By Diane Ako
I enjoy playing tourist in my own hometown. I do it now and again, and I always see new and different things about the island that make me love Hawaii even more. Plus, I never forget that people pay big money to visit these islands; we should appreciate that we live here.
Olivia's made a few comments that she wanted to ride the double decker bus and the trolley. As I think about it, the Waikiki of the 2000's is a lot more colorful with varied and cute tour vehicles than the Waikiki of my youth, when the standard Robert's bus was all there was.
Oh, and I think my high school classmates would cruise down the main drag of Kalakaua Avenue in their mini trucks with custom tilt bed or Honda Civics with drop rims and a girlfriend from Pearl City named Iris who slightly resembled an anime character or aspiring import model. This would be after fueling up on chicken katsu at Rainbow Drive Inn, getting pumped to some Salt 'N Pepa "Push It." But I digress.
I decided to dedicate one Saturday to fulfilling Olivia's request. My husband, my kid, and I drove to Waikiki to catch the trolley for a spin, followed by the double decker bus. It was really, really fun.
My kid had a grand time. The short route around the outskirts of Waikiki was just enough to hold a four year old's interest, and the weather was beautifully cooperative.
In and around this, we also for the first time walked the entire DFS Galleria Hawaii, which is in the same building I work in, yet I have never been there in a year and a half. I was very happy to finally make the time to look inside.
And, we lunched at a personal favorite, Shirokiya, which was Claus' first time since the store remodeled to add the Beer Garden.
One of our funnier moments of the day was when I asked two of the bus staffers some questions about the route.
"Excuse me, when does the next bus come by?" I said.
They looked at me and responded in Japanese to ask me where I'm going. I said in English, "Just any bus with the shortest route. We want to ride it around a little."
I think the image dissonance was too much for their brains (Japanese lady? Speaking English? Why? How can be?) because they asked me again in Japanese the exact same question.
I know I look totally Japanese; I've gotten this my entire life. Standing in Waikiki didn't help.
I elaborated that my little girl just wanted to ride it around for a little bit, and we'll take the shortest route there is. So I finally got them to speak to me in English.
At the end of the conversation, they asked me where I'm from. "Here," I said. "I speak pretty good English, huh?"
One of the staffers said, "You sure do!"
I gestured to my husband, who was just a few feet away. "I know. I get to practice all the time with my white husband."
"Nice, nice," they nodded.
For the record, I'm not ethnically Japanese, and I don't speak it either. (I finally took a semester in college because I was curious.) Ironically, White Husband's first language isn't English, but mine is.
It's funny, how you really can't tell a book by its cover.
I related the comical conversation to Claus when we were on the bus and thanked him for giving me a venue to improve my English... or as they say in my home country, Arigato.