Decades ago when folksy Tom Bodett said that Motel 6 would leave the light on for us he conjured up the image of driving a long way to see family, pulling up in a familiar driveway after dark and finding the front porch light on, a sign of welcome to road-weary parents and restless children.
Bodett foresaw the future but it was neither a budget motel nor a luxury hotel that would be leaving a porch light on for us. Instead, it would be a homeowner allowing a perfect stranger to rent a room or even their entire house for a few days. Enter the phenomenon of Airbnb.
Vive La Difference
We just got back tonight after a weekend getaway to Chattanooga where we had a quaint 2-bedroom house for the price of a cramped hotel room. And whereas all hotel rooms start looking alike, when you stay in Airbnbs you see a lot of decorative styles including some curious decor decisions.
For example, in Chatty, hanging just 3 feet over our bed was a heavy black iron chandelier with more sharp points than a pitchfork in a rose bush along with a bottom pointy piece that could puncture a tractor tire. This dangling hardware belonged in a horror film where stranded travelers find storm shelter in a haunted house, where later the thunder and the music add to the omen created by the lightning flashes illuminating a close-up of this chandelier of daggers hovering and swaying over the chests and spleens of the slumbering couple.
Did you like me?
On of the standard features of Airbnb rental is that after check-out the owner and renter both rate each other. This way you can read descriptions and reviews by previous renters; and owners can see how all prior owners have rated you as a paying guest.
You don’t want to leave that condo in Des Moines trashed or it could hurt your 5-star rating and your chances of getting approved for the chalet in Aspen.
It occurred to me that this dynamic of both sides of the rental relationship posting ratings of each other could slip over into the actual dating world. What if first-date reviews were posted online by the couple the next day?
Tom: Sarah was responsive in communication and was at the restaurant on time for our date. I do feel her profile photo needs to be updated by about 10-15 years. Sarah has a hearty appetite and I’ve never known anyone to put several containers of Tupperware inside a duffle bag and sneak it into a Golden Corral. She told me that since she hasn’t been able to keep a job for more than 2 weeks she’s learned to stretch a dollar. I think frugality is an attractive quality in a woman. My first three wives were big spenders so I appreciate a woman who doesn’t mind cutting coupons out the neighbor’s Sunday paper before they wake up. I had some hopes for how the evening might turn out so I was excited when we got to Sarah’s apartment and she invited me inside for a drink. I didn’t know it was going to be Pepto Bismol.
Sarah: Tom was friendly and courteous in our pre-date communication. I didn’t recognize him at first because in his profile photo he had hair. Plus, an extra 70-80 pounds can change a person’s appearance. I value honesty in a relationship so I appreciated that early in our conversation Tom told me all the medications he is on. And he told me that he didn’t mean to be presumptuous but he put his C-PAP machine in his car in case things went well and I wanted him to spend the night. I also appreciate a man who has a close relationship with his family. And Tom, who turns 43 next month, still lives at home with his parents.
I asked Tom about his job and he said he works for the CIA and is running an undercover operation out of his parents’ garage. He paid for our meals with cash because he said the Russians have been tracking his whereabouts through his credit card purchases and the metal shunt in his head. I realize that falling in love with Tom could be courting danger, making me a target also of Soviet spies and hitmen. But I’ve been playing it safe my whole life ever since I was granted parole back in ’97. And now I’m ready to take some risks and spread my wings and fly like Icarus. I hope Tom calls me for a second date before his secret ops mission in the Ukraine.
Ramon Presson, PhD, is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Franklin () and the author of several books. Reach him at