5 Ways Your Life Changes When You're (Voluntarily) Homeless
Los Angeles is expensive. Just so expensive. Fortunately, I recently landed on a solution for that problem. See, I've been traveling a lot this year, which left my insanely overpriced apartment completely vacant. Rather than pay rent for a place I'd only be at a couple weeks a month, I decided to rent it out to random strangers whenever I was away. It was equal parts awesome and unnerving. We talk about it on this week's Unpopular Opinion podcast ...
The Money Is Nice
When I say I live in Los Angeles, what I actually mean is that I live in Santa Monica, and that's so much better. Anyone who says otherwise is lying to themselves to make living in the Valley seem less depressing. Not only am I in Santa Monica, but I'm also eight blocks from the beach. Granted, I can only afford it because I don't have a car and am within walking (ish) distance from most of the work-related things I need to do in town, but still, it's nice. Imagine a resort that lets homeless people sleep on the grounds. That's Santa Monica.
As you can imagine, hotel rooms in my neighborhood are pretty spendy. But can you really imagine, or do you just think you can? Is this what you were imagining?
How about the 12 percent savings at the Viceroy?!?!?
And those are the rooms where the riffraff stay. Rich people opt for shit like this ...
A great value for anyone sharing a room with 35 friends!
All of those places are a few blocks from where I live. So when I list my apartment for $200 a night on a site like Airbnb, where people looking to sleep somewhere for cheap connect with the strangers who definitely won't murder them whilst they dream, it looks like a fucking bargain. It's also enough to cover my rent for the month if I rent it out for ten days or so. I've been doing that for most of the year.
Unfortunately, Santa Monica decided this wasn't exactly the kind of profiteering they wanted happening in their area. Effective June 15th, vacation rentals under 30 days are basically illegal. That's a bummer for me, but it was nice while it lasted. In the name of mourning the passing of my financial security, let's talk about a few of the things I learned from renting my apartment to strangers.
Prostitutes Are A Concern
Like any other advance in Internet technology that's made life easier for people, almost as soon as vacation rental sites like Airbnb went online, the criminals of the world started looking for ways to exploit them for profit. Naturally, the first segment of the underworld to make it work for them was the illicit sex trade.
Back in April of last year, the New York Post reported that prostitutes in the NYC area were using Airbnb rentals instead of hotel rooms in the name of saving a few bucks and, more importantly, remaining anonymous. Hotels have doormen and security and cameras -- features the average person's apartment generally lack.
Not that I haven't considered it, of course.
Even when nothing that can technically be defined as illegal is happening, you still run the risk of returning to your apartment to grab something you forgot, only to walk in on an orgy of plus-sized people happening in your living room.
Living where I do, this was always a concern. Luckily, once a person commits to renting, you get their full name. That means you can Google them and see if their social media posting history leans more toward Facebook or Craigslist. Sure, it will make you feel like a bit of a creep (unless you already are one, in which case you were going to do it anyway), but it's way better than getting a call from your landlord saying a prostitute just got stabbed in your apartment.
"Yeah, his profile picture made me hesitant to rent to him, but I like to give people the benefit of the doubt."
If I was able to find sufficient evidence that the renter in question wasn't going to turn my residence into a brothel, I'd go through with the rental. In a couple of cases, I had to cancel.
Sometimes people make the decision easy for you right away.
Did I do this for everyone who rented my place? Of course. I'm in California. I have no doubt that the demand for male and female prostitutes is equally robust in my neighborhood.
That said, I would make an exception if the renter was clearly elderly. I mean, even if one of them was a hooker, at that point it's more like having a novelty act in your apartment, and that's kind of cool. It's like having the bearded lady or the boy with the lobster claws for hands renting your place. It's more charming than anything. I don't think any of the old people who rented my place were sex workers, but they were definitely something.
Old People Are A Nightmare
You know how people joke about old people struggling with modern technology? Well, people make those jokes because they fucking do struggle with it, and you learn this the hard way when you invite an old person to crash at your place for money. At a certain point, getting old sort of turns into being a child again, and as everyone knows, kids ask a lot of goddamn questions. That's even more true for old people, because in this case, they have the benefit of knowing that, in light of the fact that they've given you money, they have the right to ask as many goddamn questions as they want. They're like kids who have all of the basic rules of life mastered. It's the worst.
Part of it was my fault. Like so many other people, I don't have cable. What I do have is a Google Chromecast, which anyone with a basic understanding of how to follow three steps' worth of instructions can successfully use to watch Netflix, Hulu, or any number of other entertainment options, controlling it all from the comfort of their smartphone. This describes almost no old people.
"We're terrible at this!"
Like, barely any. But when you've traveled hundreds of miles to spend a week in California sitting on a couch, sometimes you want to watch a movie or two. So on several occasions, despite having left perfectly clear written instructions, I'd find my self talking septuagenarians through the intricacies of streaming video technology. On the phone, no less. I honestly considered logging onto oDesk and outsourcing that step of the rental process to the Philippines at one point.
