Sometimes in life you’ve just got to learn the hard way. Although it’s not my preferred form of education, these little lessons do pop into my life here and there every few years.
After 1 month of pouring my heart and soul, not to mention entire living budget into converting my two story Barcelona penthouse into more or less a dream home, the kind of flat you see in movies, I was thoroughly exhausted but proud when I had my first rental booking arrive a few nights later, and a few others on the horizon.
Decorating my home became a labor of love bordering obsession nearly days after my new love interest left town to return to Paris. Of course any normal person would return to their work and day to day routine, but myself, veering on the eccentric side decided not to pay attention to conventional wisdom and go ahead and pimp out my house in preparation for the next time I have my special guest in town.
Soon my days turned into scouring estate sales, antique markets and small designer home décor stores, seeking out the unique, ideal and affordable pieces that would make my home perfect. I started imagining myself as an interior designer like the ones on HGTV, taking on a huge challenge in a very tight time frame and even tighter budget. With every room that I painted or every piece of furniture restored, I was envisioning my future guests loving every last detail in the same way as I had.
So at what point did it all go wrong? Well probably at the moment that I got the permission from my contact at the building management company to allow paid guests to stay in my home and unbeknownst to me, my contact was on her way out.
The swift downward spiral began the day my first guests arrived. Having exchanged various emails with this nice Sri Lankan – Canadian family, I was a bit frustrated that they never gave me an exact arrival time other than “late”. After waiting around most of the afternoon for them, I left to run a few errands and pick up some necessities for their stay, and sure enough, five minutes after my leaving, they arrived. Needless to say, my very narrow-minded door woman was not happy to have my guests camped out on the doorstep for an hour and a half until I returned, albeit they were seated downstairs at the café next door.
The fire that I thought I had extinguished by having a brief chat with the door woman upon my return, and sharing Barcelona tourism tips over a couple bottles of wine with my guests, was actually the calm before the storm. Promptly at 10:00 am the next morning I received a call from the management company, claiming that I could be harboring terrorists and that I am prohibited to have any paid guests in the future, and I must notify them in advance of any personal guests as well as provide copies of their passports. If I did not meet their requirements, then the police would be called for my running an “Illegal Hostel” out of my apartment and “possibly hosting terrorists”.
Whaaattttt????? Yes, my thoughts exactly. We’re not living in the 1950’s where this type of racism existed, it’s 2012!
So, I followed their rules about the paid guests but decided to call their bluff for my personal guests. What followed was a month long battle of David versus Goliath proportions, where with every friend who visited me from out of town, I received threatening emails, and they even questioned the whereabouts of one local friend as well, someone who had been to my place many times over the past months.
In the end, the war turned into a cease fire, as my last house guests left and I began my exit strategy, ie…selling off a few things, packing and storing the majority and moving out completely in ¼ of the time it took me to put everything together.
This whole process was bittersweet. On one hand I was heartbroken putting together my dream home just to break it down so soon, yet on the other hand it was good riddance to bad karma.
Either way you look at it, a tremendous lesson was learned the very, very hard way. Lots of money and even more precious, my time spent, now down the drain, all for not having received a written permission. Playing devils advocate, I can say that even had I received a signed document from the owner of the management company, they’re so morally poor that they would have changed their minds regardless, based on my first guests, but the true dagger through the heart, yes there is a Lesson #2, is that much of this labor of love was motivated by my new love interest and creating a better “nest” to receive him, yet in the end he never returned from Paris to see the fruits of my labor. This Lesson #2 of balancing the good will of new love with the reliability of the partner is still one that I’m trying to grasp.