Sunday, May 22, 2011

a matter of focus

in the light of day, things look different. i'm feeling less indignant about our freeloading couchsurfer than i was last evening, tho' writing that awfully negative list did seem to help clear it out of my system, so that's undoubtedly a big part of what makes me feel better. but how you see people is also a matter of perspective, isn't it?

sometimes, one thing is in focus and sometimes, it's another. focusing on one aspect can blur the others and change how you view an experience.  i've been pondering the cultural lens with which we inevitably view things. and how that makes things appear to be wrong or right.

what was especially bewildering and disappointing in this instance is that the person didn't at all fit the cultural lens which i expected since this person was from the culture of my birth.  so i had expectations of a certain kind of person - open, funny, forthcoming. already when he approached my car at the train station, he didn't look at all as i had expected. he didn't actually greet me, just kind of slouched his way to the car, looking rather unhealthy and drawn (which is fair enough after a long-haul flight). perhaps because he didn't meet my expectations, he never had a chance. i'm willing to admit that.

but in his behavior, he did himself no favors. it just reinforced the strangeness of the initial encounter and made it seem worse and worse. perhaps what i was actually disappointed in was how well he conformed to an american stereotype - that of the ugly american - with strange stories of living a sort of unabomber, hermetic-life, hidden away from civilization, rejecting the trappings of said civilization (medical care, for one, tho' not credit cards, apparently), working odd jobs, going for weeks without speaking to anyone. but at the same time, an odd sense of entitlement (that dinner would be served to him, his laundry done and folded) and that air of superiority that he'd seen and done all and seen and done it better.

of course, it is a matter of what one chooses to focus on. and tho' it was an odd experience for sure, it was, in the end harmless. i'm still pretty uncomfortable with the weird recordings, for which he never asked permission, but in all, it's certainly given me something to write about, hasn't it?

what i'm torn about now is how to approach writing feedback on the couchsurfing site. with all of my other experiences, i've not at all hesitated to write something really positive, because they have all been great. i'm not sure, in this instance, that it's worth writing something negative. tho' perhaps i have a duty to give other potential hosts a heads' up about this guy. but all of my complaints are admittedly a matter of taste - he didn't steal anything, he didn't harm us or threaten us, so maybe it's not fair to write negative feedback. and if i do, of course, i risk getting negative feedback myself, which i don't want (tho' after cooking and doing laundry for this guy, he would have to have a lot of nerve to give me negative feedback).

so i'm leaning towards writing nothing at all - on the premise that if you can't say something nice, don't say anything. but that makes me feel a little bit disappointed in myself. again, it's all a matter of focus, isn't it?

and i have to stress, this doesn't put me off couchsurfing, it just makes me resolved only to host members where it's verified that they are who they say are (couchsurfing has a mechanism for this) and who have good references.  i still think it's an awesome concept. and after nearly two years of participating in it, this is the first experience that's left a bad taste in my mouth.


will said...

That he did not harm or steal are extreme positives. On the other hand, his behavior is an anomaly of self-indulgent chauvinism combined with other tasteless values.

Who knows, he might have mental health issues or he's simply seeing how far he can push people. Regardless, he should be wearing a warning label for all future kind people to see.

Tracy Golightly-Garcia said...

Hello Julie

I hope next time you host someone he or she will show more manners and appreciate all you have done for them.

Have a great week!


Anonymous said...

I think that you're right that part of the prob was focus/expectations: yours and his.

But I also think that you've described behavior that is unhealthy. I see more and more individuals who are like this fellow. Critical of others, willing to use people, indifferent to kindness. Just kind of vague.

On the upside, one weirdo in two years is a pretty good record. And as you said, some of the best blog topics come from events that we find strange.

Indiri Wood said...

I would suggest you post a review, if only to be fair to people he would be hosted by in future. But you don't have to say the negative things, exactly. Maybe you could say "keeps mostly to himself" instead of "socially withdrawn and awkward weirdo" and maybe add "guaranteed to give you a good story to tell later". It's honest but not terribly mean so maybe (with a little luck) he can learn a bit from it, too. What reviews have others given him?

Molly said...

I love Indiri's comment - your review could be an exercise in how to speak the truth in the subtlest way :)
Or say nothing and let your silence speak volumes.
Or say: I cannot comment.
Or say: This man is a fucktard, don't host him.
I HATE freeloaders, can you tell?

julochka said...

thank you for the food for thought...what i've done is place a link to the "how not to couchsurf" post in my profile under "experiences with couchsurfing" - that way i don't really name names or blacklist someone who may not (due to potential mental issues) completely deserve it.

looking at his other feedback, it's quite a bit like what "indiri" suggests and reinforces my belief that i need to read the profiles of those requesting to surf more carefully and go with my gut...because i think the signals were all there. *sigh*

Michelle said...

Just wait till he posts his feedback on you as a host - you'll know what to do after that!!

celkalee said...

Catching up here....I applaud your spirit, that said, I now subscribe to the "no good deed goes unpunished" philosophy. I think your approach to sending up a warning flag is good. My concern would be only one wierdo in 2 years is not bad but it only takes one. I have developed a sort of protectionist attitude based on a couple negative experiences and plan to stay that way. Now, these were really bad experiences so my take on all this is rather different. Good luck with making your point and still maintaining your positive attitude. BTW, most of us, from the land of your birth, are nothing like this wing-nut :)

heidikins said...

I agree with the conclusion you've come to, so I won't comment on the CouchSurfer bit.

But I will say I LOVE the format of this post plus the focused/unfocused pics that go with it. :)