Jul 13 2017

Back in Michigan: the Good, the Bad, and the Humidity

We are back in Michigan for the first time in almost a year, and whoo, boy, does it feel good! Totally worth the four-hour flight with an antsy toddler who refused to sleep.The plan is to be here for most of July, and I’m sort of ecstatic to be surrounded by my people again.

Things I Have Missed:

1. My people

2. Lakes

3. The ability to walk into a store and purchase Michigan clothing and accessories. Yay! It’s such a bummer to only have access to San Francisco Giants stuff all the time. I didn’t realize what a bizarre relief it would be to see Detroit Tigers gear and U of M shirts and YES, I was the one burying my face in the Red Wings jersey and sobbing tears of uncontrollable joy, okay?

4. Ice cold water coming out of the tap (by comparison, “cold” California tap water feels one degree below lukewarm)

5. Friendly Midwesterners

6. ALL THE PLACES. All of them. Meijer (miss these so much it’s legit depressing), Jimmy John’s, Black Rock, Biggby, Twelve Oaks Mall, and real pizza from Buddy’s and Jet’s because THAT is how pizza is done, my friends. (Why is there a restaurant called California Pizza Kitchen when the entire state of California has no actual idea how to make pizza? Just wondering.)

7. Speed limits over 65 mph

8. Reasonable prices

9. Thunderstorms

Deliciously unpredictable weather! (And this whole forecast will be different by the next time I check it. LOVE.)

10. Lush green trees

11. Large parking spaces

12. Bonfires

13. Cider mills! I know it’s way too early in the season to really get that special cider mill feeling (tell me you know what I mean), but we went to one anyway, and we bought fresh cider and cinnamon donuts so warm they were falling apart AND I REGRET NOTHING. Then the kids ran themselves silly on a pretty amazing playground.

Things I Definitely Have Not Missed:

1. The roads. SOMEONE DO SOMETHING ABOUT THESE ROADS. They are an embarrassment.

2. The utter lack of mountains

3. Mosquitoes

4. The humidity. Dear Lord, the humidity.

My hair does not look like this in California. Ah, the plight of the curly-locked.

For a bunch of reasons, we chose to rent a place this time rather than stay with friends or family. It was our very first Airbnb experience. I literally created an Airbnb account just because of this trip, and booked a place that is six minutes from my parents and close to just about everything I know and love.

If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you may be familiar with the nightmarish housing situation we experienced during our first year in California. But here’s what I am slowly learning: it wasn’t the house’s fault. It was my fault.


Day 1: We could tell from the photos that the home was pretty outdated, but it seemed promising and there was a rather magical lake view. Done. When we arrived, we discovered that one of the two listed bathrooms was zero-percent operational — and while this wasn’t ideal (single-bathroom situations are sometimes panic-inducing for emetophobes), I said, “No big deal, it’s cool. One bathroom. Got it.” 

That evening, after a full day of travel, everyone was feeling nice and disgusting. I could not WAIT for my shower. We attempted to bathe the kids first, and every drop of hot water was gone in less than a minute. The baby, startled, began shrieking, “Get out! Get out!” and P still had soap in her hair. Turns out the water heater was about a million years old and needed to be replaced, so our host — who was initially pretty accommodating — arranged for a plumber the following day.

Day 2: A few hours after it was installed, we smelled something weird. Al asked, “What’s burning?” and he and I sniffed all around the basement and traced it back to the (brand spanking new) water heater. Everything looked okay on the outside, so we tentatively figured it was just breaking itself in. The stench disappeared within three hours. We had a wedding that evening, so I thought I should (finally) try to shower in hopes of looking vaguely presentable.

The water was frigid. I mean, like, arctic-glacier cold. I showered anyway, because someone important was getting married and she deserved to have B.O.-free guests.

Day 3: My dad is an electrician, so when I told him about the weird burn-y smell, he came over to check it out. His suspicions were confirmed: the plumber had installed the water heater improperly, and the odor was a bunch of wires burning themselves into oblivion.

burned water heater

All the wiring underneath that metal panel was totally scorched. Everything got so hot, even the sticker on top was completely obliterated.

Because the house is so old, there is no “arc fault” breaker like there would be in more modern homes, which means this could have caused a major fire. We got lucky. Especially because, upon further inspection, we found THE HOUSE HAS NO FUNCTIONING SMOKE DETECTORS. None. Pretty sure this is illegal.

Day 4: Return of the plumber! We finally have hot water (I think — we’ve all been showering at my parents’ place).

Because it is clearly important that I obsess about safety as often as possible during this trip, I should also mention that fifty percent of the windows and glass sliding doors are broken and do not lock, the garage won’t close all the way, and there are ants on the floor and occasional small, jumping spiders on the bed and a whole lot of bugs that look like this.

pincher bug

The photo doesn’t do it justice, but these suckers are almost two inches long. I was awakened by one crawling over my cheek at 3 AM.

