Shanghaied in San Francisco

Shanghaied in San Francisco

God on vacation

So we rolled through the redwoods right on down to San Francisco. We couldn’t wait to show our kids the city. We booked a hotel and got a steal of a deal on one of those sites that promises such, if you win your bid. We had decided that we would splurge in San Francisco and stay somewhere nice because this place was one we had really wanted to visit! I bid on a 4 star hotel and got it for the price of a 3 star. I felt like I won the lottery! And coming from a girl that never wins the cake walk, the school raffle or the sweepstakes, I was thrilled!

Right before we got to the golden gate bridge we were those parents with big expectations and wanted our kids to capture the moment and soak it all in. So I yelled excitedly from the front seat  in one of those screechy granny voices, demanding, “Turn the movie off and look out the windows kids! It’s Saaaaan Fraaaaancissscoooooo!!!”  I had to repeat myself like a parrot on crack. What is it with kids these days (I am using that voice again) who somehow can’t let go of the TV? It’s like they are getting their arm amputated when they have to turn a movie off. So the parrot repeated itself and the surgery took place. And behold! There was the golden gate bridge!


the golden gate

Rob, like many of you might remember your own father’s doing so, veered off the freeway before heading over the bridge because he saw a sign that said: lookout point. It is like there is this unwritten rule that all dad’s have to stop at all historical markers and lookout points and all moms and children have to sigh and moan when the father insists. Our car winded up this road that overlooked the city while I whined incessantly about getting to our hotel. But as soon as I looked to my left, I was captivated by this city that invites people far and wide to breathe its air.

We headed to pick up my hotel sweepstakes! When we drove up to what was supposed to be a 4 star hotel, it was clear that we had been duped! It was a dump. The picture of the pool online looked like a tropical paradise surrounded by hammocks where one could order pina coladas and get a suntan. Oh no! This pool, maybe the size of 3 bathtubs, was literally in the parking lot surrounded by cars. It was covered by a roof, complete shade and had auto exhaust floating over it like a cloud.  This is the kind of pool you’d drink Quad Loco at and pray a pigeon doesn’t have a bowel movement mid air on your head. The neighborhood was sketchy and the location was far from anything a tourist would want to visit. The place was not what they made it look like online. They had bragged that they had been written up in travel magazines and all I could think was “We’ve been lied to!

It’s not so much that we are above a place like this. It’s not like I have Coach luggage and I refuse to drink anything but Perrier water and I cannot bear (said in an English accent) a room without air conditioning.  In fact, we stayed at a total dive the night before. It was the principal… I want to be told the truth.

san fran sky view

We called the company we bid through. I calmly told them we were sitting in a hot car with two tired and hungry children and we were in this city and had 24 hours to check it out and were very disappointed that we were paying what we were paying for what we were getting. I told them this was a 4 star hotel that looked like maybe a 2 (on a good day) and we were paying for a 3. I asked how they determined how many stars a hotel is? They said, “The hotel determines that!” I said “You are kidding me? You have never seen the hotel nor verified their information, yet you are selling their vacancies? So… they could have bed bugs, rent by the hour and deal crack and tell me, the bidder, they are 4 star?”

“Yes mam, that is correct mam.”

Not only was that the case, but this company we bid through told me they could not cancel our stay with this hotel even though the hotel had recently  changed their stars in the last 2 weeks online from a 4 to a 2. It’s amazing how a hotel can decline in a matter of weeks! We had paid the insurance to have the ability to cancel at any point and this company and hotel refused to honor that. We were ticked!

Now, it’s at this point, as a side note, in case you are judging me for being a diva, that I must mention that we aren’t those people that get angry at waitresses and leave lame tips. We don’t fill out customer evaluations and mark 1 out of 5 on every box. And we don’t use our assertive voice and another word that starts with those first three letters and demand to speak to managers. We just don’t. We, honestly, aren’t thoooose people. But sometimes, just sometimes, out of principal you have to stand for what is right. And it’s just plain wrong to false advertise. It is plain wrong to make a family who has been sitting in a hot car sweating and excited, stay in your dive because you lied to get them there. And its just plain wrong not to honor your cancellation policy.

Rob and I looked at each other and we were like “We have been Shanghaied in San Francisco!” Some people say they left their heart in San Francisco but at this point I wanted to leave my hotel there.

Wikipedia (and we all know that everything Wiki says is true;)  refers to Shanghaiing as  “the practice of kidnapping people to serve as sailors by coercive techniques such as trickery,intimidation or violence. Those engaged in this form of kidnapping were known as crimps. Until 1915, unfree labor was widely used aboard American merchant ships.”

Apparently, crimps used to trick people to get on board ships by getting them wasted or what have you, so they would wake up the next day trapped on the ocean blue as newfound slaves. The Captains of these boats would pay crimps to capture people. This used to happen in San Francisco and apparently still does! But we, Weston’s, refuse to be tricked! I think there is part of you, when people lie and trick you, where you feel like you just need to let it go. You don’t want the drama. You just want a pillow to lie your head upon. It’s only a hotel, you think. And that is how we felt….

But then there is another part of you where you feel like you don’t want these scoundrels to keep this up. You don’t want them to think they can keep lying and falsely drawing people onto their ship. I am not sure that we are always called to make a thing out of every false advertisement or lie, but here is what I do know.

Ecclesiastes 7:29 says:

This only have I found:
    God created mankind upright,
    but they have gone in search of many schemes. 

Why should I be surprised to be shanghaied in San Francisco? I shouldn’t. Often the way of man finds him searching far and wide for one scheme or another. How can he make more money? How can he self advantage? How can he position? How can he win? How can he gain even more power? How can he get his way?

So first, do not be surprised when man tricks you. 

Secondly, when you collide with trickery respond with truth.

when you collide with trickery, respond with truth.

So what do we do when we find ourselves colliding with a schemer? Do we get on their ship of trickery? Do we let them get away with their piracy? Or do we get ugly and fight scheme back with scheme and swords?

Ephesians 4:14-15 says: …we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ…


There is this sense that we should get to a place in life where we will no longer be tossed around by this or that, nor will we be fooled by people who craft deceitful schemes. But instead we are called to speak the truth in love. And who knows maybe speaking the truth in love to our friend living a double life, to our coworker who is stealing from the company and to the shady hotel industry that is lying… maybe in love, saying “Hey, this isn’t cool.” …Maybe all it will take is that one “hey” to wake up these modern day pirates so they will wave their white flag, surrendering their schemes and then turn to the only One who can change their ways.

But even if they don’t…even if they still lie and trick and scheme, we can be sure to let them know with great love that we will not be held captive by their lack of integrity, principals and trickery. There is great empowerment in knowing they can be crimps, but we will not be slaves!

Rob sat in our car after driving hundreds of miles talking to Visa, the bidding company and the hotel front desk man. He spoke truth and he did it in love. He simply explained there is a way to do business and way not to. And with patience and grace, he explained how wrong this whole deal was and let them know we wouldn’t be held captive by their shady practices. And it was that truth in love that freed us up to get a new place to stay so we could get to the heart of this city!

And yes, it’s only a hotel, but here is why this is an important lesson:  If we cannot speak the truth in love in the small schemes, how will we do it in the big ones?

It is not so much whether or not you will get shanghaied… because you will. But you are no longer a captive. You have been set free. Do not let someone hold you captive and when they try, set them free with truth and love.

the san fran cathedral

And the vacation continues…..


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