I like to think that my intuition is usually pretty on point. I mean, I’m still here, aren’t I? Living normally, excitement sprinkled sparsely throughout my daily activities. And I’d like to chalk that up to knowing when to stop talking to people and having a keen eye for my environment.
For example, there was that one time I was with a friend on the Megabus who decided to chat away with the overly-friendly gentlemen sitting across the row who introduced the word “anus” not fifteen minutes into the conversation. I had hit the brakes and had decided to take a nap within the five-minute mark whereas the man forced an additional hour of conversation out of my friend. And then there was that other time in a tram in Grenoble where these frightening men showcased their gram of cocaine not ten minutes into the conversation. If it had been up to me, gracious eye contact and that’s it.
Having said all that, I found myself in the most intuitively-wrong circumstance in a stranger’s odd-things shop in Cappadocia having some mint tea, stranded, in every sense of the word with my backpack that carried my LIFE locked into the stranger’s car.
Like most of the other cities I visited before touching base in Cappadocia, I had a Couchsurfer lined up for me here. Right before leaving for Kayseri from Istanbul by plane, I WhatsApp’d him.
Me: Hey, it’s Michelle from CS. Just wondering if the couch was still an offer!
Him: Hey! Yeah, I’ve arranged a shuttle from Kayseri to Göreme. Just stay at the corner of the street he drops you off at and I’ll come get you.
And, like the man promised, someone drove by in a car and I got in.
It didn’t really occur to me that something was off until he brought me into a shop with no mention of the apartment I was promised. He offered me some tea, which after Morocco was sorely lacking, and then sat down to get to work on his latest ceramic creations for the shop.
He pointed me towards one of the chairs that was set in a circle with a bunch of other chairs. He took the middle seat, with a few pottery pieces scattered around him. Two to three large men occupied the other chairs of the room. Together, we all watched as he picked up one of the pieces and started painting a sort of substance on it that made it shine.
It was eerily still in the room. And the lack of female company worried me.
I started testing him with some simple questions.
“So, how did you get into Couchsurfing?”
He shrugged, “I don’t know, I’ve always wanted to help people out and show them around so I thought, why not!”
As a somewhat-seasoned veteran of the whole Couchsurfing business, this answer was extremely vague and lacked the enthusiasm I was used to about Couchsurfing culture. I knew I screened my host well enough to know that he was one of the dedicated hosts. But the guy sitting in front of me with the lackadaisy answer concerned me.
Wincing, I pulled out my phone, knowing it was time to use the data. Sorry, parents! I thought as I flipped it from off to on. Immediately, two WhatsApp message notifications popped up.
Host: Did you arrive to Kayseri alright?
Host: Hey, I’m at the street corner waiting, where are you?
I swallowed, desperate to pass as if I didn’t just receive the most terrifying news in the world. THIS IS WHERE I DIE, my brain cried. I’LL BE ON THE LOCAL TURKISH NEWS AS A STUPID COUCHSURFER. My mind immediately started processing information at light speed.
- I could run out of the shop to the host waiting for me there
- My backpack and everything important is in his car
- Is it possible that my host knows this person?
- The host could come get me
- WHAT IF HE DOESN’T
- WHAT IF HE’S IN ON IT
Hurriedly, I texted him back.
Me: Um, someone picked me up and took me to the shop at the top of the hill… can you come get me?
Host: Oh! Yeah, that’s my friend. I’ll come and get you.
I sat back, a bit relieved, but at the same time, not at all. Was the host just coming back to the shop so they could all kill me together? My poor brother… my parents are never going to let him do any exploring because I died in some small town in Cappadocia. THAT LADY WASN’T KILLED IN TURKEY FOR NOTHING… were just some of the thoughts running through my head.
After a while, I calmed down a bit. Whatever was about to happen, there was no way I had any control over it. And wouldn’t I feel foolish for freaking out this hard over what could potentially be a cool, nonthreatening host?
It seemed like a century passed before a tall man with long black hair and a very dense beard ducked into the doorway. He surveyed the scene in the room, the way I was sitting perched on the edge of my seat ready to flee, the way the guy was completely unknowing to any thought that was charging through my head.
“Hey!” he said to me, shaking my head. He said his hellos to his friends and to my horror, he sat down. Looked like it was about to be a long stay in the shop. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to relax until I was in an apartment, somewhere far away from all this stress, so I assumed my very-tired-from-traveling façade and stayed quiet until I felt the conversation coming to an end.
“My backpack is in his car,” I said to my host desperately. His friend tossed me the keys and I wandered outside to get my backpack… and to take a little breather. It’s going to be OK, I assured myself. You’re going to get to his apartment soon and there will be other Couchsurfers there.
In the end, I wasn’t killed on the way to his apartment. There were three other Couchsurfers staying at his house at the time that I was, but this was the only couch I’ve ever slept on where I had to cancel the stay early and find a hostel. But more on that later.