Adventure, Seeking, Sensitivity, Travel

Goldilocks and the Three Lodgings

goldilocksGoldilocks (whose hair is actually brown and silver) decided to visit San Francisco in early January to check out a different Feldenkrais program. After carefully considering whether to go or not, she didn’t have much time to arrange housing. Goldilocks has a highly sensitive nervous system, meaning she is more influenced by the environment than the average bear and, therefore, needed to find a place that was neither too noisy, too cramped, too unkempt or too, um, fragrant. Too much of those stimuli make her feel out of sorts if not downright horrible. She looked online and didn’t find anything suitable in her price range.

A friend of hers had another friend who rented a bedroom through AirBnB. The room was available for the dates Goldilocks needed. Goldilocks looked at the listing and saw it had been reviewed by more than 100 people with an average rating close to the maximum of five stars. She looked at the photographs and read the favorable reviews; only one person mentioned that the bed wasn’t comfortable, but Goldilocks wasn’t sure whether to be concerned, since taste in mattresses is subjective. The room, as indicated in the listing, was simply furnished but had a private half bath and was a short walk from a bus stop, the ocean and a supermarket. Goldilocks didn’t need anything fancy, just a place to sleep and, since she tried to eat as healthily as possible, room to store food and prepare her own porridge. The friend of the friend offered the room at a reduced rate since Goldilocks planned to be there a while. It being San Francisco, this lower price still made her hair stand on end, but what was she to do? Goldilocks and the friend of a friend decided to deal with each other directly, bypassing AirBnB. Goldilocks mailed half the rent and the hostess sent her keys.

When Goldilocks arrived after a long travel day, thanks to a flight delay, she opened the door. The air felt unusually still if not stale. She plopped herself on the bed. It sagged beneath her. Too soft, she thought. She walked into the kitchen to get acquainted with the porridge preparation station. The refrigerator grumbled, as if straining under a large load. Goldilocks opened the door to see if space had been made for her provisions. The loaded fridge had little room to spare. An odd vapor wafted towards Goldilocks’ nose. A coagulated spill suggested that the fridge had not been caressed by a sponge in many a moon. She closed the door and looked around the kitchen. Other surfaces were more grimy than shiny. Too grungy, Goldilocks thought, unsure she’d want to make porridge after all. The living room, pictured online as minimally furnished, had boxes stacked along a wall. Too cluttered. Hungry, she walked to the supermarket to buy a few items. When Goldilocks returned, the hostess was home, and had made some room in the fridge. She was delightful and intelligent and friendly, just as expected. Still, Goldilocks was flummoxed by the disconnect between the rave reviews and the condition of the kitchen. Was household hygiene a taboo, or did no other guests notice or care?

Goldilocks tried to recalibrate herself and her expectations. She considered leaving but it was late, she was weary, she had already paid half, and she wasn’t sure where to go. Goldilocks slept very poorly that first night on the too soft bed and awoke congested. Still, she decided to make the best of it. Maybe she’d get used to the mattress? That morning, she opened windows to invite a breeze. She reminded herself that dirt wasn’t fatal as she prepared her morning porridge (a smoothie and eggs). She went to the training, held in an airy modern room. The contrast between that space and her lodgings amplified Goldilocks’ distress. She posted an ad on Craigslist for a new situation, and hoped that the hostess would refund some of her money, even though they had not discussed this particular scenario.

The next day, Goldilocks went to see an in-law unit a few blocks away. The owner was a kind, elderly German woman. The small apartment had a separate entrance, direct access to a garden, a firm king sized bed, a renovated bathroom, a basic but full kitchen and a tasteful selection of rugs, throw pillows and wicker furniture. The neighboring convent insured quiet, save for the hum of the electric bus. It stopped nearby, making for an easy commute. The landlady quoted a rent figure that, for San Francisco, was reasonable if not unusually inexpensive. It was “just right” except Goldilocks detected a sharp, mildewy odor. She mentioned it to the owner, who said she couldn’t smell it. Since Goldilocks has acute senses, she often perceives things that others cannot, is frequently disbelieved, which contributes to self-doubt. Perhaps the apartment just needed to be aired out? The owner explained that the double hung windows were shut because sometimes they slammed unexpectedly. Goldilocks observed that the window’s top portion could be safely lowered, allowing air to enter. She decided to take her chances with the odor since she was eager to move and sleep on a firm bed. To maintain cordial relations with, and be fair to, the friend of the friend, who had potentially lost AirBnB customers during Goldilocks’ planned stay, Goldilocks did not insist upon a full reimbursement of the remaining nights. In hindsight, she wishes she had.

The following morning, the German woman fetched Goldilocks in a white Toyota and drove her to her new abode. After paying a rent installment, Goldilocks attempted to mitigate the mildew. With the owner’s consent, she removed some of the wicker items from the apartment as they had trapped the odor. She opened the windows to let air circulate while she attended the training. Returning that evening, the odor seemed undiminished. Yet Goldilocks, being stubborn, wanted to “hack” the problem so that she wouldn’t have to move, again. She enjoyed the privacy and tranquility of the little apartment, felt simpatico with the owner, and loved the neighborhood. Over the next day or so, Goldilocks escalated her efforts: she washed the table cloth, napkins, dish cloths and pillow cases, all of which carried an acrid odor. She dusted and swabbed. She sprinkled baking soda on the carpets and vacuumed. Still, there was something in the air that made her head feel light, buzzy and disoriented, a nasty kind of intoxication. She wondered if mold was growing out of sight and if the poisonous spores had entered the room. Whatever it was, Goldilocks felt like a canary in a coal mine and realized if she didn’t fly away, she would get seriously ill.

She went online, again, and visited Craigslist, again, because she remembered that things can change in an instant. She saw a freshly posted ad for a room for rent in a group house. The room looked large and bright with just a bed, a desk, a chair and some shelves. Some might have called it spartan, charmless and bare, but Goldilocks saw the absence of items that could gather dust, mildew and grime as a relief. The next morning she went to see it and meet the owner, an energetic, no-nonsense Taiwanese music teacher. Goldilocks tested the bed (firm) and checked the shared bathroom (clean). The owner showed Goldilocks the refrigerator and cabinet space dedicated for her and mentioned that she hires a cleaner (smart!). Goldilocks gave her cash to secure the room and received keys. That evening, Goldilocks told the German woman that she was allergic to something in the apartment and would leave the following day. The woman asked Goldilocks how much of her money she wanted back. Goldilocks said she didn’t want a refund, as she had knowingly taken a chance. Still, the next morning the woman insisted on returning some cash, even though she herself couldn’t detect the problem. Goldilocks didn’t refuse, and also accepted the landlady’s offer to drive her to the music teacher’s house. Goldilocks appreciated the woman’s old world grace and consideration.

In the original tale, the young heroine finds a bed, a chair and a porridge that are “just right”. In this story, Goldilocks’ final lodging is between two busy avenues. Too noisy, even with windows closed, so she wears earplugs. Since the stress of not sleeping well for several nights and moving twice in one week pooped out Goldilocks, she gave up the ideal of shopping for and preparing her own ultra healthy porridge. Luckily she’s near a street filled with makers of Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Italian, Thai and Pakistani porridges. The other morning, the Taiwanese owner knocked on Goldilocks’ bedroom door and offered her a steaming bowl of home made porridge (fried rice with egg and fritters from fresh garden herbs). Goldilocks realized that perhaps she had found what she wanted after all, even though it was far from perfect.


About ilona fried

Writer, Feldenkrais champion, Aikidoka and explorer of internal and external landscapes.

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