Sunday, February 23, 2020

What Happened in Vegas

These reviews are for an Airbnb I booked for myself in Vegas for $24.84. Why, Caroline, why? I know, I know. In my defense:

Knowing that I'd be landing very late at night, I didn't to spend more than I needed to for half a night's sleep. And the host had an average of 4.5 stars on Airbnb! And that top review was posted after I'd booked the unit. And (regretfully; this is the only clue where I really should have listened) I disregarded the longer review (above), thinking the guest must have been exaggerating.

In the end, that Airbnb was the most stressful night I can remember ever having. WORST AIRBNB EVER, indeed.

So many things. First, my flight was delayed and the airline lost my bag, so I arrived at the Airbnb at 3am rather than 1am. The apartment complex where it was located looked run-down and vaguely menacing. The drizzling rain and late hour didn't help my impressions.

The host, Janice, had told me twice to make sure to park in a visitor spot in the lot, but when I arrived, all the visitor spots were occupied. So I parked in the spot marked with the number of the unit I'd booked.

Rather than hide a key outside the unit for me, Janice insisted on waiting up to let me in, which somehow sketched me out even more. Clenching my pepper spray inside my jacket pocket, I used my other hand to knock on the metal bars outside the door. A short, heavy-set woman, perhaps in her late fifties, unbolted it and then stepped aside for me to pass. Behind her, a TV blared cable news.

At least Janice really is a woman, was my first thought.

"Hi, I couldn't find a visitor spot in the lot so I took your parking space," I told her.

Janice stared at me a moment before responding. "You're leaving first thing in the morning, right? You should be ok for a few hours."

My anxiety level spiked. I did not want my trip to begin with my rental car being towed from an Airbnb parking lot. Feeling there was nothing else I could do about the car, I stepped into the apartment, resolving to leave at first light.

I looked around at a cluttered living room and a cluttered kitchen. The place smelled musty, as if the person living there never went outside.

Janice gestured towards a door at the back of the unit and said matter-of-factly, "This is your bathroom. Your shower is broken, but you can use mine in the morning if you want."

I looked at her disbelievingly. The main reason I'd booked an Airbnb rather than a campsite was so that I could shower after my cross-country flight from NC.

"That's my room," Janice continued, gesturing at the next door. "My son is staying with me right now, so I'm sleeping on the couch."

My incredulity and strong sense of discomfort continued to grow. There was a man in the apartment? This was not what I thought I'd be signing up for.

"Thanks," I mumbled to the woman, too tired to think and overwhelmed by my feeling of dread. I went into my room, shut the door, and locked it behind me. At least there's a lock, I told myself. And the room itself seemed clean.

I reached into my bag to grab my toothbrush and toothpaste, and then dashed across the short hallway to the bathroom. It was grubby but not gross. I put my toothbrush in my mouth, and then immediately took it back out. Instead of toothpaste, I'd put anti-itch cream on my toothbrush. So tired. 

I stumbled back into the bedroom, dug around in my backpack again, and finally found my toothpaste. I brushed my teeth in a rush, desperate to be locked alone with my stuff in my room. Meanwhile, the TV continued to blast noise into the living room on the other side of the bathroom wall.

"Goodnight," I said to Janice, who was now sprawled on the couch. I shut the bedroom door and locked it.

Before crawling into bed, I cracked the window. The fresh air helped cut through the odd smell of the place, and made me feel more calm. I was glad to be on the second floor of the building, at least.

I grabbed my passport and wallet to stash under my pillow. I carefully placed my pepper spray on the bedside table. After inspecting the sheets (which looked clean enough), I finally lay down.

Staring at the ceiling, I debated what to do about the high-volume TV that was continuing to pierce the thin apartment walls. I was terrified to say anything, as I had just read the long Airbnb review posted above that specifically mentions how a guest triggered an angry outburst from Janice simply for asking her to turn down the television. Knowing that I wouldn't sleep much either way, I decided to wait it out. Thankfully, Janice turned off the TV after just a few minutes.

I slept fitfully for maybe three hours. Shortly before sunrise, a car alarm went off. I wondered if it was mine but was too scared to leave the room to find out.

By 7am, the TV was back on, and I could hear Janice and her son talking loudly over it. I climbed out of bed, put on the clothes I'd traveled in the day before, and grabbed my backpack. Taking a deep breath, I stepped into the living room.

Janice's son was rocking back and forth in an armchair on the other side of the room. He didn't acknowledge me. Janice was standing in the kitchen. "Bye," I mumbled to both of them, and rushed out.

Not the ideal start to my solo vacation, but at least I survived.
The building looks much less menacing in daylight, but you can at least see how the metal bars might put a visitor on edge.

I speed-walked to my car and was immensely relieved to find it intact. I then headed to the bougiest cafe I could find on Yelp for some culinary therapy (my version of retail therapy).

On the drive to the cafe, I spotted snow-capped mountains and felt much better.

At the cafe, which was called Makers & Founders, I ordered a South-American-style eggs benedict with a $7 lavender latte. This is how I recover.

I then ordered a $7 turmeric coconut latte, feeling better with every sip.

I spent the morning journaling and FaceTiming friends. After more fully recovering from the emotional challenges of the night before, I got back into my rental car and headed west.

Mountains <3

The campsite I found for that night! infinitely better than a stressful/scary Airbnb.

Next up: My day hiking in Red Rock Canyon, a national conservation area just west of Vegas.

Spoiler alert: The trip gets much, much happier from here. Sometimes the only way you can go is up, right?