’m annoyed. I’m annoyed. I’m annoyed.
Map - you’re frightening my children. They're bound to grow up afraid of roadtrips and backcountry hikes. Can you please dial down your deafening delivery? Better yet, as Daniel Tiger might say, “there’s a place you need to go.” Flushed and on your way. Maybe then, I can go back to enjoying Dora with my impressionable children.
¡Vámonos! to you, Map.
I live exactly 7.2 miles from work. One would think that would render an easy commute. The B train to the F train. Easy. Only 13 stops and a two-minute walk on either end. When I ride my bike, it takes about 35 minutes. Today….notsomuch.
8:12 Walk to 86th Street Station. On my way I check the MTA app. It says the B train is rerouting on the F line due to signal issues in Brooklyn. Great! I don’t need to transfer trains.
8:14 All abroad the B Train. Ride two stops. Here, the conductor announces we are being held due to traffic. The homeless man next to me took exception but eventually fell back asleep.
8:35 We begin moving, arrive next at 34th Street. We wait here for no known reason. The F Train pulls up on the adjacent platform. But I stay put because, remember, my train has been rerouted over the same line. I get to keep my coveted seat.
Just as the F Train pulls away, my conductor makes a timely announcement: “Ladies and Gentleman, because of an incident ahead, this train will go out of service at 2nd Avenue (one stop before I need to get off). Why he didn’t announce that while the F Train was still in the station is beyond me. So all those Brooklyn-bound like me were suddenly stranded.
8:58 Arrive at 2nd Avenue. As I’m getting off the train to wait for the F Train, the conductor makes yet another announcement. “The situation ahead has been cleared up, so now we’re running on the normal B line.” I needed the F line anyway, so I got off and waited another several minutes for the F.
9:07 I finally get to work - an hour after leaving my apartment 7.2 miles away. That’s like nine minutes per mile – I could've slowly jogged here faster.
1. B line on its regular route
2. B line rerouted to the F line.
3. B line ending at 2nd Ave.
4. B line back on its regular route.
The B train changed lines four times on one ride. Causing major confusion, anxiety and upheaval. In other words, Friday.
Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to all. Or, in the words of the drunken gentleman sitting next to me on the subway last night who was accidentally nudged awake by another rider:
“That’s what I’m talking about…show some respect, you...(the rest of his rant is omitted for reasons of indecency).
This begs the question, what was he 'talking about' as sugar plums danced in his head? Who knows, but I wasn't about to join the discussion.
Ho Ho Ho from NYC.
R.E.M. (previously established and universally recognized as the best band of all time) put out a 25th Anniversary edition of their iconic album Automatic For The People this year. I mentioned this to people at work and their response was, “R.E.Who?” This goes as no surprise given that I’m the only person in the entire company born before 1980. To assure myself I’m not totally washed up, I’ve compiled another edition of the best music of 2017. See, there is life after Michael, Mike, Peter and Bill. Forget it. Enjoy.
Sign up (free) for Google Music to listen to the songs, or find them on your music platform of choice.
20. Cold Little Heart - Michael Kiwanuka - Big Little Lies Theme Song
19. Big Sur - Jack Johnson - a best-of staple
18. You’re in Love With a Psycho – Kasabian - London legends
17. You’re Welcome - Dwayne Johnson - song from Moana (I have children)
16. Legend Has It - Run The Jewels - Killer Mike kills it
15. 95 Radios - Open Mike Eagle (Has-Lo) - just chill
14. Come Back, Barack - Chance The Rapper (SNL) - please?
13. Want You Back – HAIM - good songs back-2-back
12. Momentz - Gorillaz (De La Soul) - catchy
11. HUMBLE. - Kendrick Lamar - top of his game
10. Bad Liar - Selena Gomez - surprisingly legit
09. Darling - Real Estate - impossibly inoffensive
08. Don’t Take The Money - Bleachers (Lorde) - unplugged version
07. In the Morning I’ll Be Better – Tennis - moody magic
06. Holding On - The War on Drugs - inescapable
05. Everything Now - Arcade Fire - digestible disco
04. Mildenhall - The Shins - they’re just pros
03. Day I Die - The National - morbid but epic
02. New York - St. Vincent - she’s a genius
01. Call The Police - LCD Soundsystem - out of ‘retirement’ into #1 slot
For those interested in a deeper dive, here’s 20 more songs that were in contention:
Yelling 'fire' in a crowded theater. Explosives in your luggage. Rebroadcasting without the NFL'S express written consent. Foie Gras. Some things should be prohibited for good reason. But swimming in the ocean? Come on now. On an unusually warm day in early October, I took a 90-minute subway ride, wetsuit in tow, to Rockaway Beach to do to a little open ocean swimming. Because that’s a normal thing to do, right? Here, I came across this sign (seen above) on the boardwalk.
