M. Giant's
Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks

Wednesday, May 28, 2003  


I’m back. A few things I’ve learned about Hawaii—or at least the island of Oahu—which I will now share with you:

Driving on an island, even a fairly large one, is different from driving on the mainland. Everyone warned us that if we found ourselves on the freeway during rush hour, we’d be sorry. Naturally, the hour-plus clusterfuck we had to negotiate at Alamo before we could drive off in our rental car ensured that we had no choice but to do exactly that. It was easy enough to find the H1, and once we got there, we found we had time to count the individual pebbles in the pavement. And since Oahu turns out to be a very three-dimensional place, topographically speaking, even if we’d felt comfortable getting off the road to find an alternate route, there would be no guarantee that any such route existed. We had mountains on the left, oceans on the right, and bridges over water every mile or so. We decided to enjoy the scenery.

But get this: we had a few hours to kill yesterday evening before our flight home, so we drove around the area east of Downtown Honolulu. Obviously we stayed off the freeway because we didn’t want to end up watching our plane take off without us while we were still trapped like bugs in automotive amber somewhere on the interstate (and I’ll spare you the riff about the misnomer that the word “interstate” is in this case), and we drove around on the side roads. Guess what? They were abandoned. Five-fifteen on a Tuesday, and the only reason it was busier than three-thirty in the morning was the fact that we were there. Here at home, I’m all about staying off the freeway during my afternoon commute, not least because the Crosstown Commons has been listed as one of the ten worst interchanges in the US, and the number of cars I have to drive between on France and Xerxes tells me I’m far from the only one. Oahu drivers could avoid traffic jams if they wanted to, but I’m not convinced they want to.

On the other hand, it’s not as necessary there, because by definition, nobody has very far to drive. I work with someone who lives in Cambridge, a town 55 miles from our office. Try driving 55 miles in a straight line from Honolulu and see what happens. Just be sure to bring a life jacket.

Another strange thing: you know how, when you pump your gas, there’s a little latch on the nozzle so you can just lock it in “on” position and let it fill up automatically while you have a smoke or whatever? They don’t have those in Hawaii. I think it’s because they’re paranoid about fire, and who can blame them, being on an island and all? One good oil blaze and 850,000 people are living on their surfboards in the nearest bay. Trash’s theory is that nobody has to buy gas very often, so they prefer to savor the rare experience of actually pumping some petroleum. Seriously, we covered almost the whole island in our car—some of it twice—and didn’t even use three tanks. I attribute part of that to my habit of putting the car in neutral and turning off the engine whenever we went downhill, but I couldn’t have been the only one on the island who did that.

I snark, but we really did have a wonderful time. We did a lot of things we’d never done before, like watch the sun rise over the Pacific (or we would have, if we’d ever gotten out of the house that early), drive from one end of a freeway to another in less than an hour (or we would have, if we hadn’t stopped for lunch), and ate at seven Thai restaurants in six days (or at least we would have, if the seventh one hadn’t been a dinner-only place). The place we stayed was better than we hoped, the weather was temperate, and nobody seemed inclined to bomb Pearl Harbor again while we were sailing across it. I’ll give this trip a thumbs-up.

And I will continue to do so over the next several days until I have wrung it completely dry of material and you’re sick of hearing about it. Mahalo.

posted by M. Giant 3:12 PM 0 comments


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