The Cost of Living in Paradise
By Bob Palmer
Disclaimer: This is a fictional story as are all of the characters. As a long-time resident of Hawaii and having previously worked in the hotel industry here, the following is a collection of individual ‘snapshots’ of actual conversations, but not with any one person. I chose Alabama because my sister does reside there, having moved there by choice. So I am going to make fun of her in this story.
My sister lives Birmingham, Alabama
I know! I know!
Every once in a while, someone from Alabama somehow saves enough money, or inherits it from a deceased relative or something of that sort, to have the means to go on a vacation. A ‘once in a lifetime’ great adventure! Of the few Alabamians who do achieve this, the usual destination is Disney World in Florida. But, every once in a while, someone from Alabama has a fond memory of Elvis in Hawaii and gets it in their heads, not sure if that qualifies as a brain, to head out here. As a matter of fact, so seldom does a vacation to Hawaii by an Alabamian occur, that this particular occasion which I am about to share with you, is one that I personally don’t recall ever actually happening.
When my sister Pat called me - she still uses phones to communicate – I was surprised to learn from her that a sister’s niece of a friend of hers was coming to Hawaii with her boyfriend and another couple. She wanted to know if I could be of some assistance to them.
“What two couples?”, I asked.
“Oh, sorry! My friend’s sister’s niece, her boyfriend, his best friend and his girlfriend.”
“Just to make sure that I don’t get this wrong Pat, you are asking me to meet your friend’s sister’s niece. Her boyfriend. His best friend and his girlfriend. Is that correct?”
“Yes. Can you?”
I have no response to this and so she continues.
“You see, they have never been to Hawaii before and when my friend called me and asked me if I had lived in Hawaii, which of course you know I have - but she wasn’t sure, you see, I told her, ‘Yes, I had and I even have a brother who still lives in Hawaii’. She was so surprised and I immediately thought of you as someone who could help them, you know, get around and maybe if you have some time, show them around.”
Having regained my composure and collected my thoughts, I asked, “When is this historical Great Alabama Event going to happen?”
“Why, they are arriving at six this evening, Alabama time.”
Doing a quick six-hour conversion, I realize that these Alabama people are already here!
She continues, “I gave them your phone number and your address. I knew you wouldn’t mind. They are apparently nice folks, as I understand.”
“Do these nice Alabama folks have names?”
“Why of course they do, you silly.”
I waited for more information as I picked up a pen and paper. "I am now ready to write down their names", I said.
Realizing that this question for their names did not connect with a response, I asked again, “Yes, they are?”
Realizing that this question for their names did not connect with a response, I asked again, “Yes, they are?”
“They are what?”
“Pat, what are the names of these Alabama folks who are arriving, or who have already arrived, and having not received a call, I might be expect them to show up on my front porch at any time?”
“Oh, do you think they might already be here?”
“Pat, 6:00PM Alabama time is noon here. It is 2:00PM here now.”
“Oh wonderful, I’ll call my friend and tell her that they arrived.”
“Wait, Pat. Don’t hang up. What are their names?”
“I’ve got it right here. Oh, I am so glad they arrived safely. Okay, I have it, are you ready? Do you have something to write with?”
“Yes, Pat”, I say, just as I hear four car doors slam behind me. I turn around to see four obese, white bodies emerging from a compact car that literally rises up on its springs about four inches once relieved of its burden of sheer weight. They look around as Pat continues talking to me on the phone, “The name of my friend's sister's niece is Debbie. Her boyfriend is Fred. Fred’s friend is Shawn and his girlfriend is Galena.”
“Well Pat, I have to hang up now because Debbie, Fred, Shawn and Galena just drove up and they’re walking up the stairs to my front door.”
“Oh, really! How nice!”
“Yes, I’m thrilled. Talk to you later.”
Knock, knock, knock, knock, knock, knock, knock!
I wonder if they heard my voice. Maybe it's not too late to hide.
From outside, “I gotta pee, Fred! Knock again.”
KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK!
I definitely don’t want her to pee in the bushes, nor on the front step, so I open the door. “Hello.”
“Hi. Are you Bob? My aunt's sister’s friend Julie said that your sister is Pat, is that right? She said you would help us get around and maybe if you have some time, show us around. My name is Debbie and this is Fred. Our friends are Shawn and Galena.”
“Yes I am Bob.”
“Bob, can I ask you a huuuuge favor? Galena needs to pee something fierce, can she pleeeeze use your toilet?”
“By all means, Galena, it is right down these stairs and to the left as you walk through the kitchen.”
“Oh, thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” As she steps into my house and walks down the stairs, she yells back, “God bless you! You are a life saver!”
