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There are some things in Hawai’i that just don’t make sense.  A benign way to describe Hawai’i in light of the following mysteries is to consider the state as “America on paper only.” A more accurate, though more severe description would be to view Hawai’i as a type of dystopian or dysfunctional Disneyland.  Facts that apply on the mainland (America) never see the light of day here in Paradise.  And yet, the Aloha spirit prevails.  Even road rage is almost nonexistent – well, except for the fact that if road rage occurs, more often than not, that rage will involve a machete.  Life is simple in Hawai’i; the longer you stay here, the more you see a pattern that becomes a devolution defying obsolescence.  Visitors would never notice because they’re not here long enough; they still see the big picture.  But when you’ve been here for some time, and you get closer to the subject, the pixilation appears!

Every week, and you have to include all the islands in this demographic study:  A visitor is killed, a pedestrian is run over top of (in local vernacular), and a work furlough inmate either fails to return/is caught and returned via the revolving door.  The inmates are most often gone only the proverbial week, and until the media recently became involved, there was never an escape charge added on to the prisoner’s rap sheet.  Expect weekly water main breaks – partly because the island is always shifting and also because of the ancient infrastructure – and just to be safe, do not ever, ever, step on a manhole cover unless you want to see what hell is like. To this end, texting while walking across a street has recently been outlawed in the city, and an astounding, ensuing temporary lapse in the extinction of hapless diaspora has caused the media to ask, “Is this a trend or a coincidence?”  Well, unless the ubiquitous tutus or the babies in the strollers were guilty of texting and not looking where they were going, this is only a temporary pause in the carnage.  In many of the crosswalks, you have to bolt like a racehorse out of the starting gate to beat the flashing countdown.  The neon walk signal displays, then the countdown immediately begins.  Not fair, not fair at all. Anyone over sixty/with a walker/with a cane/with children/with a stroller, abandon all hope.

As reported on the news, any accident always involves the question, “Could drugs, alcohol, or speeding have been factors?”  Perpetrators of many different types of crimes will find themselves being “released pending further investigation.”  There is always speeding near the military bases; I was told that if a soldier has been drinking and driving, he is in a hurry to get on base where he will have some sort of diplomatic immunity.  A comforting thought for civilians while trying to navigate Snake Road at night.

In a strange judicial system where sometimes justice means doing nothing, it is important to notice that animals have increased status.  You had better not even think about making eye contact with a monk seal; you could get possibly be put away for up to five years.  Turtles will try to mug you on the beach, but you had better make sure you stay 65 feet away from them, or you could find yourself in OCCC. When I first moved here, there was a trial going on for the alleged murder of a peacock.  Just when it looked like the defendant, this poor woman, was going to be convicted, her attorney snatched her from the jaws of Halawa Prison with a story that she was in fact going to eat said peacock after she killed it.  (The truth was, she just couldn’t bear its shrieking anymore.)  I will never forget the spectre of the deputy prosecuting attorney reenacting the plight of the desperate bird as it tried in vain to climb a flight of stairs to escape the swinging, flaying, and dismembering baseball bat (its splintered remains – Exhibit A).

There is a seat-belt law here that proclaims all seat-belts in a crowded vehicle must be in use, but if there are more people than seat-belts, no worries.  The same reasoning applies to the banning of animals from riding in the backs of trucks, but allowing people in wheelchairs to perch precariously therein.  A truck passed me the other day and an elderly man was riding in the back, seated in an ancient wheelchair that rolled each time the truck gunned forward at a light.  There were many lights and his lips never stopped moving; I believe he was praying.  Hard.

At a certain pharmacy (and these are as numerous as ABC Stores in Waikiki), I have seen cascades of prepared prescriptions overflowing in piles, in rows, in bins.  Because many of the workers do not have English as their first language, there is little hope of alphabetizing.  Locating your medicine is made easier, though, because the employees will howl out your name along with the name of your drug.  A special shout out is given when this drug is a controlled substance.  And an amazing fact – as long as you have a form of i.d. and you know your spouse’s date of birth, you can pick up controlled substances for said person.  Nevah mind if it a federal law, brah, you okay.  No problem.  No worries.  Island life rolls along smoothly. Next!

If a person just cannot accept said island life (and I have seen a plethora of people flee back to the mainland), there is always the State Hospital.  No worries.  There is much freedom here.  People mount the cyclone fence/stroll out the front door quite often.  Not every week, though.  Maybe once every six months or so.  And the nearby communities will be notified sometime during the next week.  Usually.

I am convinced that the rail project will never be consummated in my lifetime.  Remember, the H-3 took over thirty years to complete and cost $1.23 billion, and has been called “the costliest and most controversial stretch of highway the islands have seen” (Mike Yuen, Star Bulletin,   What will they say about the rail?

Since I have been here for eight years and have avoided any stays at either OCCC, Halawa Prison, or the State Hospital, I can say with complete and trusting assurance:  So what if the rail takes forever to build; where do we have to go?  We’re in Paradise already.

And in spite of the sometimes maddening situations here, I find that I mean this statement with all my heart.



Sally Stratso (USA)

Sally Stratso is a character actress, standup comedienne, and writer. Her work has appeared in Grit Magazine, Equus Magazine, Indie Slate, and Lemons Publications. She used to live in Honolulu, Hawai'i and has now relocated to Corpus Christi, Texas.

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