Last week, I stole a stack of paper cups from a café around the corner from my apartment.
I had my reasons – specifically, that the studio I rented didn’t have a kitchen sink and I was tired of washing my dinnerware in the bathroom. But it wasn’t until reading the house manual, which was left on the kitchen counter exactly where a sink might go, and learning that my hosts owned said café, that I decided to put my plan into action.
“Quid pro quo,” I texted my friend along with a photo of the cups and a roll of toilet paper that I had stashed in my purse.
“That’s not what that means,” he replied.
“Yes it does,” I said. “I paid £100 a night, I deserve some free cups. How is that not quid pro quo?”
“It just isn’t,” he argued.
“Modern interpretation,” I replied. “Think about it.”
And on that note, I wandered out of the WiFi zone I was sitting in, let my phone lapse into airplane mode and took myself to lunch at a noodle shop.
And that, in case you’re wondering, is how you win an argument in 2016.
Several hours later, I wandered into a free photography exhibit on my way home.
“May I check your bag please?” the security guard asked at the door.
“Sure,” I shrugged.
He shined a flashlight and jostled the contents a few times. Then, he clicked off his light and cleared his throat with the air of a man who was about to solve a major case.
It was then that I glanced down and saw the cups. Because he didn’t ask, I said, “I took them from a café because my apartment doesn’t have a sink.”
The guard gaped. “Excuse me?”
“The cups,” I said. “I rented an AirBnB and the ad wasn’t clear that there was no sink, so I went to the owner’s cafe and took some cups.”
I was going to add “quid pro quo”, but stopped myself because the guard already looked confused enough.
“Do you want to see it?” I offered.
“See what?” he asked.
“The listing!” I replied.
“No I don’t want to see the listing,” he sighed, shaking his head.
Just because he wasn’t interested doesn’t mean that you aren’t. Here’s what it said:
The Kitchenette includes a fridge, plates, cups, utensils, toaster, kettle & microwave.
Can you believe that? They spell out the cutlery situation, but don’t mention there’s no sink until several lines later when they add, “Running water is from the bathroom.”
While we’re on the subject, another interesting detail: the couple who owns the unit met while they were on tour as backup dancers with the Spice Girls. And that would have nothing to do with anything except for the fact that they begin the listing as follows:
First things First!!! The area hosts some of the best night spots, art galleries and restaurants in London.
I often wonder what people are thinking when they write their AirBnB profiles. If Greg and Olivia are any indication, then the thought process might be: Why use one exclamation point when three will do? And, how would the Spice Girls start a song about a street full of curry houses?
Admit it. Now that I’ve planted the image of Scary Spice popping out of a black cab and kicking off a dance number with “First things first!!!” you can’t un-see it. You’re welcome.
In any case, that’s what the security guard missed out on when he declined to take a look at my AirBnB rental. His loss.
“So you didn’t take those things from here?” he asked.
“Of course not!” I said. “I didn’t even get inside yet. How could I?”
This, apparently, was not the answer the guard was hoping for. He pinched his nose between his thumb and forefinger and exhaled deeply. “Just go in,” he said. “But please don’t touch anything.”
“I would never,” I said, as I hoisted my bag over my shoulder. “Don’t worry.”
Then I walked to the donation box and made a big show of fishing £5 out of my wallet and dropping it into the slot.
Because quid pro quo, you guys.
Quid pro quo.