Airbnb hosts usually provide some simple criteria for entering their home: "The keys are in the lockbox." "I'll be home late, help yourself to tea." "Please park in the street."
My host's instructions for my one-night stay in Santa Fe were pleasantly simple. "The key is under the mat. Make yourself at home!"
Done and done.
We'd been messaging on the day of my arrival, and some of my questions went unanswered. I knew she was out with friends, so when she didn't tell me which room would be mine, i took an educated guess and set up shop.
Make a Sante Fe pun? You knew I wood.
A few hours went by with a few more unanswered texts. This is a remarkably trusting woman, I thought.
By the time I was ready to retire, I had grown a bit concerned: she made no mention of not coming home for the night. I was under the impression we'd definitely be meeting, but shrugged it off. With any luck, she wouldn't be coming in loudly after I fell asleep. I brushed my teeth, read some, and fell asleep.
Well, she didn't wake me up -- my bladder did. I shuffled out of the bathroom door, the running of the toilet quickly drowned out by the scream of the woman I ran into in the hallway. We both jumped out of our skins.
"Oh my GOD. I had NO idea anyone else was in here!" she panted, rubbing the side of her incredulous face.
"Wait. What? Were you not expecting me? What day is this?" A sudden panic came over me: I'd booked the wrong night and gotten there early.
After few minutes of confused mumbling on my end and increasing relief on hers, she concluded that she had the wrong day in mind for my stay. My Type A confirmation texts she'd gotten earlier in the day notwithstanding, she had no idea I'd be in her home at that moment.
It was a terrifying moment for her and an awkward one for me, but we both laughed it off.
The next morning, we were both much cheerier having rested and the advantage of both being aware of each other's existences in the house.
"Hey! My quail hatched. Come see."
Say what now? I knew she was getting a graduate degree in some environmental science, but I had no clue her bedroom was her at-home lab. She walked me into her room, which was full of cages, grow lights, burbling filtration systems, and plants in various and vigorous stages of growth.
Spoiler alert! It's a chicken.
A chicken clucked calmly to my left behind its mesh. And between my host's bed and the far wall was a glass tank housing a puff of fluff not bigger than my thumb, weaving its way through a sea of paper shavings.
For Pete's sake.
"She's cute, isn't she? Just hatched this morning."