Over the Christmas holidays I rented an Airbnb pad in Manhattan’s Chelsea district. It was actually a very small attic space above a penthouse loft. It had a bed and a desk and a chair and a small table. I couldn’t decide what was more amazing — the fact that the renter, a young woman, had the chtuzpah to charge $150 a night for this little nook or my willingness to pay it. Anyway I stayed there for seven or eight days, but on the fourth day — the night before Christmas Eve — a mishap occured. The desk chair I was sitting in collapsed. I wasn’t doing yoga or handstands or subjecting the chair to any undue strain. I don’t even weigh that much. The chair just said “I quit!” I didn’t tell the young lady immediately because (a) I live in a kind of right-brain dream state and the chair kind of vaporized for a few hours, and (b) I figured nothing could be done repair-wise until after 12.25 anyway.

Today I got an message from Airbnb saying a “dispute” had arisen and that the young lady wants me to give her $600 to replace the chair. Like I said, she has chutzpah. My first reaction was to allow my jaw to drop open. I then decided to text her directly rather than go through Airbnb. Here’s how it went:

Jeffrey Wells: “Your chair collapsed under me — period. I did nothing to harm or damage it. Unless you consider sitting in it a form of harm or damage. Your request is, no offense, ludicrous.”
Young Lady: “Respond to the Airbnb email!”
Jeffrey Wells: “Why?”
Young Lady: “You broke it! Take responsibility.”
Jeffrey Wells: “I didn’t break it, [name]. Sitting in a chair does not constitute a malicious act of property damage. I have sat and worked in many dozens of desk chairs in my life and broken none of them. You have a very strange idea of what the term ‘taking responsibility’ means, to put it mildly.”
Young Lady: “Not only did you break it, you also didn’t communicate about it. Poor manners. Please don’t text me anymore. I will have Airbnb take over.”
Jeffrey Wells: “I told you before I didn’t think anything could be done over the holiday. I just figured I’d tell you on bended knee before the day was out. Reporting the damage immediately, six hours or 12 hours later…what’s the difference? Your sense of fairness and basic values are in serious question here. Is it okay if I report YOU to Airbnb? In all honesty I’m wondering what is wrong with you.”