Try couch surfing they said. It will be fun they said…
Since my first experience with couch surfing I haven’t really been active on the site, although I do still occasionally say hi to John, who somehow didn’t run for the hills after that fiasco of a first encounter. In addition to not being good at making first impressions, I’m still not too keen on the idea of random strangers staying at my house, and I know my roommates (like my knife wielding cousin) aren’t either.
While there are tons of issues one could possibly foresee as a danger in taking in unknown guests (murder, rape, torture, decapitation etc.) , my biggest concern is really theft. Although we did already have our house broken into once and the thing deemed most valuable to pilfer was our rice paddy hat.
My next biggest fear would be being stuck in the house with some kind of weirdo for a few days. Like someone who had a cat obsession, or only wanted to talk about politics, or someone who enjoys long conversations about their foodie affinity for spicy tuna rolls. But then again, people who couch surf tend to be somewhat more open minded or at least well traveled so they usually come with good stories. Either way, strange people staying at my house was a no-go.
Then somehow, I was emailing my 12 year old (or he could be 50?) Cypriot penpal in Barcelona (which is an additional, entirely too weird relationship to explain) who told me he had a guy from Uruguay staying on his couch who was coming to New York and needed somewhere to stay for the weekend. And knowing how 12 year olds can get when you tell them no, I agreed so he wouldn’t go kick someone’s dog or something.
As soon as I agreed I told a bunch of my friends that I was going to be hosting a guy I didn’t know at my house for the weekend. The reaction conversations were as follows:
Me: I’m hosting a couch surfer this weekend
Marietta: Hide all your valuables just in case
Me: We don’t have any…
Marietta: Oh…well I’m sending my boyfriend over to check on you every half hour to make sure he hasn’t killed you.
Me: I’m hosting a couch surfer this weekend
Joanna: OMG! Make sure you have your gun and garlic next to your bed
Me: I’ll bring the gun up, but … garlic??
Joanna: Because he might be a vampire
Me: (face palm)
After notifying my roommates that we would be using one of the guest bedrooms for a couch surfer, and doing some facebook and couch surfing stalking (the references section is an awesome function) and not seeing any red flags, I went to pick up Juan from the subway on Friday between jobs. When we got back to the house I realized I would be leaving him in the house by himself while I went to work, which would be the perfect opportunity for him to booby trap the house or sneak things out the side door.
Once inside I offered him something to eat or drink which he declined, and then when I offered a glass of wine he agreed, if I was going to have one with him. If you know anything about Asians and drinking, then this would be a good strategy for getting one drunk since many an Asian would pass out after a glass of wine. I on the other hand, am me. Enough said. On the other hand, alcohol = social lubricant AKA quickest way to get over awkwardness. Or easiest way to drug someone with iocane powder when they’re not looking. Let the battle of wits begin.
An hour later, glass of wine and an initial conversation finished, I gave him some basic instructions on the house (2 other Asians and another white dude live here, they will probably ask you about soccer and Suarez ) and left him alone while I went to work – hopefully to come back to a still existing house and non-slaughtered roommates.
I’d love to say that this entire story takes some kind of terrible turn over the next three days but I honestly had a great time being a host. Juan turned out to be awesome, and it was more like having a visiting friend that didn’t require me to be a good host (AKA be around to hang out or give tours) than having a stranger occupy an empty bedroom. Nothing crazy happened, no one died, no one even really got a hangover despite a large consumption of red wine. Plus I got to pick his brain a little bit about travel in general, and have some interesting conversations about foreign perceptions of America, such as learning that living on a budget in America will make you gain 11 pounds in a week. And being an ABC I also forced him to rethink his position on hating the food in China and got him to eat dim sum, which he either didn’t hate, or was too polite to say he did.
So all in all, I’d say couch surfing can really be a pleasant experience, especially if you get a cool surfer with a sense of humor that can enjoy the company of people whose entire conversations revolve around racist and sexual humor (like my cousin swinging a 2 foot cow tongue from his crotch – which would later become our dinner) or heated arguments about the loathing of walmart. And will sit through a barrage of specialty card games, like Bang! which of course had hundreds of innuendos about gang bangs, and banging everyone in the room. And of course can also endure my cooking. Just kidding – my cooking is awesome.
So ultimately, thank you to Juan for being a great first couch surfing experience and awesome person in general.
Oh and on a side note, don’t text your not so technology savvy parents the picture above with the message “Don’t host couchsurfers” because they might not know to open the attachment, just see the message, and might call you frantically and rush to your house because they think you’re actually in danger.