My family just returned from a surprising trip to Puerto Vallarta. Surprising both since we hadn't even imagined it until two months ago and in how much we thoroughly enjoyed it. We'd never been to the beach as a family before. I'll share more soon. Today, however, I want you to meet Pedro. He says he works for the bus company.
Buses in Puerto Vallarta are inexpensive. Fifty cents US gets you anywhere you want to go. They're slower than a taxi, hotter than a taxi, and maybe smellier than a taxi, but you can not beat the price. Plus, you get to meet more folks and chat along the way. Communication happens with smiles and courtesy as your best Spanish meets their best English with the folks on the bus. It's fun.
That warm afternoon we'd spent some time along the popular boardwalk and just returned to the nearest bus stop. Having ridden a bus to and from that very stop the night before, we knew we were in the right spot. Or so we thought.
Within a minute a serious looking Mexican gentleman walks up and says, "Where you going? Marina? One of the hotels?" His English has little accent.
Without a beat he proclaims, "You're in the wrong spot. Your stop is down this way," as he points down the road to the south.
"But we caught the bus right here last night. It was the right bus and dropped us right where we needed."
"My name is Pedro. I work for the bus company," he assures. "I help tourists like you. This is the wrong spot. They just stopped here last night because they could tell you weren't from around here. Follow me," as he begins walking rapidly down the road.
I shrug to my wife, Melanie, and hustle the kids to come along while repeating, "He works for the bus company," as my defense.
"How far is it, Pedro?"
"Just a few blocks. About four blocks. Just over this little hill."
At about the four block mark our bus is approaching. I see it written on the window. So does Melanie.
"There's our bus! Make them stop here. You work for them. They know you, right?"
Pedro, undaunted and speedy as ever, says "I can't make them stop here. Not with these curbs painted this way. Walk with me."
"We've gone more than four blocks. I see the next stop. It's another four or five blocks. That's eight or nine total, Pedro."
"Mexican blocks," he chuckles as he continues hustling along the narrow sidewalk toward the south.
At this point I know for sure that Pedro does not work for the bus company. I wanted to believe him. That's why I followed him. It's my nature to trust people. "Who would lie about such a thing? He's a hard-working guy out here doing his job," I'd thought at first. It's also my nature to see the best of people. There's a name for this occasional social psychosis I suffer, maybe you suffer from it too. It's called projection bias.
Projection bias means you believe others think or feel or see life as you do. You unwittingly make assumptions. You unconsciously settle expectations. As such, you grant them—for better or worse—your own qualities. And, in that very granting, you give away your ability to discern truth from fiction and even good from evil.
With a bus arriving as we are approaching the second bus stop nine hustled blocks south, Pedro repeats quickly, "I work for tips; give me a tip. I work for tips; give me a tip."
I wanted to holler, "I'll give you a tip, Pedro: DON'T LIE TO PEOPLE!" Yet I thought better of it reckoning that my monetary tip would speak louder than any words. While stepping onto the bus, I hand Pedro two five Peso coins, the only small denomination I had.
He retorts, "That's less than a buck!"
I turn my attention from the pitiful prevaricator on the curb to the bus driver, "That guy, Pedro, says he works for the company. Do you know that guy?"
The driver doesn't say a word. He doesn't need to. His look of amusement tempered with resignation says it all.
Pedro does not work for the bus company.
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