I touched on the importance of observation in my Crossing Streets post. Just being aware of your surroundings can make a situation where things could easily go south not do so.
There are situations where you know about the risk, yet you find yourself being dragged into the situation. Well, maybe you don’t, but I have had it happen to me. It is all well and good to know the risk, the problem for me is knowing what to do instead, or how to extricate once I realize something is awry.
I try to keep my eyes open and notice things in general, and I’ve given myself permission to be rude and just pull out if I feel uncomfortable. Sometimes I act like I don’t understand, when I do, if it makes pulling out easier.
A picture can be worth a thousand words
This ATM ate my card
Check out this post: A picture and a phrasebook saved my day. Which tells about coping with an ATM machine that ate my debit card.
Keeping track of where you need to be
Another time when a photo is helpful is when you need to get back to a certain location. Knowing where it is on a map is great but sometimes you get disoriented, and when I am overwhelmed stuff starts to all look the same. You can also show the photo to a local and they are likely to know where it is.
When Dad and I went on the cruise on the Yangtze there was a change to the starting arrangements because of flooding above the dam. The driver who picked us up owned a bakery on a street in Yichang and turned us loose for a couple of hours.
On our return Dad, who gets overwhelmed even more easily than I do, was convinced we were in the wrong spot because the guy’s car was not in front of the shop and was set to take off again (can you get your parent chipped, like a dog?) until I showed him the photo of the shop itself. In addition to the car being moved, several street food vendors had set up shop while we were exploring, making the street look different.
The moral of that story is that using vehicles as landmarks isn’t the best idea, and a picture of the right thing can be worth a lot. My stock with Dad went up a lot after that.
Take a picture of the taxi driver registration
I read this suggestion somewhere and it is one that I usually do. It does a few things, but one is to alert the driver that you could report him/her since you have their license number. I’ve never actually reported one, although one guy came really close.
It could also allow you to locate the taxi should you leave something in it.
Be wary of late night airport taxis
This happened to me in the Beijing Airport. It was late, or, more accurately, extremely early, my flight arrived at terminal 1 (local arrivals) after midnight. You have to walk from terminal 1 to terminal 2 to get any services, even during the day.
After ten pm the hotel shuttle stopped running on a regular schedule and you had to call for pick up. I had a Chinese cell phone so this shouldn’t have been a problem, but I couldn’t get it to connect. I suspicion that I needed a Beijing prefix of some sort. Anyhow I asked someone to help me place the call. This woman said “you have to take a taxi at this time, none of the hotel shuttles are running”. She then led me to an elevator and said the taxis were on a lower level. I looked out and pointed to the taxi queue. She said something to indicate that what I saw wasn’t the right taxi queue. Which even my sleep deprived brain could process as bunk.
I refused to get into the elevator, I stated, in English “I’m too tired to deal with dishonest taxi drivers”. She likely didn’t get the exact meaning of what I said, but she certainly understood the gist of it: That I knew darned good and well that this was an attempt to rip me off. I went back to the hotel pick up spot, determined to figure out how to make the call, and the hotel shuttle pulled up as I came through the door, someone else had called it.
We also had a bad experience in the Qingdao Airport with a late night taxi. But that is a story for another day.