NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

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September 10, 2013

For travelers, there's a whole new rental world out there

(Continued)

— — —

The text message from my Meal Sharing hostess arrived at 5:36 p.m. It read, "I haven't prepared anything."

Until then, all my shares had clicked into place. I'd picked up Halil's car without incident and had easily located the Bernal Heights apartment I'd rented for the night. I even had time to meet Kurt and take a brief tour of his art-choked place. He showed me the pantry (the man loves Jell-O); the fridge, including a shelf for my groceries; my room, with a pyramid of fresh towels; and the backyard garden, a micro-Amazon jungle. Sam, the vocal cat, accompanied us, tossing in his unsolicited comments.

Kurt left the apartment before me, and I struggled to remember his instructions: I was holding three keys but staring at four doors with locks. Plus Sam was howling at me — to go out? To stay in? I chose the overprotective route, bolting all the doors and sequestering the cat inside.

Perhaps Sam was forewarning me, because as soon as I left the house, my spool of shares started to unravel. After the text, which I received while standing outside the front door of the "confirmed" home cook, I received a phone call. The mystery chef apologized for the last-minute cancellation and explained the personal reason behind it. I said that I understood but would still like to meet her and give her the gift of potted herbs I'd bought. Well, that wouldn't work either, she said, because she wasn't at home. She was at an Italian restaurant with pals.

She invited me to join her, her treat. But after an uncomfortable back-and-forth over directions and transportation, I told her to enjoy the time with her real friends. I wouldn't go hungry; I could always eat my hostess gift.

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