Recognized Social Butterfly



Have Key, Still Clueless

To protect the gas in our car from pranksters or thieves when my wife and I are on the mainland, we bought a key in Honolulu to lock the gas cap. Last week at a gas station, I couldn’t open the cap, no matter how much or how little pressure I applied to turning it from right to left. After five fruitless sweaty minutes, I approached a young man who was in the process of vacuuming his car. I told him my dilemma and assured him that he was “competent” enough to aid me. He agreed. After spending five minutes prodding and twisting the cap literally every which way but loose, he became as bewildered and stymied as I was.

I determined that I had three choices. I could go to the Mazda service station, I could go to Auto Zone, or I could enlist my wife. Because my condo was just a couple of blocks away, I went home. When I explained this absurd situation to my wife, she characteristically took control. With one flick of her wrist, she opened the cap. She must have been a safecracker in a former life, or she just has this uncanny knack to immediately gauge the mechanics of things.

I am tempted to keep the gas cap unlocked and even throw away the key. That way, I can at least in this instance, dam the floodwaters of frustration that beset me when I have to deal with uncooperative objects. But as long as I can rely on my helpmate and handywoman during our fifty years of marriage, I’ll probably relock the cap when we go back to North Carolina well after the floodwaters there recede.


Rudimentary, Watson!

Working out at the Kapiolani 24/7 Fitness Center has been uneventful since my wife and I arrived in Honolulu about three weeks ago: except for today. I noticed a woman about my age sitting on the last machine I needed to straddle in order to finish the first half of my upper body regimen. Instead of exercising, she was leisurely kibitzing with another lady who was standing on her left. I sidled up on her right side, patiently waiting for the animated conversation to end. As it continued, I wondered if the seated woman had ended her reps, stopped in the midst of them, or hadn’t started them. In any case, I remained, folding my hands behind my back and becoming more irritated every minute. I wanted to interrupt but restrained myself.

All of a sudden, the woman turned to me. She frowned and said that she tremendously disliked people who talk while sitting on machines, but her acquaintance, after all, was from Seattle. Huh! Smiling, she did a couple of sets and strolled off, leaving me a bit bewildered but relieved that I could now go on with my workout. The woman who delayed me was a little ditzy; the next person who delayed me was dedicated with a vengeance.

At the end of my workout, I respectfully waited for a young man to complete his seemingly never-ending routine on the only ab machine that doesn’t strain my arthritic shoulders. I stood next to him, trying to secure my place in line.  As he labored on (fixated on his cell that he cushioned between his tightly outstretched hands), I watched highlights of a pro-football game on the screen in front of us.

During a commercial, I glanced at him to see if he was done. Oops! Just at that moment, his face contorted, and then he snarled: “Stop staring at me!” At first, I was outraged at his unwarranted outburst; but not wanting him to retaliate by extending his sets, I quickly regrouped.  I said that I was sorry and that I didn’t mean to offend him. He just grunted at my apology.  Well, while I didn’t directly look at him again, I was able to see his reflection in a big mirror to our right. Without suspecting that I was surreptitiously looking at him, he finally stopped and mercifully left.

Sometimes, the Honolulu gym feels like an obstacle course, a test of my psychological endurance. But it’s worth it: at least that’s what my endorphins say whenever I get a chance to strut from one unencumbered machine to another.




The Vanity of Youth—The Humility of Old Age

When I first began my upper body routine at the fitness center, I spied a no-nonsense, smug, hard-bodied young woman adjusting her cellphone on a nearby high platform. At first, I thought that she was going to create a flawless selfie. But soon I realized that she was preparing to take a prime video of herself as she vigorously worked out on a rowing machine, displaying her taut revved-up back muscles that contended with a hundred-pounds of weight. When she got off the machine, she uplifted her hands as if she expected an audience to clap at her achievement.

 At the other side of the gym, I saw a young man histrionically hyperventilating as he bench-pressed mammoth amounts of weight. Bravado to the max! In between sets, he smirked and then ferociously and ostentatiously flexed and reflexed his battering-ram muscles. Funny thing, though: every time he posed, he repeatedly puffed up his cheeks and kept them distended for as long as he could—this blowhard then looked like a blowfish.

After working out, I had a long wait at the bus stop. At one point, I noticed an elderly couple who ever so painstakingly crossed the street. Both of them were severely hunched over. Instead of holding hands, they held onto the handle of a substantial piece of luggage that they were rolling between them. Their hands were positioned perfectly to maneuver the luggage. The woman’s left hand was very wobbly, so she used her more stable right hand to latch onto the left side of the handle. The man had a cane in his right hand, so he used his left hand to hold his part of the handle. When they got to the other side of the road, they stopped and gently smiled at each other—one small but gratifying mission accomplished.

What a contrast between the grandiose young people at the gym and the understated grand old couple!



Because there are few public bathrooms in Waikiki, the homeless occasionally urinate in public. Next to one of the bus stops I’m familiar with, a poster hangs above a huge expanse of graffiti wall art portraying heroic Hawaiian warriors. On the left side of the poster is a diagonally crossed out oval of a stick-figure explicitly urinating on the sidewalk. Below the drawing is the injunction, “DECENCY FORBIDS.’’  Inscribed on the upper right side of the poster are the words “SECURITY CAMERA IN USE.” How effective is this prohibition?  I’m not sure. Regardless of the consequences, some offenders might find it so amusing to see a cartoonish drawing of a man urinating that they might urinate just for the fun of it. Others might opt to randomly pee just to spite the puritanical authorities. The well-meaning poster could start an uprising.

On a freeway in Fort Worth, I noticed a billboard that warns motorists not to “DRV W/L TXTG.” Underneath this coded inscription is a parting message: “We Can Wait.” The sponsor is a funeral parlor. Clever, no?  But the admonition could boomerang. The drivers who take the time to read and appreciate the well-crafted message might take their eyes off the road for too long, ending up in an accident requiring a stay at the hospital or at the mortuary. Luckily, I wasn’t driving: I get easily distracted. My daughter, who was driving, however, is an expert multitasker. She nonchalantly perused the sign and chuckled, while simultaneously navigating through unruly traffic.

A week later, when I was driving during rush hour on one of Hawaii’s interstates (quite an oxymoron), I spied a small red heart-shaped object fastened to the rear bumper and slightly dangling near the exhaust pipe of the car in front of me. For a moment, I forgot that I was driving.  Mesmerized, I was flooded with the heart’s wordless message: love will prevail, no matter where it is located. As I was having my mini epiphany, however, reality smacked me hard. I was dangerously drifting into another lane. I safely swerved back into my former spot, aware that the heart was still beckoning in front of me, but I no longer let it overpower me.

A few days ago, as I was driving through a boulevard with multiple intersections, I happened to get behind a man who was scrupulously obeying the speed limit and traffic signals, as I do. Accordingly, I felt a camaraderie with him. But it didn’t last. When the last light on the boulevard turned red, he accelerated through the intersection—fortunately without incident. I was stunned and saddened. The Honolulu pedestrian death toll has increased by 500% so far this year. I can now see why. At any time for whatever reason, a normally safe driver can turn reckless.

All too often, there are negatives lurking in what we initially perceive as positives; conversely, minuses are often transformed into pluses. And so it goes.

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