The host has been texting me regularly, trying to schedule contractors to come in so she can get estimates on remodeling the defunct bathroom. Apparently she has a group of ten people coming in the day after we leave, and “they’ll definitely need two bathrooms instead of one.” Does that mean the remodeling will also have to take place while we’re here? Aren’t we paying for a private place to stay? Is this a typical Airbnb experience? Someone talk to me.

Either way, we have thunderstorms and family nearby for the next couple weeks — and I have to admit, that overrides just about everything.

UPDATE, AUGUST 2, 2017: After discovering a family of mice living behind the cabinet in the one operational bathroom, we FINALLY contacted Airbnb. It took quite a bit of back-and-forth, but ultimately we were connected with a super helpful case manager who seemed appalled by our experience and took care to ensure that we were ultimately satisfied with a fair resolution. Confidence in Airbnb semi-restored.

About Melissa

Melissa is a SAG-AFTRA actress and former high school teacher from Michigan who (reluctantly) moved across the country when she was six months pregnant. She is the winner of the SmokeLong Quarterly Grand Micro Contest and a past winner of the Breakwater Review Fiction Prize (selected by Susanna Kaysen, author of Girl, Interrupted), the F(r)iction flash fiction competition, and The Writer's inaugural personal essay contest, and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Cincinnati Review, The Greensboro Review, New Ohio Review, HuffPost, Scary Mommy, and The Boston Globe Magazine, among others. She has been shortlisted for both the Bridport Prize and the Bath Flash Fiction Award and was recently selected for The Best Small Fictions and the Wigleaf Top 50. Melissa is represented by Jill Marr of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.

14 comments on “Back in Michigan: the Good, the Bad, and the Humidity

  1. I’ve been to many airbnb’s, and all have been good experiences. Don’t give up! If you complain to airbnb there is a very good chance they will refund your money. You should definitely do this, as airbnb has high standards that they work hard to uphold!

    p.s. I’m also a Michifornia girl heading “home” tomorrow for several weeks. Not looking forward to 3 weeks of bad hair days, though.

    • Ha! I didn’t realize how quickly I’d gotten used to being (relatively) frizz-free with (relatively) minimal effort. I hope you have a wonderful trip!

  2. Hi Melissa. Welcome back! I do VRBO all the time and have never had a bad experience, although I’m a bit of a freak regarding how I choose. Never done Airbnb, but they’re the same thing.
    Enjoy your time. Embrace the summer frizzy hair. I’ve given up doing anything to address that for myself!

  3. My fuzzy head welcomes you and your family to the Mitten! Maybe I will be lucky enough to bump into you at Meijer. Like you, our California baby misses the thunderstorms that we so take for granted in our beautiful state.

    • Hello, fellow fuzzy-head! We’ve been living at Meijer (that’s me spinning joyously in the aisles, Sound of Music style), so when you spot me, flag me down.

      I knew I couldn’t be the only one who craved a good thunderstorm! I wonder if SoCal gets them more or less often than NorCal? Read somewhere that the Bay Area averages ONE (?!) every five years.

  4. Those long bugs with pincers at the rear are “ear wigs” welcome back to “the mitten”
    I absolutely ❤️ Your blog!!!

    • Thank you, Barb! I remember earwigs as a kid but don’t think I’ve ever seen them quite this size. And I actually awoke to one running over my cheek two nights ago! EW. This rental needs some caulk.

      • We have zillions of earwigs (pincher bugs) here in San Diego so it’s not just a midwestern thing. Hmmmm. I just got back from our trek back to Illinois. Ditto on the humidity but we stayed with family and it was awesome

  5. Yessss to the things that are missed and not missed– except fpr the humidity. I’m a MI to NC transplant of 13 years, amd the humidity in the south feels infinitely worse than the humidity in the mitten.

    But the beloved indoor shopping malls, parking spaces big enough to park my SUV within the lines, Meijer, Jets (was JUST talking about this last night!), lakes, and beloved people❤❤❤ truly, madly, deeply.

    The roads… I am with you sister. Whenever we talk about moving back, the roads and the 6 months of winter are what keep us in NC; In addition to our loved and treasured people here, of course 🙂

    Your airbnb experience though– how awful. Have you called airbnb yet? Totally unreasonable.

    • Yes! If I had written this post in February, “6 months of winter” would for sure have made the Things I Have Not Missed list (though I’d like to transport about a month’s worth of snow to CA around Christmastime). 🙂

  6. Oh no! Our friends just got a super host rating and theirs is amazing. We have only done 1 and it was fine. Our review was not as high as I wanted but we were with friends and their boys and they are a bit messier. The mice would have killed me!!! Hope you get a better place. Yes, Michigan is beautiful in the summer. We went a couple of years ago and loved it.

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