People are friendly, what a concept. Sometimes, living in a big city, we forget our manners. We avoid making eye contact, we don’t speak unless forced to. On the mainland, it’s easy to avoid people by using self check-out at the grocery stores, mail-order, magic money machines. Here on Lanai, people are unavoidable. They seem to go out of their way to be friendly. When we walk into town, people wave hello as we pass. At the Lodge, the staff stops whatever they are doing when they see us, smile and say “Hello, Aloha.” They want to know how long we’ll be on Lanai, if we are visiting relatives or just vacationing. “Alone?” they ask. Well, there are two of us. It’s a strange concept to them. Seems like everyone has six or twenty cousins or aunties or uncles on the island. Two people together seems lonely by comparison.
A group of tourists, fresh from the mainland, board our shuttle. Three minutes later, we stop in front of Hotel Lanai. The tourists sit. The driver asks, “You want to go to town?” “Yes,” they reply. “We want the town.” The driver points to Dole Park. “That’s town,” he tells them. The tourists seem astonished. “No,” they say, “We want to go to town.” The driver tries to reassure them, “That’s town,” he says, “around the park.” This confuses the tourists even more. “Park?” they ask. “What park?” Dole Park is brown and dry, the drought has killed off the once lush lawn. The driver waves them off the bus. “Head towards the trees,” he tells them as they reluctantly leave the safety of the bus. “But where are the restaurants?” one of the tourists asks. The driver points, “Two on the left, two on the right. That way.” We tell the tourists to try Cafe 565, but they still look worried as we drive off and leave them. We wave to them, in an effort to be encouraging, to let them know that they are in the right place, but they don’t wave back, they don’t yet trust. They haven’t yet fallen into the rhythm and spirit of the place. Maybe tomorrow.