“Why don’t we go sit out in the garage. It’s cooler there and I can get you something to drink.”
“Got any Bud?” says Fred. “Is Hawaii part of the states?”
“No Fred. Sorry, we are fresh out of Bud here, but yes, Hawaii is the 50thstate.”
“Fiftieth!? Well I’ll be! When did that happen?”
“Nineteen fifty-nine, Fred.”
“Really! That was, wait... let me think, yes, that was before I was born. How could that be?”
“The garage is down here. Let’s go have a seat.”
“I got to pee, too. Can I use the toilet after Galena?”, says Debbie.
“Yes, of course Debbie.”
Debbie waddles down the stairs calling for Galena for directions like Marco and Polo and I follow Fred and Shawn as they also waddle down the outside stairs and into the garage. They pull the chairs up and have a seat.
Standing there I tell them I have Corona and Heineken. Fred turns to Shawn and whacks him on the arm, “I knew we should have stopped at that store back there. They got a case of Bud advertised for eighteen bucks.”
“Well, then why don’t we go get some?”
This seemed to be all the input they needed because suddenly they’re both standing and ready to walk to the car when Fred stops. “Hey Bob, do they accept United States dollars here? I have a Visa and Mastercard as well.”
“Yes, Fred, they will gladly accept your dollars here in Hawaii.”
“Well, that’s a relief. Whew!”
Just at this moment, the girls, with less stressful expressions, descend down the stairs, “Hey you guys, where you running off to?”
“We are going to get some beer. Want anything else?”
“Don’t forget chips.”
“We’ll be right back.”
Galena, followed by Debbie, now take the seats vacated by Fred and Shawn. While snickering, Debbie says, “I can tell that Fred’s been sitting in this one.”
Galena snickers back, and Galena gets up and sniffs the seat of her chair, “Ok, you got me on that one.” Giggle, giggle. Hee, hee!
The giggles fade into a smile and a serious question forms on Debbie’s face as she looks at me. “Bob, does the ocean go all the way around the island here in Hawaii?”
Up to this point, nothing was surprising me about anything that was transpiring, but the sudden reality of this particular question caught me off guard. The saving grace preventing me from bursting out in laughter was that I was so shocked that my face was actually composed. Straight-faced, tortured by shock and agony, I respond, “Yes Debbie, the ocean surrounds the islands. There is no land connection to the continental United States.”
She looked at me somewhat befuddled, and then frowned. She held it for a moment before she uttered, “Oh!”
“You will have to excuse me, but my sister Pat just called me and told me you were arriving just as you were getting out of your car and as I was finishing my conversation with her about your arrival. I wasn’t even expecting you. I don’t even have a cake!”
So there I was, sitting in front of the two girls, and you would think they'd just heard the funniest joke of their lives. They're knee slapping, bending over, all red-faced with tears of laughter until Debbie recovers sufficiently to volunteer, “Shut up! I just about peed in my pants.”
“Well, you know where the bathroom, I mean toilet, is.”
There’s more slapping on their knees, bending over, red-faced with tears as Fred and Shawn arrive in the driveway.
All faces are directed toward the car as Fred and Shawn exit and the car rises two inches again being relieved of its load.
Fred carries a case of Bud under one arm, the car keys in his teeth, and two family size bags of Lays potato chips in his other hand. Shawn likewise carries a second case of Bud under one arm while in his other hand, raised high over his head, he tightly holds a fistful of family-sized potato chips bags.
I get up and set out two more folding chairs for them to sit in.
Fred and Shawn set the two cases of Bud down in the middle of us, one stacked on top of the other and toss two of the bags of chips into the laps of Debbie and Galena. Shawn hands me one of the bags saying, “Thanks for your hospitality.”
Fred is meanwhile ripping the case apart from the end and grabs his and says to all, “Dig in.”
I get up to get myself a Corona with a wedge of lime from the kitchen and come back out to join them.
Fred looks at me and at my Corona and you could actually see the wheels in his brain turning as he slowly thought about how he would say what he was thinking. Finally, he blurts out, “Is that there a Mexican beer?”
“Yes it is.”
Not knowing how to respond to that, he says, “Oh” and looks away.
“Shawn pops up with the next question for me, having had the advantage of a lot more time to think about it and says, “Bob, how long have you lived here? We understand that you were raised here.”
Before I can answer, Galena jumps in all smiley-faced and gives him a pucker-lips smooch, “Ah Shawn, you remembered all that?”
Shawn returns the puckered-up lip smooch and in the silence, they realize there was a question in the air that was asked but not answered. Everyone takes a sip of beer. Shawn and Fred look around for the rubbish can for their empty beer cans.
