This list was compiled through years of experience couch surfing in over twenty states. Now, I’m not going to pretend like I always used the best judgment in selecting hosts, but you live and you learn and I have certainly slept on enough couches/futons/plush carpets/beanbag chairs and encountered enough weirdos to the point where I feel comfortable sharing some snarky stereotypes with the masses. Many people immediately dismiss the concept of couch surfing as being dangerous, creepy, etc., but my experiences have been 99% positive. The 1% of negative experiences were of such comedic and anecdotal value that they more than made up for the temporary awkwardness. Here is my top five commonly encountered types of couch surfing hosts that I recommend you approach with caution and/or a plan of escape:
1. Clothing-Optional Chris
Chris has an impressive profile full of glowing references, often numbering in the hundreds. He is usually a little older, and his two pictures are both face shots. His profile is epically long and detailed, so much that you start skimming around the eighth paragraph, satisfied with his credentials and taste in music. You arrive at his charming bungalow in a trendy part of town and ring the doorbell. As the door opens you are greeted with a limp, pendulous pink dick staring you in the face. You stare at it. It stares back at you. You look at his testicles and note their dangle, their wiry fuzz. Chris is more than likely unusually tall, making this first encounter even more awkward for surfers short in stature.
You snap yourself out of the initial shock and turn your gaze to his smiling and welcoming face. He invites you inside and you sit on the couch, which is covered in dog hair and smeared here and there with the dried remnants of a mysterious phlegm-like substance. He hands you a hot cup of chai, which is delicious, and you have a pleasant conversation about gardening and mutual cities visited. You notice that he is indeed wearing clothing—socks, the kind with gray toes and heels. Your initial discomfort has subsided and you realize that you like Chris, who happens to be a pretty cool dude, albeit quirky as hell. Later, you peruse his profile more thoroughly as you prepare to sleep on the makeshift sanitary barrier you have created on the couch, and realize that the words ‘clothing-optional’ do indeed appear briefly in the tenth paragraph of his profile. You promise yourself to read every profile in painstaking detail from here on out. You sleep in flannel pyjamas.
2. Bed-Only Benjamin
Benjamin advertises his couch availability as, “I can only share my bed.” He has only one picture—fuzzy, slightly crooked, and taken in the bathroom with a cell phone. In it he is shirtless, proudly displaying his massive tribal tattoo. The profile description is sparse. He specifies that he only wants to host girls, “sorry dudes!” Benjamin is obviously looking to hook up. You do not want to stay with Benjamin. You dismiss the option immediately. You get to your destination city with plans to stay with the perfect host, along with an almost perfect back-up host. When they both mysteriously bail on you, you desperately turn to the last minute couch request group for the city.
Unfortunately, the group has less than five members. Oh look, there’s Benjamin! You waver indecisively between sleeping in your car and sleeping at Benjamin’s. Maybe it was a joke, you tell yourself. Why would he be advertising as a couch surfing host and not have a freaking couch on which one can surf? You message him, and he gets back to you within ten minutes. He is overly enthusiastic. You realize it was not a joke. He sends you another message immediately after, this one with a photo attachment, depicting him shirtless but this time much lower on the body, V-lines perilously close to converging. You snap your laptop shut and sit there, thinking how your mother would be ashamed. You sleep in your car.
3. Mooching Molly
Molly seems like an extroverted and fun-loving person, but her real motivation for hosting you is to gently pressure you into repaying her for her hospitality with a burrito. And then a beer. And a shot, since she left work fifteen minutes early to be there for your arrival. She’s not too fond of Cuervo… Patrón doesn’t cost THAT much more than well tequila, so do you mind? And make it a double! She then suggests some late-night drunchies. Turns out, she doesn’t have enough money to cover her share of the two orders of chili cheese fries and three orders of tater tots. Well, since she offered you a pop tart this morning, would you mind getting this one? Thanks so much! And how about hangover breakfast the next morning? She knows the BEST breakfast joint in town. The check arrives and she gets quiet and starts talking about how broke she is and the $55 parking ticket she got last week. She asks if you were planning to pay for breakfast. She drove half a mile to pick you up at the train station, remember? She thinks you said something about treating her to breakfast? Well, yes, before you treated her to everything else for the past two days.
Mooching Molly is the couch surfing equivalent of a stripper, in it for your money and damn good at feigning a genuine connection in the meantime. You’ll probably look back on your experience fondly (since you spent every night getting wasted at the bars) until you realize that you spent $200 on lodging that was supposed to be free, and $180 of it was spent on overpriced tequila shots and greasy bar food for Molly. You sleep soundly, with your wallet under your pillow.
4. Invisible Irene
Irene has dozens of positive references and has been vouched for several times. She has many pictures in exotic locales, hanging out on beaches with tanned foreigners drinking out of coconuts, and a whole series of her jumping in the air enthusiastically in front of famous monuments. She appears to be sane, social, and open-minded. She lives in a big, hip city in the coolest part of town. You are particularly excited about your stay with Irene and call her as soon as you enter the city limits. A good hour passes with no response; you call again, no answer. Another hour passes. Just when you are about to call your third cousin once removed and beg to stay with him in the suburbs 45 minutes away, Irene casually texts you her address. You arrive at her house, knock on the door, wait several minutes, and are greeted by a pale, timid roommate who winces in the light of the sun. Where is Irene, you ask? The roommate doesn’t know, and disappears. You call Irene, then text her, and go out anyway after there is still no response. You wake up in the morning and wander around the empty house, wondering if something bad happened to Irene. You contemplate calling the police. You go out again, still not having met her. You pack your bags slowly in the morning, holding out for a possible last minute meeting with your mystery host, feeling awkward and uncomfortable, resenting Irene for her absence and eventually giving up and spitefully stealing a few rolls of toilet paper on your way out.
5. Environmental Eric
Eric lives in a city like Austin, Portland, or Berkeley. He is a zealot for the environment or a related cause. He is admirable for his passion and unwavering dedication to the health of the planet. He is also, unfortunately, not one for detailed Internet profiles and omits the fact that his house is ‘off the grid.’ Off the grid meaning that it is not connected to public utilities such as water and electricity. The one ‘on the grid’ appliance ends up being his refrigerator, which strangely enough is stocked only with a huge variety of large, twisted sausages and one carton of soy milk. The solar powered lights go out shortly after you get there, and Eric insists that this never happens. You find this unlikely, especially if he lives in Portland. The tap water is unfiltered rainwater, which you think is pretty cool until you look out the bathroom window before brushing your teeth at night and witness his neighbor drunkenly peeing into the gutters, giggling sinisterly. You realize you need to get out immediately. You pack your bags in the middle of the night and leave silently, scribbling a quick note to Eric exposing the water-weeing neighbor. You sleep in a cheap motel and fall asleep with the lights on.