The gut instinct – that silent warning that jolts you around the midriff at the first sign of danger. Sub-conscious recognition that something, or somebody is not quite right. It’s never let me down except when I’ve ignored it, which I have done to my cost.
We recently hosted a working guest under the Workaway scheme. She contacted me asking if she could stay with us for a week to ten days in exchange for helping in our garden. When I looked at her profile on-line, gut instinct reacted with a loud warning bell. An eerily disturbing photograph of a single, 51-year-old woman.
But she was in a predicament, and we could use some help, so after numerous phone calls from her, I agreed she could come to us. Even while I was speaking to her I knew, in the back of my mind, I was making a mistake.
I know I can say with honesty that we are kind and generous people, and we worked hard to make her stay with us enjoyable. And it was hard work. She was a particularly fussy eater and a cold personality, and I found her presence deeply uncomfortable. Nevertheless she stayed for a week and did some gardening work and became a little more relaxed, even appearing friendly. We went far beyond the usual terms of the working guest arrangement, taking her out to a restaurant, driving her around sightseeing and giving her unlimited use of my personal computer.
During that week we received a phone call to say my son was critically ill in England. She seemed very sympathetic as news came that his condition was deteriorating.
On the day she left, we drove her to the airport, where she thanked us profusely and said how kind we had been, and what a pleasure it had been to stay with us.
The following day, I left to go to England to be with my son at the hospital. During that time our guest wrote a friendly little email asking if I would leave feedback for her on the Workaway site. Feedback is important for both guests and hosts, as it gives others an idea of what to expect. I immediately left generous feedback, without mentioning any of the difficulties we had experienced with her. I noticed she did not reciprocate.
After five extremely distressing days, my son died and I had to return home to France.
There I found an email from the Workaway administrators saying they had received a report of a worrying incident, from an ‘informant’ who wished to remain anonymous. As our recent guest was the first for eight months, it was clearly her.
The ‘worrying incident’ was something that any normal person would have laughed off, and was dismissed after I had spent considerable time outlining the behaviour of the woman during her stay with us, and referring to the glowing feedback from all our previous guests.
Had I only take the advice of gut instinct, I would not have had to deal with the malice of this sad and spiteful creature who, despite being aware of what a terrible time this was for our family, deliberately added to our grief. Surely a low in human behaviour.
I wish I’d trusted that gut instinct. I hope you do, too. It’s a gift given to you for a reason.