Seeing their quandary, I point to the bins outside by the fence. “The recycling one is the blue one - the middle container,” hopeful that one of those two references would register with at least one of them. Sure enough, they got it right! Hark!
Snap, snap! They pop two more beers.
Debbie is the next to express a puzzling thought which you can clearly see reflected on her face because of the frown lines between her eyebrows. “We're supposed to check into our hotel at 3:00PM. Do you know how far away the 'Halie Koah' is from here?”
“Do you have a confirmation slip, or something? Maybe if I see it, I can help you with that.”
Debbie digs out her hidden pouch from under the folds of her belly fat, tries to unzip it, but can’t work the zipper since she is not able to see it. Frustrated, she starts sweating profusely and then pulls it around her waist in order to get to the clip so that she can remove it altogether. Accomplishing that, she unzips it and sees the note she'd written earlier with my name, phone number and address and takes it out to show me. She smiles then continues leafing through her pouch until she finds the confirmation. “Yes, here it is.” She holds it out to me.
I can see that it is wet, and not wanting to touch it, I look at it and read, 'Hale Koa'.
“The Hale Koa is in Waikiki. It’s about an hour's drive depending on the traffic. If you leave now, you can just make it by 4:00PM, which is probably a good idea because of the afternoon traffic commuters going home.”
This thought percolates in all of their brains. Fred and Shawn each gulps down their second Bud while Debbie and Galena do like-wise with their first. They snap, snap, snap, snap open their third, and the girls, their second beers, as Fred volunteers, “Drink up girls! We're going to 'Why-key-key'! I don’t know why! I’ve got the keys right here!” He holds up his set of car keys and shakes them proudly, laughing at his own joke.
“Yes, Fred, you do got the keys there!!” They're all knee-slapping again, killing themselves laughing, and Debbie saying, “I just about peed in my pants!”
They down their opened beers, burp and stand up on cue. “Bob, it was really nice meeting you. Can we buy you dinner? Debbie said there was a 'Cheeseburger in Paradise' in Why-Key-Key. Want to come on in and join us?”
“Oh, I have plans this evening and have to work the next several days. Call me in the evening if you have anything that I may help you with.”
“Sure enough, ol' buddy.”
“Last call for peeing,” booms Fred. They all head off to the toilet.
Okay... I won’t bore you with the evening conversations that I had to endure with them this week, but here was the grand finale.
To appreciate this voice mail you must understand what transpired earlier.
Fred called me and said they were leaving the next day. They had to go get some Hawaiian gifts and were thinking of going to the ‘International Market Place’ to buy them. I told him to go to the Wal-Mart next to the Ala Moana Shopping Center as it would be far cheaper and they'd have a better selection.
But Fred said that they wanted to go to the Market Place because there were so many weird people there. I told him that if he really wanted to see some weird people, I mean really weird, weird people, to go to Wal-Mart and go into the dressing rooms and look on the wall.
There is a message from Fred on my answering machine. He says he and Shawn did what I had suggested, but they only saw a wall with a hook on it. They gave up looking for the weirdos after about ten minutes. Fred mentioned it was kind of tight in there, just the two of them. Then, when they came out some clerks were asking them what they were trying on. They told them that they weren’t trying on anything. The clerks looked at them kind of strange and then they said, 'What were you doing, if we may ask, for ten minutes in the dressing room if you weren't trying on something?'
Fred then explained about his friend Bob in Ewa Beach who had said that this was the best place to see weirdos. We were going to go down to the International Market Place and look for them, but our friend Bob, he's a good guy -kind of weird himself, but nonetheless a good guy! - said that if we was to be really serious about wanting to see weirdos, then the dressing rooms here in your store was the place. The congregation of Wal-Mart clerks having now grown to an intriguing seven altogether, listened to Fred, but then the supervisor said to Fred, 'Well, what did you see?' This time, it was Shawn's turn to jump in. By the way, at this same time, Debbie and Galena, who were shopping for gifts in another part of the store, suddenly realized there was this announcement being PA'ed which was in code, but after a while they thought, ‘Gee! What is that coded message? But back to Shawn. Shawn now jumps in and says, “We were looking at the walls for secret passages and maybe some door or something. We even tried the seat to see if it lifted up to see if it might provide some clue to where these weirdos are. The giant mirror was firmly attached to the other wall. We finally gave up”.
The supervisor, with a plethora of now seventeen blue-shirted Wal-Mart employees, and two white-shirted ones with ties, who suspiciously looked like office types said, 'Let's go back into this dressing room to have another look.' So, Fred and Shawn led the way and opened the door to the dressing room that they had been in and stepped in, followed by seventeen Wal-Mart employees, all wanting to see the weirdos!
End of phone message.