Flying back to Maui from L.A. last Monday, I sat next to a big haole (white) guy, well into his 60s, who said he has visited Maui at least once a year for many years. But it was strange: almost everything he said came out mildly offensive. The thing is, this guy was so insensitive … so clueless … he had no idea he was being a jerk.
For example, when the flight attendant, a very attractive island girl, asked how he liked his coffee, he came back with the tired old line: “The same way I like my women: hot and black.” She handed him his coffee with an blank stare that spoke volumes, but he never caught it.
When he learned that I had taken Amtrak from Chicago to Los Angeles, he looked incredulous. “How long did that take?”
Told that the trip took two nights, he laughed and said, “That’s crazy. When I travel, I want to get where I’m going.”
In bits and pieces over the five-hour flight, I learned that he has never taken the road to Hana and has never even heard of Iao Valley. He also badly mispronounced several very common Hawaiian words that the rest of us use in everyday conversation.
Well into the flight, I had my ear buds in and was enjoying some of the Hawaiian music stored on my i-phone. “What are you listening to?” he asked.
“It’s a Hawaiian group,” I said, “The Makaha Sons.”
He smiled and shook his head. “Hawaiian music,” he said dismissively. Then he pantomimed the strumming of an ukulele and added, “plunka-plunka-plunka.”
With minutes to go in the flight, our plane flew over the isthmus between East and West Maui, then turned back into the prevailing trade winds and descended toward Kahului airport.
“Well, it’s great to be back,” he said. “I love Maui.”