The beach was empty, presumably because it was October, so it's reasonable to assume that unsupervised swimming in the Atlantic Ocean would be frowned upon. But illegal? No way. It’s not like someone owns the ocean. "Who's going to arrest me, the beach police?" I argued with myself as I applied body glide to my neck and slipped into my neoprene suit. Then I dived into the chilly but refreshing water and swam out beyond the break. Out there it was just me, hungry pelicans circling overhead and who knows what lurking below. Every few strokes, I looked to shore. Paranoid, not of sharks, not of getting beaked by a giant bird, but of the imaginary beach police.
How would they arraign me? Would they swim out in full uniform and cuff me? Would they borrow a net from a local fisherman and snatch me up? I was a crawl stroke criminal who needed to be punished to the full extent of the law. In jail, a cellmate would ask me, "What are you in for?" I’d answer back, "Swimming in the 68th-degree." I’d have that clever answer locked and loaded. "Didn’t you see the sign?" they'd ask. "Yeah, I saw it. And I went in anyway." I'd be feared and revered amongst the other inmates.
The ocean isn't something that should prohibited. It should be available to anyone at anytime. It’s all of ours. Sunbathers, metal detectors, fishermen with nets. And nonconformist swimming idiots. Let us not forget them.
I’ve been wearing glasses of various shapes, colors, materials and styles (I use this term loosely) since 1989. Over the years, I’ve struggled to find a foolproof way to clean my lenses without subjecting the AR-coated surfaces to streaks or worse…scratches. Here are some attempted methods:
The ‘F-It’ method
Any shirt sleeve, inside out pants pocket, paper towel, bath towel or anything I could get my hands on was fair game. This ruined my first pair of 4-eyed geek wear.
The ‘Spray’ method
I’d carry around a little plastic pump but that was cumbersome and clumsy and still didn’t prevent my pair of metal-rimmed, spring-hinged basics from premature demise.
The ‘Microfiber’ method
My ophthalmologist swore by it. This was relatively effective, that is until the microfiber got invaded by a microscopic speck of debris. Poof, my favorite specs were scratched beyond repair. Happy trails, retro black plastics.
As I got older and put more of a premium into my facial accessories, I knew I needed a system of proper preservation. So after years of trial and eyewear, I invented my own efficacious method. Introducing:
The ‘Foam an Blow’ method
Here’s how it works:
1. Wet the lenses in cool water (dear god, not hot)
2. Pump one dollop of foam soap (opposed to lens-killing liquid, bar, bath or dish soap).
3. Gently apply…and quickly rinse (as to not allow the chemicals of the soap to seep in)
4. Like a high-pressure dryer at a drive-thru car wash, blow four times with fast, furious, breaths – once on each side of each lens. So far my Sally Jesse’s are holding strong.
Will people at work and at restaurants and various other public places look at you strangely as if you're some kind of human hand dryer? Yes they will. But you can look back at them through your clean, crystal clear glasses without worry. And isn’t that what matters most?
I wonder what this common office cactus must be thinking.
It's designed to survive in the harshest, hottest climates on Earth.
With a stem that allows the storage of water through long periods of drought.
A waxy coating that prevents the loss of moisture in arid conditions.
And prickly spines that deter coyotes and other desert dwellers from attack.
Yet here it resides, reduced to a domesticated trinket in a tiny clay pot on a decorative bookshelf in the reception area of a hipster office in Dumbo Brooklyn.
New York is the city of immigrants. But somehow I imagine this poor cactus is just a little homesick for the unforgiving, unhumidified, ungentrified high desert of the Mojave.
Last week, I wrote about a perk to freelancing. This week it’s about a peeve.
Carpet Bomb Job Posting Emails. I get them a lot. Like a lot a lot. Sometimes they’re promising. Mostly they’re pollution. The worst ones are those that were clearly sent to everyone who lives in the greater New York metropolitan area either looking for a job or forgot to unsubscribe from this email blast.
This morning, I was working with my art director partner. He mentioned that he just got an email about a creative director job posting. Then, my phone lit up with a notification. It was the same exact email he just received:
Happy Friday! Hope all is well! We wanted to let you know about an exciting new opportunity our team just received! Creative Director - Freelance to Full Time - NYC. The ideal candidate will have 7+ years experience and a strong track record of executing digital and social campaign work. If you are interested and think you could be a good fit for this role, please respond with your most updated resume.
It’s annoying getting these lazy, impersonal emails. But we’re creatives, so we concepted a perfect response. We simultaneously replied with the same exact email of our own:
Hello there “Carol”,
Happy Friday to you too! Let's strike while the iron is hot.
Suffice it to say that neither of us will be getting that job. But we did attach our resumes. Because you never know.
One of the perks of being a freelance copywriter is that I occasionally find myself with free time in the middle of a workday. Like today at 10:30. I signed up for a cardio conditioning class at New York Sports Club.
