Hawaii: the pandemic has instantly remapped our future

Listen to the sounds of Hawaii

The Hawaii that we are accustomed to, dominated by tourism and endless development schemes, has been turned off by COVID19.  Local surfers, fishermen, and many others seem to be enjoying the slow pace of these Hawaii down days minus the conveyor belt of airplanes overhead dumping people here by the thousands.  The streets of Honolulu are practically empty, making the city feel like a small town.  It’s a pleasure to drive on the quiet roads -- tension-free driving on suddenly sane traffic infrastructure.  Only locals are driving and they are taking it easy. Everyone's on Hawaiian Time now.  Time for talk story again, to enjoy each other's company as neighbors.  There seems to be awareness that, for once, all of the people here are neighbors in the same town, on the same small island in the Pacific---without the interruption of the amusement-park throngs from everywhere else.

It is quiet for once. Quiet.  If you go out walking, you hear birds and crickets along the Ala Wai Canal, and dry leaves blowing down Kalakaua Avenue.  Magic Island isn’t filled with the endless, corny wedding photography sessions and the stampede of gawking tour groups snapping pictures of Diamond Head with Hawaiian canoes in the foreground -- a photo that's been shared at least ten million times around the world. No longer do Ala Moana Bowls surfers have to step around beach chairs and ugly rental boards to get to the water, or weave through pushy surf instructors and clueless tourists.  There are no bionic Segway tourists narrowly missing joggers around Diamond Head. The air is devoid of the voices of tour guides attempting to explain the meaning of “aloha,” as the boat, bus, or other tourist contraption heads out for another trip to harass whales, sharks or dolphins, mindlessly kill deep sea fish, jump out of airplanes, or, before belching fumes out of a giant bus all the way to Laie, to attend a luau for which they'd paid months in advance .  

The externalization of the “costs of doing business,” and the resulting tax paid by residents in the form of diminished quality of life, is more noticeable than ever during this moment in Hawaii.

Do you remember the sound of those dangerous JTB and Robert's greyhound-sized buses and trolleys hogging the full width of our roads around the island? A bicycler's nightmare and a rude screw-you to the rest of us.  What about the rental cars that endlessly clogged Hawaii’s already-compromised roads and created a general atmosphere that fed road rage mentality? Those rental cars, today, are sitting in the parking lot at Aloha Stadium, by the thousands, waiting to be set free again so that they can go back to polluting our island when our leaders give the signal.  

Take a moment and listen.  That sound you are hearing?  That's the sound of the trade winds blowing across our island.  We can, for the moment, experience the real joy that is our island State.  Our leaders are experiencing this too. It will be interesting to see if they will be quite happy to lead us back into hell when this is over.  

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