It was May 2003, and SouthEast Asia was right in the middle of SARS. To help the hotel's financial situation, I decided to head off from Kuala Lumpur to visit Bali for a week of unpaid leave. I called my Balinese friend Hery, who arranged 2 Harley-Davidson motorcycles for us to rent. He promised to give me a guided tour of the "Island of the Gods". And what an adventure we had, all in the span of a single day.
Things started off smoothly, as we headed out on a winding road along the south of the island, from Jimbaran towards Uluwatu. And that's when it happened. Hery was riding ahead of me, and I could see a large 2-ton truck approaching us from the opposite direction on the 2-lane road. Suddenly and without warning, a giant wild turkey sprinted across the road, just in front of Hery's Harley, as the truck was passing him in the opposite direction. The front grill of the truck smashed the giant bird with a loud "ffuump" and the turkey burst into an explosion of feathers and guts, which sprayed all over Hery as he rode past on his motorcycle. I thought it was hilarious. But that was just the start.
On our way back into town, we stopped at a red light on a 4 lane road, with another large truck right next to us. And Hery could not see the old lady crossing the street, as his view was blocked by the truck. As our luck would have it, the light turned green just as the lady emerged into view half way across the street. Hery was looking up, saw the green light, hit the throttle on his Harley, and ran right into her. But the old lady was nimble: she jumped into the air, spun 90 degrees towards the headlight, grabbed his handlebars with both hands, and landed face to face with Hery, straddling the front tire between her legs. It was an amazing feat of agility, and I got the feeling that she had done it before.
Then, as fate would have it, it was my turn. As we road down a busy Balinese main road on our 2 thundering Harleys, a young man on a small scooter came flying out from a side road, tried to merge with the moving traffic, and smashed right into the side of me and my massive Heritage Softail as he took the corner too wide. My bike wobbled a bit, but I maintained control and didn't fall. What I saw when I looked in my rear view mirror, however, concerned me greatly.
Looking back, I was shocked to see the small scooter flipping end over end, and disintegrating behind me, sending rider tumbling head over heels amongst the debris of dust, metal and rubber that was once his motorbike. Hery and I pulled over, and watched as the rider slowly got up, clothes torn, covered in blood and dirt. He picked up a detached side mirror with one hand, part of a wheel with the other hand, and staggered over to talk to us. I think he had lost a few teeth in the accident. And naturally, that's exactly when the Balinese police arrived on the scene.
An argument ensued between Hery, my "victim", and the police in their native language, Bahasa Indonesia. I had no idea what was happening or what they were talking about. Finally, the cop turned to me and said in broken English,"He's asking for 50,000 and he won't press any charges."
"WHAT?" I exclaimed. "This wasn't my fault! He ran into ME! I'm not paying him anything! And 50,000? You must be crazy!" Hery then pulled me aside and whispered in my ear.
"Bro, that guy is in really bad shape...and his bike is destroyed. And 50,000 Indonesian Rupiah is only five U.S. dollars." Ohhh, I see. Five dollars. Here you go. Bye. And we rode off. Lesson learned: in a foreign land, although it is always your fault, don't jump to conclusions; it may not be as bad as you think.
About the author
Steve Cokkinias is the Founder & CEO of InnSense Leadership (www.innsense.com)which he established in 2012 after a successful 17-year career in the hospitality industry that included senior positions with Ritz-Carlton, Westin, and Sheraton in the U.S.A, Caribbean, and Asia. An inspiring and sought-after speaker and executive coach, Steve has delivered energizing programs on service, leadership, and talent management to a wide range of international companies. During his 9 years as General Manager in Kuala Lumpur, his hotel was named "Best Employer in Malaysia" 4 times consecutively by Hewitt & Associates, earning him a place on Human Capital Asia's "Hot 40 - Asia's H.R. Superstars". In 2010, Steve was named Malaysia's "General Manager of the Year" by the Hospitality Asia Platinum Awards. His new book, "InnSanity - Leadership Lessons from a Lifetime in Luxury Lodging", is due for release in early 2013. Steve can be reached at email@example.com or you can follow Steve on Twitter: @stevecokkinias.