Day 33: Airbnb and Plastic Bags in Seattle

A woman behind me in the grocery store snarked about how she was happy that I had to pay so much for a plastic reusable bag. When will people realize that you will push people away from your ideas with an attitude like hers?

I wasn’t ready to leave Seattle, as I hadn’t been able to see as much as I wanted, like the nightlife. I had to check out of the Airbnb I was in and stay a few more days. I booked another Airbnb that was available nearby. The Airbnb I checked out of was a little studio that had been built inside of a garage at the back of a house. My next Airbnb was more economical and was going to be just a room in a large, old house near the University of Washington.

When I arrived at check-in time, the owner of the place greeted me outside. Tina was in her 50s, and stood at only about 5’3” tall so I towered over her. She had shoulder length gray hair, was fit and spunky, and talked a lot. She enthusiastically told me all about the property.

She rents out several rooms, mostly to college students, but during the summer she rents out rooms on Airbnb. She works from home and I assumed she rents rooms on Airbnb for the income and to meet people. Upon entering the front door, we passed a room that was being rented to a guy for 10 days, but she explained that he was in Portland for the weekend.

The next room was being rented to a woman who would be checking out the next day. We passed through a shared living space with a TV and two couches and continued down the hallway. The set-up was definitely for college students.

There were an additional two rooms being rented out and we ran into one girl who was doing laundry in the basement. Tina opened the door to the basement to point out the laundry and the washer/dryer that were right at the base.

As we stood at the top of the stairs, a large girl doing laundry at the bottom seemed upset and told Tina that “someone” pushed her quarters into the dryer again. Tina said she was the one who had done it because she saw the clothes were ready to be dried.

The girl said, “Well, I like to line-dry a lot of my clothes. And now I don’t have enough quarters to use the machines.” Tina apologized and said she’d give her more quarters to use the machine. Feeling the tension, I just stood there in silence.

We walked into the shared kitchen and Tina explained I was welcome to use anything there and could put food in the fridge, wherever I could find space. Just past the kitchen were two bathrooms – one labeled “men” and the other labeled “women”. It felt like an actual dorm, although it was mostly women in the house.

Tina asked me about my travels and I explained I was headed up to Alaska next. Tina’s sister lives in Fairbanks and she said I should reach out to her and stay with her while I was there.

She said, “She’s just like me. You’ll love her.” She showed me pictures of the house and the new garden her sister just planted. While I thought this was a nice gesture, I sometimes want my own space, and staying with a stranger for free would have made me feel obligated to hang out with her all the time.

Finally, Tina walked me to my bedroom – a twin sized bed was against the windows, there was a small desk and a table that each had their own chair, and a little nightstand. It was extremely hot outside (in the 90s) and there was no air conditioning. All four windows were open, but only two windows had screens on them. The room would do just fine, but not having air conditioning was going to be miserable.


Tina then walked me back outside and showed me which direction things were located. She pointed out where the bus stations were and described the neighborhood as “very walkable”. She also said most of the houses nearby had been purchased by Chinese immigrants and how it “became Chinatown overnight.” She seemed annoyed by that.

Tina told me that later that evening she planned on taking the bus to downtown Seattle to attend a festival. She seemed very excited to be dancing around and having fun. It seemed like something she did often. Tina also told me there was an annual parade in two days and it’s a big deal. It was also in downtown Seattle and I could take the bus. I thought about going, but wasn’t sure I wanted to go alone.

Tina gave me a parking pass, which would allow me to park overnight (otherwise the parking was limited to two hours). I unloaded my car and carried my things inside. I noticed an elaborate spider web in the corner of one of the windows, that took up almost half of the window. The spider sat there in the corner, waiting for its prey. I hate spiders, but I didn’t want to mess with that guy and figured maybe he’d eat some of the bugs that were making their way inside because of the lack of screens.

My bedroom sat in a corner where the sunlight hit in the morning and continued blasting the room all day. It was definitely the hottest room in the house. I wanted to cool it off and I decided to go buy a small fan so the room would be more tolerable.

I went to Safeway about two miles away and bought some food items and a fan. As I checked out, the cashier asked me if I wanted a plastic bag for $.28.

Surprised at the high cost, I said, “Wow! $.28?!”

A middle-aged woman behind me in line with her reusable bags yelled at me, “Good!! Ha!”

Pissed off, I said to the cashier, “In Los Angeles, they’re only $.10”.

She said, “I love it. You gotta pay $.28”.

I bought one bag and the cashier seemed to agree with me that the price was ridiculously high.

This pissed me off for several hours. That woman didn’t know anything about me. She didn’t know that I usually use reusable bags, but it’s a little harder when I’m practically living out of my car. I use the plastic bags as trash bags because most Airbnb’s don’t have a trash can in the room.

This incident got me thinking about her approach and why our country is divided. I love the environment and want to protect it. I love hiking in nature and it’s where I find peace. Of course I don’t want it ruined with over-consumption, but I’m also a human being trying to live in this world and sometimes that means using plastic bags.

That woman was so rude and so judgmental in her assumptions of who I was, that it made me want to buy 10 plastic bags to spite her. One thing is for sure, treating people this way will never win them over to your side of an argument. If her goal was to look superior in her quest for saving the environment, she succeeded. If her goal was to show awareness and reduce plastic bag usage, she failed miserably.

I went back to the Airbnb, blasted the fan, and lied there thinking about this incident. It reminded me of a short video I had recently watched explaining the effects of putting disposable contacts down the drain. They break into microscopic particles and end up in our drinking water. After watching the video, I stopped putting my disposable contacts down the drain. All it takes to change the behavior of people is to give them information in a factual way and let them decide. Being judgmental and belittling people will not win them over. It’s a good lesson. I don’t want to be that angry lady yelling at people for their choice of bags.

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Post Edited By: Trisha Harmon

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2 Responses

  1. I really like this post except for the crabby customer. Isn’t it interesting how hurtful one little comment can be? Judgemental attitudes reflect the character of the bearer. She either is a very insecure individual or extremely shallow with an inflated ego. I am trying to adapt to such interchanges with a “God bless you!” mentality. That way I can respond in kindness and soften hard hearts. More often than not it is really difficult. Just remember, you are further along on your journey and pray for her peace. Only a sad and unhappy person would respond this way. Also, no air conditioning is an epic AirBnb fail. Safe travels!

    1. Thank you, Margaret! I find it is something I’ve gotten better with, but still have to make a conscious effort with – not letting angry people make me angry. But you are right, it’s a reflection of their character.
      Just wait until you see how many Airbnb’s I stayed in without AC! That little fan has proved its worth again and again! I get it though – in the north, it’s only really hot a few weeks a year. But dang, it was hard to sleep at times!

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