A Tale of Two Hawaiian Airline Flights
Lihue to Honolulu on Hawaiian Airlines #514
Behind me, opposite the aisle, over the drone of engines rumbling down the runway, I hear the gravelly voice of a grandmother who sounds like she’s sucked down cigarettes for 50 years, “Here we go. Hang on,” she yells, as if we’re on an amusement ride.
The plane gathers speed and, soon, we leave the pavement behind for smooth air. “There’s the ocean.” A youngster’s voice pierces the roar of the engines. He presses his nose against the Plexiglas window.
His mother, sitting directly behind me, responds, “Do you see whales? Look for whales?”
The father occupies the window seat, behind me to my right. In his lap, a toddler sits. And slaps the seatback in front of her. A third child—yet another under the age of five—is buckled in the middle seat, between mother and father, oddly silent.
I generally like children. I have even been known to help out a mother or two on an airplane.
I focus on the words in my book, The Ferocious Summer by Meredith Hooper, about penguins in Antarctica. It’s not working. Where are my earbuds? In my backpack in the overhead storage unit above my head. Dangit.
“We’ve got mountains on this side,” exclaims the grandmother. Her seatmate, the grandson, imitates Hollywood’s version of a Native American Indian on a warpath. He ping-pongs his hand on and off his mouth and the chant reverberates in my ear.
“Uh oh,” the mother gasps, and I hear a thud, a pause, then a bawling baby.
By the time we touched down in Honolulu, I'd hardly read a word.
Honolulu to Kailua-Kona on Hawaiian Airlines #148
I take my seat in the bulkhead. To my right, a couple. To my left, across the aisle, another couple with a service dog sleeping at their feet.
I stash my carryon suitcase overhead. I jam my backpack under the seat in front of me. I snap my seatbelt around my waist. And, then, I hear the couple to my left.
“What is that book?” the woman asks the man.
It’s not enough for me to study seabirds where I live, but I also read about seabirds—and those cute, toddling penguins—in Antarctica.
“Have you been to Antarctica?” I ask. They nod their heads. I hand them my book. The woman flips to the pictures.
“Have you read, Fraser’s Penguins?” I ask. “It’s new.” They say no, and I pull out my Kindle, download a sample of the book and hand it to the woman. She takes it gingerly, with a mixture of interest and embarrassment. “I work in a book store,” she says. “In Australia.”
Now, I hear the couple on my right.
“What kind is that?” the woman asks.
“A Kindle,” the man says.
I turn to my right. The man tells me they received an eReader for Christmas, and he’s reading War and Peace on it. I am impressed. He goes on to say he’s a history buff. We talk about the connection between the Pacific Northwest and Hawaii. He tells me about a man named Warren who visited Hawaii in the early 1800s, married a descendent of King Kamehameha and returned to Washington, where a town was eventually named after him—Warrenton.
I pull out my journal with my notes from the Hawaiian Legends concert and share the story of Peter Kalama, a Hawaiian man who ventured to the Pacific Northwest, also in the early 1800s, married the daughter of Chief Seattle and settled down in a place which was eventually named after him—Kalama.
By the time we touched down in Kailua-Kona, I hadn't read a single word.