I’ve just sat down on the couch with a cup of coffee, when our father walks into the living room. He looks around inquisitively. Raises one eyebrow. Almost surprised. “Is Svetlana still sleeping?” he asks, slightly mockingly. I have to restrain myself from spluttering my coffee all over the table. Instead I shake my head. No. Svetlana is not still in bed. Svetlana is probably still in Russia. If she even exists. Because according to her contact information she lives in Moscow, Finland. And she was planning to stay with us for three weeks. By herself and during the cold winter months. Although this could have been the beginning of a beautiful friendship, I find myself reporting yet another ‘no-show’ to Booking.com later that morning instead.
And as far as I can foresee right now, also the last for the time being. I’m glad. Because after our initially somewhat naive start, where providing a valid credit card was not a requirement for making a reservation, bookings from the world’s most famous booking site started to trickle in steadily within a few hours. It soon became clear that these were mainly fake bookings. All Finns or Russians. All for a period of at least two weeks. And all with questionable addresses and telephone numbers. As the bookings came in one by one (and in some cases during peak periods), I slowly started to panic. Reservations made via Booking.com cannot be refused and, in the case of a fake booking, a room (which we prefer to rent to people of flesh and blood) will be falsely shown as occupied. Since I didn’t have the time (and money) to hire a private investigator to track down Booking.com’s phone number, I instead decided to firmly set all available rooms to “0.” Until I had time to review the booking conditions via Booking.com in peace, of course.
Although changing the original reservation conditions prevented more fake bookings from coming in, it did not allow me to revise the reservations that were already made. And because Booking.com, even after yet another no-show, could not say with certainty that all these bookings were actually false, I had no choice but to wait until the actual arrival dates of these so-called guests arrived. Mikalai, Liubov, Sid and, finally, Svetlana. So that’s how yesterday morning I prepared a room for a guest I didn’t expect to exist. Let alone come. I bought groceries for a Bed & Breakfast-worthy breakfast. And, because my question about her estimated time of arrival still remained unanswered, I was forced to stay home all day. With the company phone within reach, I finally dared to fall asleep after midnight. Stupid? Perhaps. But as a start-up company, we can’t afford any bad reviews. Because what if she had really existed? And she, unaware of any troubles, had suddenly appeared on the doorstep with two large suitcases? Ready to exchange cold Finland (or was it Russia?) for sunny Spain? Better save than sorry. Miracles do happen. Even if I’m the only one who believes it.
“No wonder,” my father remarks when I tell him that Svetlana indeed turns out to be a no-show. He sits down on the chair opposite me with a fresh cup of coffee in his hand. As I take the last sip of mine, I walk to the kitchen. I open the refrigerator door. “Would anyone like an extensive breakfast?” Just because Svetlana didn’t want to (or couldn’t) enjoy it doesn’t mean we can’t. “Her loss,” I think to myself as I fish a pack of bacon from the refrigerator drawer.