- Special Projects
For tourists, Hawaii is an idyllic paradise, forever bathed in sunlight and caressed by turquoise ocean waves.
For those of us who actually reside and work here, life in the islands and especially Honolulu is an up-at-dawn, pride-swallowing siege of one annoyance after another.
What are some of the worst things locals have to deal with?
1. Leaving for work super early, only to show up extra late.
Rated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as one of the most sleep-deprived states in America, the only thing more valuable than real estate in Hawaii is a good night’s rest. But with Honolulu traffic getting worse every year, getting up at the crack of dawn is a prerequisite for being punctual to work or school.
We all know the classic nightmare scenario. You’ve got an important meeting or presentation that you absolutely, cannot miss at precisely 7:45 a.m. The boss is watching, the clients are waiting, and your career is on the line.
So what do you do? Go to bed early, wake up at 3:30 a.m., down a strong cup of coffee, work out at the gym, take a hot shower, and then leave for work at 5:45 am – only to show up at 8:30 a.m. because of a freak accident, bizarre weather, or my personal favorite, no particular reason at all.
Hawaii drivers aren’t commuters, they’re time travelers.
2. Discovering the shortest distance between two points is always under construction.
Hawaii is a work in progress. There’s always something being done to H-1, a key street is being excavated or a new tower is being built. And of course there’s the eternal rail project construction.
All this adds up to a never-ending string of fender-benders, unnecessary delays and road rage over simple endeavors like going on a 45-minute lunch break.
3. Finding out that your compact car doesn’t actually fit in parking stalls.
The universe precariously exists on the concept of cause and effect. One plus one must always equal two, or else things unravel into chaos.
There is, therefore, nothing more unsettling than to survive hours in traffic only to discover the place you need to park has stalls so tight that you can’t even open your doors.
4. Getting paid a huge salary and finding out it isn’t enough.
With high costs of living, one needs at least $93,000 a year to be above the poverty line in Hawaii. That’s shocking, considering state legislators are paid about $60,000 a year and most state executive department heads make from $130,000 to $150,000 a year.
After paying for taxes, insurance, health care, housing and food, most Hawaii residents barely have anything left of their pay to save, invest or enjoy.
5. Finding out gas prices are a bargain on the mainland, but still awful in Hawaii.
Psychologists say people who use social media are more prone to depression than those who don’t.
In Hawaii, learning that the price of gas is dropping on the mainland even as prices remain unbearably expensive in the islands is one of the most depressing things to see online.
At present, the national average price for gas is $2.40 per gallon, compared to $3.58 in Hawaii.
6. Learning that the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse plan to visit the islands, only to have them to cancel at the last minute.
Local Republicans, taking after Trump’s style of nicknaming, assigned Gov. David Ige the nom de guerre of “Doomsday David” for the terrifying missile scare earlier this year. But “false or deceptive indications and warnings” as they are formally called, are a recurring phenomena in the islands, with locals frequently threatened with killer hurricanes, island-washing earthquake-generated tsunamis, and anti-aircraft volcanic eruptions that scarcely ever manifest.
Hawaii residents, perhaps still sensitive to the fact that the Imperial Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor were dismissed by a government official who said “don’t worry about it,” always take every threat seriously, preparing for every apocalypse by depleting store shelves of toilet paper, bottled water, baked chicken and local snacks.
When the end times do come, Hawaii residents will at least have awesome grindz.
7. Finding out public officials and/or local government agencies are woefully noncompliant with the law.
Anyone who has ever been ticketed for going a few miles above the speed limit or berated by law enforcement for inadvertently driving through a crosswalk with a pedestrian still in it knows that Hawaii justice comes down like a sledgehammer on “criminals.”
Of course, if you’re an elected official who brazenly violated campaign finance laws, or if you’re a state agency that has failed to implement federal law for decades, love covers a multitude of sins. There is a double-standard where for ordinary residents just trying to be good citizens, the nail that sticks out gets pounded down; for government, “unforeseen consequences,” “funding challenges,” and “future leadership promise” always absolve guilt.
Bad criminals go to jail. The best criminals go to Honolulu.
8. Realizing a new law is going into effect that makes life even more annoying.
The scariest two words in Hawaii are, “Effective July …” because they signal a new layer of mandatory compliance to an already confusing set of local laws. The Legislature often passes flawed laws with the intent to “just get it out” and then “fix it next session” but more often than not, deferred perfection becomes default disorder in the islands.
Just when you thought you’d mastered the game, the casino masters change the rules.
9. Finding out the “aloha spirit” has been exorcised.
Hawaii, traditionally, is one of the most compassionate, respectful and grateful cultures on Earth. Unfortunately, harsh living conditions, frustrating social inequalities, and a sink-or-swim economic system have hardened or embittered many people.
Being rude, inconsiderate, or just plain greedy in today’s Hawaii is often considered the mark of a highly successful or promising leader (See Number 7).
10. Learning the thing you like most is about to be licensed, taxed or banned entirely.
This is the most nefarious of all. Got something you love? Is something working well for your small business? How about a guilty pleasure? Don’t tell a soul about it, or else you’ll have the Legislature holding pre-session information briefings about your “unlicensed” or “unregulated” activities.
NIMBYism (“not in my back yard”) is rampant in Hawaii. Anything that arouses curiosity, is disruptively convenient, or is unexpectedly profitable for ordinary people is under threat of being licensed, taxed or banned entirely. Part of this is due to the Legislature always looking for ways to enhance revenue for ever-increasing costs of governance, but a lot of it has to do with special interests wanting to dictate every aspect of modern life.
Pat yourself on the back, Hawaii. Living here is tough. If you made it through the day and still have a smile on your face, you’re truly no ka oi.
Studies have shown that when local journalism disappears, government financing costs go up, fewer people run for public office, elected officials become less responsive to their constituents, and voter turnout decreases. Our small nonprofit newsroom works hard every day to present local news in a deep and transparent way, without fear or favor. We also rely on donations from readers like you to keep us afloat. The more support we receive; the stronger, more sustainable our journalism becomes; the more accountable we are to you. Please consider supporting our Honolulu Civil Beat with a tax-deductible gift.