There is no other place that I’d rather call home than Hawaii. I’ll get that out of the way right now. And yet, even the most devoted island residents have probably found themselves thinking about all of the things Hawaii NEEDS to have or NEEDS to get rid of. I swear, there’s not a day that goes by where I don’t hear someone make the remark, “You know what Hawaii needs?” (or some variation thereof). Hell, I’ve said it half a dozen times this week already. I imagine that being surrounded and/or isolated by the Pacific Ocean probably has a lot to do with this sentiment.
All of this brings me to the events of last night — when I had the supreme pleasure of just hanging out with a few friends. These friends, all local guys in their late 20’s to mid 30’s, humor me from time to time when I ask them one of my “random” questions. Last night, all I wanted to know was how THEY would finish the sentence “Hawaii needs _______.”
47 minutes, 18 semi-arguments, and 7 bouts of laughing fits & coughs later, we arrived at a list. Our list, mind you. We do realize of course that everyone has their own opinion, so please note that, much like the typical radio service announcement, “the opinions and views heard (read) may not be those of Beyond Honolulu management, staff or ownership.” Shoots. Here we go: A list of 5 things that Hawaii needs NOW.
1) Less Traffic.
Let’s be perfectly clear here. There’s probably not a soul in Hawaii (especially Oahu) who wouldn’t name our horrendous traffic as holding the top position in this list. And, predictably, the traffic issue was the first item my group of friends agreed upon. Here’s the thing — it seems like just a few years ago, you could set your clocks to the traffic patterns in Honolulu. You had a general idea of when traffic would start and when it would end. You could predict your arrival times to your next destination with relatively little room for error. Fast forward to today and HOLY FRIGGIN COW. Traffic congestion has become (quite painfully) the NORM. Entire hours are lost while waiting in your everyday commute. Entire seasons of shows can be ingested via Netflix while crawling along in your car. Countless obscenities, sighs of exasperation, fist-shakings, eye-rollings and the like are now as commonplace as a sunny Hawaiian day.
The sad truth is, there is no “magic bullet” that can solve our traffic situation. But doing absolutely NOTHING about it is pure insanity. No matter your opinion on Oahu’s future rail transit system, I can at least say that it is SOMETHING worth exploring. However, we absolutely need MORE options to make a dent in this problem. Shared-bike / shared-vehicle programs, which are quickly becoming commonplace throughout the mainland U.S., would be worthwhile to consider, as would further improvements to our Bus system. Or, as one of my friends chimed in, why not limit the number of vehicles allowed per household? I know..it’s a bit drastic, but given the seriousness of this ever-growing problem, maybe we need to look for drastic measures. Otherwise, the crawl will continue.
2) The BEST beaches, parks, hiking trails, aquariums, water parks, golf courses & playgrounds ANYWHERE.
I mean, COME ON. We have what is arguably the best weather, scenery and abundance of natural resources out of ANY OTHER PLACE on the planet. So tell me why our public beaches (and restrooms) are dirtier than they should be, our hiking trails are fenced off & underserved and our water park & aquarium are, for lack of better words, CRAPPY AS HELL. We should have no excuses when it comes to this. Hawaii, for all of its natural beauty, DESERVES to have the best selection of outdoor activities and facilities ANYWHERE. Enough said.
3) A Sonic, a CiCi’s Pizzeria, an Olive Garden, an IKEA, a Chipotle, an In-N-Out, a Trader Joe’s & MORE.
My friends and I harped on for quite a long time when it came to this particular topic. The reality of it all is that we simply want what we don’t have. Every day we are bombarded with mainland commercials and advertisements, each of them toting foods & goods that we don’t even have access to. Our friends and family post their vacation pics of them ordering their “Animal Style” burgers from In-N-Out, or we get the occasional Trader Joe’s gift package, complete with Cookie Butter. Eventually, we all get driven to the point of insanity when it comes to what we DON’T HAVE.
Truth be told, I think that one day every single one of the aforementioned companies will find their way to our shores. But by then, we’ll all just want something else that we don’t have.
4) More Kindness. More Courtesy. More Kokua. More Aloha.
I’m in my mid-30’s – just old enough to actually remember a…well…a kinder, gentler Hawaii. People in other cars would wave you in if you needed to get in their lane. Horns honked much, much, MUCH less. Front doors could be left unlocked. Kids could play outside pretty much unsupervised. Let’s be real here – the people of Hawaii used to be a LOT nicer to each other. So, what in the hell happened to us?
To me, part of the problem may lie in our ever-shifting island identity. Growing up, Hawaii felt like…well, Hawaii. We were EXPECTED to have the Aloha spirit because we were the ORIGINATORS of it. Nowadays, whether as a result of a continued influx of new people, ideas, cultures, norms or behaviors….or maybe just a widened exposure to the world around us as a whole, it no longer feels quite like…well, Hawaii. Don’t get me wrong — I love the fact that Hawaii is more open to the beauty of variety and contrast. It just feels at times like we’ve lost a lot of our own unique identity along the way. The idea of aloha seems more like an tangible object than a way of life nowadays. And yes, Hawaii needs to get back to what made us the “Aloha State” in the first place.
5) Less People
Seriously, I got this as a response from someone in the group. His explanation? That, along with cars, Hawaii has WAY too many people living here. With over 1.3 million residents* spread across our archipelago chain, it feels at times that we are busting at the seams. When is enough enough? And what in the heck can we do about it? It’s the ultimate crux of living in paradise I guess – we’re bound to attract newcomers. Now we just need to figure out how the hell we can get ‘em to leave…..or figure out a way that we can sustain growth in a place with finite capacity for it.