I arrived right on time. I opened the door to the exercise studio. I discovered 40 people standing, staring right at me. Two were guys. Ne’er a soul was anywhere near my age. There was a lot of gray and white hair held in place by headbands, and the overwhelming smell of Ben Gay filled the room. Needless to say, I was there to stay. I grabbed a mat and some weights and for one glorious, low-impact hour, I lunged, squatted, dipped, curled and crunched to dance remixes of classics like Coco Cabana.
What choice did I have? Nothing was going to prevent me from enjoying my day off like the retired folks in Studio 3.
Much like the squirrel assessing its cornucopia of nuts for the impending winter season, I recently decided to take inventory of our stockpile of supplies that have taken mutiny over our hallway closet.
Once ajar, I wondered what I might find buried behind bikes, coats, tools and suitcases. Maybe lost keys, or forgotten shoes, or a third kid. What appeared most prevalent was a surplus of toilet paper. For shits and giggles, I decided to count how many rolls we have accumulated.
161 rolls (counting the one on the rack). Omg, that is an xl amount of tp. There are two factors that contribute to this:
1. We live in a small NYC apt and have most of our commodities delivered.
2. Kids. They need stuff.
So, we end up stashing and storing toilet paper, often forgetting its existence. If need be, we could wipe the butts of a small army for a month-long battle. It wasn’t only 2-ply bathroom essentials that were in there. Batteries too. Loads of them. 2032s, Cs, Ds, the weird square ones, AAs and AAAs. Why do we never have enough AAs but always too many AAAs? Currently we have 86 of them. That is, until I replace the ones in the Rocking Rider Pony, then we’ll be reduced to 82. Gasp.
This is the ‘Amazon Effect.’ The ordering and reordering of items you didn’t even know you needed because you don’t. Winter is coming. Maybe it’s a seasonal affective disorder. Or maybe we’re equipped with an obsolete hunter/gatherer/forger instinct to hoard household items as if we can’t just go out of buy things like normal 21st Century consumers.
Maybe deep down, we’re all just squirrels worried about our nuts.
I’m a control freak. I know this. It’s why I ride my bike everywhere I go in lieu of taking the sporadically operational subway. It’s why I photograph and film every little thing that happens in my family. It’s why I’m a writer - because I get to choose every word. Every sentence. Every post.
Then I/we had kids. I realized quickly that relinquishing control is a prerequisite for having them. Yet this is adverse to my desire to be in control at all times.
Yesterday, my son turned two. We had a whole day planned to celebrate. His Aunt E and cousins were coming over. The cake, ordered. The gifts, wrapped. Then his 3-year-old sister came down with a virus – turning our apartment and entire family into a cesspool of communicative sickness. Party, cancelled.
I don’t like to admit it, but there are so many things in life that are out of my control. Today is Friday the 13th, I can’t stop whatever unlucky events are about to ensue, or the president from shooting paper towels out to people in Puerto Rico like he’s playing in a pickup game. I can’t reroute weather patterns to avoid disasters that might save a house or a life. I can’t change whether people at work like me or not. And I certainly can’t prevent birthday-party-ending viruses.
I’m doing my best. I’m learning to let go. To focus on the things that matter most. Even when these things are completely beyond my control. But I’m never relying on the goddamn subway. You’ll have to pry my bike from my cold, dead hands.
I, like millions of Americans, have bought into the AirBnB concept. I’ve never hosted a guest, but I’ve been a guest many times. I’ve stayed in secluded vacation rentals in the Poconos, and private rooms in humble homes north of the Arctic circle in Norway. I’ve never had a problem.
But two weekends ago, after unsuccessfully finding a hotel the night before my triathlon, I rented a room in a house on Long Island. On the day, I emailed the host informing her I’d be arriving in the late afternoon. But, I ended up working later than expected that day, and didn’t leave the city until 9pm, getting me in around 11pm.
“No problem,” the host said, “We’ll leave the front door open and the light to your bedroom on.” That sounded fairly straightforward. So I drove the 100 miles to their house. All my gear in tow. I arrived to find a small house in a quiet, rural neighborhood, far from the big city lights. I grabbed my bags and my bike and entered the house. All the lights were off in the living room. It's pitch black. On the other side of the room I could detect four doors. Door #1 was open. I walked over and nervously peeked in. It was a teen girl's room apparently. Door #2 was closed, but light was coming through the bottom crack. Door #3 was closed and the lights were out. Door #4 was closed, lights on.
“Shoot, what room do I choose? #2 or #4? And where is the person who lives in the room with the door open?" I tiptoe over to Door #4, knowing fully well, I could open this door to discover complete strangers sleeping. Just as I’m about to open the door, a girl pops out of Door #2. She sees me, whoever I am, standing in her dark-as-night living room, close to midnight, with my bike over my shoulder. I avoid eye contact and scamper into the room. Luckily I chose correctly. I was safe in my prepaid room. It was even more awkward than it sounds.
For the next 30 minutes, I went back and forth between the bathroom and my bedroom before going to sleep. At 4:15, my alarm went off. I got up, grabbed my bike and left - having never met the people that live there.
Super weird, but this is the world we all share now.