I climbed the steps to my daughter’s bedroom for what I hoped was the final time. She was zipping the last of her suitcases. A three-hour car ride was all that remained until she was officially a college sophomore.
“Think you could straighten up a little bit before we leave?” I asked, glancing around the room and eyeing the assorted socks, crumpled up papers and empty water bottles strewn on the floor.
“Why?” she replied. “I’ll be home at Thanksgiving, maybe sooner. Just shut the door and I’ll clean the entire room when I get back.”
“I don’t think the next guests are going to like living among all this disarray,” I responded. “I’m already going to have to dust the bookshelves, clean the mirrors and empty the wastebaskets. That’s what the website suggests.”
“Wait. What guests? What website?”
“Airbnb,” I said.
A look of panicked recognition clouded her face, signaling her familiarity with the online property rental marketplace. Instead of exiting her bedroom and heading for the car, she retreated further inside, in a defiant show of protection.
“You’re going to rent my bedroom? To strangers?”
“Look, young lady, I just received another tuition increase in the mail,” I said. “Probably to fund the sushi station in the new ‘Every Room’s a Penthouse!’ dorm. Or construction of the Pilates wing at the rec center. A few out-of-towners in your room ought to make up the difference. By the way, can you step out of frame? I need to photograph the power strip on your nightstand.”
“Bedside outlets for electronic devices will be a HUGE selling point.”
“Dad, this is weird. You can’t just let strangers live in our house. In my room.”
“Sure I can. The website says I can list anything from a treehouse in the woods to an enchanted castle. Unfortunately, we don’t have either of those properties.”
“We could have had a treehouse. You said no. Remember? Something about not wanting to hear the crunch of my broken leg?”
“Had I known a treehouse — not your leg — could become an income stream, I might have relented,” I confessed. “Now can you put those throw pillows back on the bed? It will give the picture a better sense of scale.”
She stepped in front of my iPhone, effectively photobombing her own mattress. “Dad, I can’t sleep here knowing somebody else has been in the bed. Somebody I don’t even know.”
“Isn’t that what you did for a full year in the dorm?” I countered. “And now you’re in an apartment. How do you know four hairy football players weren’t the previous tenants?”
“I don’t. But I do know my bed will be available whenever I choose.”
“And it will be here too,” I said. “Just tell me what days you’re going to be home and I’ll block them out on the listing calendar. That reminds me, when does your Christmas break start? I’ve got a trade show attendee looking for a space in mid-December.”
My wife, hearing the commotion, entered the room. “What’s going on?”
“Dad wants to Airbnb my bedroom,” my daughter wailed.
“That’s ridiculous.” Looking at me, she added, “You’re joking, right?”
“I never joke about money,” I replied. “You see empty space. I see a retirement nest egg.”
“So we’re just supposed to exist side by side. With strangers?”
“Not necessarily. We can rent it out when we’re not here if you prefer.”
“And where are we going in the near future?”
“How about you and I check into another Airbnb property? A cheaper one so we’ll still come out ahead.”
“How about you check into one and I’ll rent out your home office?”
“My office doesn’t have a bathroom. Major turnoff to the Airbnb crowd.”
I saw the look my wife and daughter exchanged, and I knew my latest money making scheme had just fizzled. But it doesn’t mean I won’t continue looking for ways to combat rising tuition costs using the most successful peer-to-peer marketplace websites.
I wonder if “sophomore year” qualifies for a Kickstarter campaign.