Living in Hawai‘i means thinking about things differently. No, I don’t mean sipping Mai Tais on the lanai of your mansion and driving around the island in your Ferrari. You can put away your Magnum, P.I. DVDs now. Besides, with the gridlock on O‘ahu’s roads, good luck getting that Ferrari up to bicycle speeds. I mean thinking differently about really basic stuff.
You mean to tell me that people wear flip-flops, those miserable little pieces of so-called footwear with the thong between your toes, because they’re comfortable? I tried it. Once. Five minutes later, my feet were so cramped up, they may as well have been amputated. I spent the rest of the day walking on my hands because it was easier. Besides, I’m a scientist (really), and sandals in the laboratory are verboten. Only real shoes need apply. There is a reason for this. You only have to drop a test tube full of hot acid on your bare toes once …
No. People ’round here don’t wear flip-flops because they’re comfortable. They wear them because of shoe drill.
Most people from the U.S. Mainland know nothing about shoe drill. They just come barging into the house with whatever they’re wearing on their feet. Sometimes wiping them off, sometimes not. The person responsible for cleaning the floor complains, but the worst that can happen is that the offender gets handed the mop or the broom. Most of the time, however, the grit just gets left for the next floor cleaning. However often that might be in your house.
But most people in Hawai‘i aren’t from the U.S. Mainland. They aren’t even Hawai‘ian natives. They’re Asians. Mostly from China, Korea, Japan. And they brought shoe drill with them.
Trust me, Yank. You do not want to go blundering into an Asian person’s house with your shoes on. The looks of shock and horror that accompany any such attempt put the puny screams of today’s frontline horror movies to shame. As does the sight of a grandmother, all 4′ 9″ and 80 pounds of her, prepared to unload on you like a blitzing middle linebacker. And if that doesn’t work, the Ninja pop out from behind the Japanese screen in the living room and cut you to ribbons. No. First they carry you and your offending footwear out of the house. Then they cut you to ribbons.
What you’re supposed to do is enter the vestibule of the house and take your shoes off. This is shoe drill. In Asian households, the homeowner often provides sandals for people to wear in the house. The in-house standard here in Hawai‘i is bare feet, or at least it’s been bare feet in the places I’ve been so far.
This is a great way to tell the malihini from the kama‘aina at a party around here. Those in the know are already at the bar sipping Mai Tais while the rookies are still in the vestibule untying their sneakers. One thing about flip-flops. They come off quickly and easily. Thank goodness.
Now, the very existence of shoe drill makes a statement about the cleanliness of the house that practices it. Not to mention the safety. Let’s face it. In mainland America, given both the frontier mentality and the climate, you need to wear shoes in most houses. To protect your feet from whatever the previous sets of shoes have tracked in. Plus the temperature of the floor (hot or cold, depending on where you are and when). Plus whatever verminous things like ants or wasps or snakes have snuck into the place when you weren’t looking and are lying in wait for your unshielded tootsies.
Shoe drill states “you don’t have to worry about those things here”. Which is a fine statement for the homemaker to make. As long as the verminous things are listening …
So nowadays I come home and, because “when in Rome” and all that, I take off my shoes. Most of the time, I’m doffing sandals (not the flip-flop variety), but sometimes real loafer-type shoes. Last night, it was the loafers I had just taken off when I looked up, and there was a centipede crawling across our floor.
Now, Quilly and I have been telling you all about the flowers of Hawai‘i, and the birds of Hawai‘i, and the mammals of Hawai‘i, on our blogs. None of these creatures have actually been native to Hawai‘i. This was our first look at real, honest-to-Mergatroyd Hawai‘ian native wildlife. Though we would have preferred it if this particular species of wildlife hadn’t spent the last several years watching the Crocodile Dundee movies. Especially the second one. The one where Paul Hogan’s character went to New York? Y’see, U.S. Mainland centipedes are pretty puny, maybe an inch (25 mm) long, most of ’em. The Hawai’ian ones looked at these things, got themselves to the gym, bulked up, and scoffed.
“That’s not a centipede.”
So here’s this thing, as long and big around as a pencil, scurrying across my living room floor and headed for the kitchen. And they bite. Which would be bad enough by itself, but centipedes bite with a venom that is similar to the one found in bee stings. And if you have an allergy to bee venom … like Quilly does …
Hawai‘ian residents, I’ve since learned, attack invading centipedes with flamethrowers, bazookas, or machetes. I didn’t have any of those things. Or a lot of time, either. What I did have was …
Which I promptly put back on, strode brazenly across my sacred floor, and stomped the intruder into mush. (It took awhile.)
I’m just glad I didn’t have to cope with blitzing Asian grandmothers too.
– O Ceallaigh
Copyright © 2007 Felloffatruck Publications. All wrongs deplored.
All opinions are mine as a private citizen.