Yesterday, I rented a scooter from my airbnb host. It was a fair price considering the other offers I received in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and more convenient than renting at a rental shop because I wouldn’t have to go out of my way to return it after the rental period.
Noticing the gasoline meter indicating a critically low amount of fuel, I asked my host directions to the nearest gas station. He looked confused and said not to worry about it and that I didn’t need it because he had his assistant fill up the fuel just the day before. He said the gasoline meter was ‘most likely broken’.
I went to the gas station anyways.
What I’ve realized, over the period of time I’ve been traveling, is that while people are generally good-willed, they sometimes give answers they’re not sure of when being put on the spot. Perhaps it’s a pride thing, not wanting to seem unsure when asked, or perhaps it’s them placing too much trust in the answers given to them by someone else.
In this case, my host might’ve placed too much trust towards his assistant. A twenty or so seconds before arriving at the gas station, my scooter ran out of gas. I had to manually push it to the gas station before I could fill up on gas.
It made me wonder: what if, I hadn’t gone directly to the gas station? I could’ve easily been stranded in the middle of nowhere waiting, under a hot scorching sun for my host to arrange a rescue. I could’ve missed a business meeting that couldn’t be missed. I could’ve run out of gas on my way up a steep slope and end up rolling backwards towards incoming traffic. Many things could’ve happened and it would’ve been because I took my host’s word that his assistant had filled up on gas the day before.
Sometimes it’s not about whether or not to trust someone. It’s about maintaining a healthy amount of skepticism towards promises made by people who’s reputation you know nothing about. It’s about taking extra effort and time to verify situations that are worth reconfirming and reasonably easy to do so. If all it takes is a quick check to see whether or not someone’s words can hold up, then why not? It’s easy for someone to say the wrong thing because they’re not the ones who’ll suffer the consequences. You are.
I experienced another similar situation at another airbnb rental, this time in Bali, Indonesia. My water supply was scheduled to be shut off for the greater part of the morning due to renovations being made to the neighboring villa, a process that would take three to four hours at most. Time quickly passed and upon realizing that I still didn’t have access to water, I contacted my host. It turned out that the contractor had forgotten to turn the water supply back on after he left. My airbnb host apologized and promised that the contractor was on his way and that water would then be restored, all within two hours.
I didn’t regain my water access until the very next morning.
My host, having asked the contractor to come back and fix the problem, had assumed her job to be done and went to sleep. The contractor who came and fixed the problem likewise assumed his job to be done and left, without checking to see if the problem had been fixed. It hadn’t.
Because of their negligence and assumptions, neither of them had checked to see whether or not my water had been restored. Because of their actions, I bore the consequences as the victim and didn’t have access to water until the next day.
To be honest, I could’ve blamed them. I could’ve asked for compensation. I could’ve yelled at them, scolded them. But I didn’t, because it wouldn’t have done anything to change the situation that had already passed. There was no reason to make a fuss and cry over spoilt milk. Instead, I reflected. I looked back and realized that I was also to blame; I should’ve been more proactive in checking to see whether or not the water had been restored myself without relying on others. I should’ve asked the host to inform me when the problem had been fixed. I had been equally negligent in assuming my host and the contractor would check to see if the water had been restored.
When you have a say, a chance to make a difference in a situation that matters by double checking, go for it. Most people will never go out of their way to check whether or not your problems are fixed. Because it’s not directly their problem, they’re not going to put in the effort. When that happens, all you can do is rely on yourself, rely on your instincts, your ability to reassess and reconfirm to avoid the chances of being in a disadvantageous situation. We all have the ability, the capability to influence and affect the outcomes to our problems positively — it’s just a matter of whether or not we do.
Trust your instincts and ask questions. Trust people for who they are and how they act, but not always what they say. Determine the outcome you want, yourself.
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” — George Bernard Shaw