They also turned out to be the renters most likely to do strange shit. The last guy I rented to was an elderly dude who seemed to have a seething contempt for the Brita water pitcher I keep in my refrigerator. Most people just, you know, use it. One woman even changed the filter for me. This guy, upon discovering it in my refrigerator, called me on the phone to ask what he should do with it. When I suggested he leave it right the hell where it was, he seemed dissatisfied with my answer.
"This isn't over, you bastard."
It just so happened that his rental involved him staying for six days, leaving for three, and then coming back for another ten days. I returned to the apartment for those three days to find that he'd put the water pitcher on the floor of the pantry next to my refrigerator. An odd choice and a bit of an overreaction, but I wrote it off. I put the pitcher back in the refrigerator. When I returned after his next stay, it was under my sink. Under the sink! He put my water pitcher in Chemicalville.
I should mention that this pitcher was definitely not the only thing in the refrigerator, so it's not like it was a space issue. Things looked exactly the same in there both times I returned, aside from the fact that my pitcher was always stowed away in an increasingly aggressive manner. What did clean drinking water ever do to this guy?
Staying With Strangers Is Always A Gamble
There were a few occasions when renting my place out meant having to rent another place in Los Angeles so I could be in town for various work-related responsibilities. To keep things on the cash-positive side, I'd usually rent a room in someone's apartment. I was like a temporary roommate, basically.
I know you have questions. Don't I have friends? Yes, barely, but to be totally honest, I'd rather pay a stranger to let me interrupt their life than sleep on a friend's couch. I don't like to feel like I'm a burden on people, and staying in someone else's place makes me feel that way no matter what. Maybe it's just that I respect people's need for personal space or something crazy like that. Who knows? Whatever the case, if I'm crashing in a strange home, I'm way more comfortable being an imposition if it has at least some feel of being a business transaction.
"Hey, right off the bat, we need you to watch these kids."
In pretty much every instance, the experience was nothing but pleasant, but the thing about sites like Airbnb is that the people you're renting from are basically posting an online dating profile of their apartment. The pictures are going to be taken in the most flattering light possible, and any signs of crazy will be concealed until you're way too invested in the relationship to back out.
For example, at one place I stayed, the couple who lived there failed to mention in their listing that the only shower was located in the bathroom adjacent to their bedroom. Because I'm stupid, I generally get up around 5 a.m. each day. No way am I dick enough to kick in their bedroom door and fire up the shower at that time of morning, money changing hands or not.
"I've come to cleanse myself."
So what did I do? Alter my schedule and wait until they got up? No, I showered at my gym, which is conveniently located right across the street from my office. I then stayed at the office until I was confident everyone had gone to sleep, sneaked in, slept for four hours, and then repeated the process the next day. It was like being homeless, except I still had a home.
People Leave Behind The Weirdest Stuff
Watch Investigation Discovery enough and you'll soon realize that no one enters another person's place of residence without leaving something behind. That's as true for short-term vacation rentals as it is for grisly homicides. Fortunately, the droppings tend not to be of the blood and jizz variety. Or if they are, it's at least concealed enough that you'd need a black light to see it, which is really the most you can hope for when you're opening your home up to strangers.
This is every hotel mattress you've ever slept on.
In fact, some people even leave gifts. Wine was a fairly regular choice. Yes, sometimes it was partially consumed and in the refrigerator, but a gift is a gift. It also wasn't uncommon to receive offerings from the people I would stay with, like this adorable doodle that one couple's kid left me.
Please tell me I'm not one of the guests who's been crossed out and/or locked up in the basement?
Sure, it might look a tad unsettling, but all of my fears were assuaged when I flipped it over and noticed it was written on back of a wall of printed text about the end of times.
Is this kid in the Illuminati?
Shockingly, this wasn't the same family that left this in the corner of the room I was sleeping in ...
Every Santa statue should be destroyed on New Year's Eve.
... but you could certainly be forgiven for making that assumption. Among the more baffling things left behind at my place were this barrel of what I can only guess is the modern-day equivalent of Soylent Green, with an accompanying blue rubber block.
Did these fall from space?
I'm assuming both are related in some way to living healthy, which is why they seem so foreign to me. The hands-down winner in the category of what-the-fuckery, however, goes to that same old goat who hated my water pitcher so vehemently. Without so little as an explanatory note, he left this ...
I love you too?
... sitting on my coffee table. Because old people, much like children, make their crazy by hand.
Adam will not let you sleep on his couch, but you can follow him on Twitter @adamtodbrown.
For more from ATB, check out The 5 Most Unintentionally Offensive Things Done For Charity and 4 Creepy Visions of Hell From Real Near Death Experiences.