life in the slow lane

Yesterday I had to take Anna to the doctor for her TB screening. Unfortunately, Fr. John had the car and was two hours away. Although Anna's school is just a thousand feet from our door, the journey ascends directly up a mountainside and involves a highway crossing. Add this to the the fact that Hawaii suffers from a severe shortage of sidewalks and you have for a pretty unpleasant walk, unless you're the type of person who likes climbing the stair master in the sauna with a baby on your back.

As it happens, I'm not really that type of person, but yesterday I had no choice. Things took a turn for the worse when it started to rain. I looked up at that ominous sky and prayed for a ride. At Anna's school, sweaty and wet from the rain, I asked if there was a back way to get to the doctor, which was just down the highway. "No," her teacher said, "But it will only take you about five minutes."

Now five minutes on the shoulder of a highway stepping over shattered beer bottles in sandals with a baby on your back and a six-year-old who takes micro-steps when protesting can make for a loooooong five minutes. It can be particularly treacherous when it is raining and thorny branches extend into the road so you have to step over the yellow line to avoid them.

But we'd only walked about four paces along the highway when a pick-up slowed to a stop and a Hawaiian lady called out to me, "You're pretty brave, but would you like a ride?"

Gratefully, we climbed in and she drove us to the doctor. We arrived at the doctor about four minutes early. I was thrilled to have made it. But those forms are tricky when you haven't managed to memorize your own address just yet. So I called my dear friend Bethany in Nashville who laughed and laughed when I explained my reason for calling.

She also told me that when her four year old son Rilian mentioned that he had not seen Anna for a million days, she told him that Anna was in Hawaii. "I know where that is!" he said. "In Hawaii everyday is a party, but not with cake, just with fruit."

I sure didn't feel like I was at a party after my hike along the highway followed by my hour long wait for the doctor while Natalie ingested magazines and Anna moaned, "Can we go now?" The office didn't seem particularly crowded, but when nobody rushes, ever, everything does seem to take an awfully long time.

We finally met the doctor, who was a nice enough man. No white jacket for him, of course, just one of those crazy Hawaiian shirts that John has developed an embarrassing soft spot for. We were the last patients of the day, so we left just as the doctor was pulling out of the parking lot in his Jeep. He smiled and waved. The passenger seat was occupied by a gigantic surf board.

And then we had to cross the highway again. We stood beside the road waiting for a gap. Suddenly one car stopped and a woman waved for us to go. I was scared for her, as stopping on the highway seemed almost more dangerous then attempting to cross it. But then the car in the other lane also stopped, so everyone was stopped and nobody honked and everyone waited.

After we'd made it safely across, Anna turned to me and said, "I like Hawaii highways."

"Why?" I said.

"Because here," she said, "People stop so you can cross."


Marji said...

Jenny, I just love that your post concerns a vehicle and its role in your lives. From here, it seems downright dangerous to hitchhike with kids, much less walk along any highway. Yet your desription evokes a sense of calm, a way of life that makes time for helping people, watching out for them, keeping them safe. Your observations are thought-provoking. Why don't we feel safe asking for a ride here in Chicago? Why are our roads filled with enraged and rushed drivers? I think they would feel downright offended to have to actually stop for a family crossing the street. The onus would be on you, not the driver. You are encountering many differences; some sound like improvements.

Julia said...

This is a great story! I love the image of the doctor driving off with his surfboard, and also the image of Fr. John with a closet full of flowery shirts instead of priestly black.

Jenny said...


In the interest of full disclosure I have to tell you that his favorite Hawaiian shirt is black with a few small green leaves on it. Keep in mind that he is really branching out with this, though!


Jenny said...

And Marji,

Just to be clear--I wouldn't mind a few sidewalks here and there. Walking beside the high way is a totally nerve-wracking experience, slow cars or not.

But I do love the safe feeling and the sense, on an island, that we're all neighbors. I had heard before coming here that people really take care of each other. This has certainly been my experience here and it is a beautiful thing!