Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Warm Showers

Some of you may know Hospitality Club(.org) or Couch Surfing(.com). These are places you can mooch free lodging from people and be nice and give people a place to stay. Great idea.

My wife and I are actually members of the former, but we've never hosted anybody (or asked anybody for hospitality—when we travel, we tend to stay with friends or go to places cheap enough that we can afford a clean bed).

But when you live in New York City, you’re always in demand. And that’s fine. And we're that rare bread in New York in that we're not actually rich but do actually have space for guests. We like guests. One of the great things about living in New York is that eventually, everybody comes to see you. Another reason to never leave Astoria.

So a few people have asked to stay with us through Hospitality Club and I’ve said no. Most of that is simple timing. We travel a lot and we also have lots of friends stay over at home. But there’s something deeper.

We don't mind strangers staying with us, but we want some filter. We don't want every 20-year-old who can log-on to a web site staying with us. I'm sure they're all nice and all... but as a hint if you do this kind of thing: if the host gives you a name or some information, use it. The cut-and-paste request is kind of lame.

Still, there's something deeper, something psychological about opening up your house to strangers who are vetted only by their online good name and their willingness to e-mail. Just because you’re rich enough to travel but poor enough to want free lodging seems like a lame reason to help somebody. We need some control. Whatever the reasons, I've said no to everybody.

Why say yes to some and no to others? You can never host everybody. So why help somebody with access to a computer when there are tons of desperate and deserving and poor and computer illiterate people in the world (and city) that would love a warm bed and shower?

Well now there's something better: Warm Showers(.org). Along with the plus of sounding vaguely obscene, this is a great concept.... Because it’s limited to people who bike. The idea is you take long bike rides and kind people give you access to their shower, or perhaps a bed.

Liking bikes myself, the idea of helping bikers seems like the perfect fit. We can do a good deed, meet people who are probably nice, and at the very least, share something in common with your guests. Hell, I've even got tools.

Personally, I have a few concerns about the privacy aspects of their website. But the guys who run it are real people who volunteer their time and just seem awfully nice. Sign up. Host somebody. Maybe you’ll even meet me.

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