Monday, November 3, 2008

A Matter of Trust

Chris, the guy from whom we rented a condo put me to shame. He put me to shame with his implicit trust in us.

On Monday, after landing in Kauai, he was one of the 10 or so people we called looking for accommodation. We went to his property in the town of Kalaheo to see if he had vacancies. He was full, but offered us a place in Poipu instead. Poipu was a seaside town eight miles away and a much more upscale area in the island. He asked us to follow his truck and so we drove following him.

He showed us one large unit that he hadn't planned on renting out, which he said we could have. He said there were two problems – the dishwasher was not working, so we’d have to hand-wash the dishes if we used the kitchen. And one faucet in the bathtub leaked a little, so we had to put a towel below while we showered. For these “inconveniences”, on his own, he knocked 50% off the price that we had seen in his website. We loved the place (much bigger and better equipped than our Chicago apartment back home) and so we took it up on the spot.

“Oh, we can do that later,” he said, when I asked about registration and paperwork. He showed us where everything was, shared a couple of housekeeping rules, handed me the keys and rushed off to play tennis with his buddies.

He didn’t have our credit card number or even our names. All he had was the cell phone number from which we called him.

And based just on our word that we’d stay for four nights, he had handed over to us the entire upstairs portion fully furnished (1100 sq feet) with a kitchen, a dining room, a living room including a wrap-around balcony.

What surprised me was how many things there were. It was a place that had been furnished with care and attention to detail. There were 2 TV’s, at least 2 DVD/VCR’s, a full dining table set, 2 phone handsets, lots of good furniture, several wall hangings and at least 10 fans and numerous lamps. The kitchen appliances were of excellent quality. I found bookcases full of books and CD’s and video cassettes. Dozens and dozens of them. Many were still shrink-wrapped, unopened. (One example: I saw a coffee-table book titled Bathrooms, which had photos of over 100 beautiful bathrooms in it.)

His unquestioning trust that we'd take care of all of this shamed me a little because I know I probably couldn’t trust a stranger if all of that was my stuff. In Zen Buddhism there is a teaching about making sure that one doesn’t get too attached to one’s own possessions. Your possessions shouldn’t possess you, they say. Our absent-landlord Chris embodied that completely. I am pretty sure that he doesn’t even know all that he possesses.

After two days of staying there without hearing from him, I began to get agitated. We hadn’t still paid him a penny. It was as if we were living in someone else’s fully furnished home. So I called him up to ask about where and how to pay him.

“Oh, when you are ready to check out, just leave the money or the check on the kitchen counter. And leave the keys there too when you leave,” was all he said.

And that’s exactly what we did.

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