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Shifting Gears in Maui

Our flight got into Maui 40 minutes early, at around 9:00 PM local time.  A promising start to our August trip.  After claiming our baggage, we caught the shuttle to the rental car office to get the keys for what was supposed to be a four-door Elantra, per the Expedia trip details (I booked the hotel/car package online).  Instead, the unsmiling, unhelpful bag of blood behind the counter tried to foist a compact two-door on me.  I begged to differ, so she gave us a four-door Chevy Aveo.  Big mistake.  Big big mistake.  We left the lot after carefully inspecting the machine of nobody’s dream for damage and indicating to the attendant where all the small dents and scratches were.

For those unfamiliar with Maui, to get from the airport to our destination, Ka’anapali (Ka-anna-polly), you drive southwest from the city of Kahului along Highway 380, then turn left onto the coastline-hugging, two-lane Honoapi’ilani Highway (Highway 30) which heads north to our hotel, a little past the beach town of Lahaina (La-heye-na).  This is normally a 45 minute trip.  However, it would become a three hour ordeal.

At mile-markers 7 and 8, on Highway 30 (I’ve since driven past this point many times, so I now know its exact location), we had to come to a complete stop because of roadwork.  There were traffic cones set up around a lit construction area.  The road crew was making drivers form a queue in each direction.  Traffic was strictly one-way.  Every few minutes, a police car would alternately escort the north- and southbound vehicles through.  It was quite the wait, so, with Al Gore and winged dollar-signs in the back of my mind, I put the car into Park.  But when it came time to advance, I couldn’t shift out of Park.  After a frantic 30 seconds, I put the emergency flashers on to let the cars behind me know to scoot around me.  The police officer pulled alongside to investigate a few minutes later.  She shook her head at the doofus that was me, now at the head of a lineup that was getting longer by the second, and told me to get off the road.  Thanks for the insight, Coffeeshop Einstein.

I turned the ignition off and restarted the car.  No dice.  Two members of the road crew got behind the driver’s seat but fared no better.  We were stuck, tired, cangued by a metallic insult to the auto industry.

So it came to be that on our first evening—now the next morning—Betty and I found ourselves, with two kids asleep in the back, completely blocking one lane of traffic on a curvy highway, not quite sure where we were.

If there’s a bright side to all this, it would be that the Aveo failed because of, and in front of, a road crew instead of somewhere along the Road to Hana; and, on this particular night, the road crew included a traffic safety supervisor and two trainees. They enlarged their circle of traffic cones to include our Aveo, and positioned one of their pickups behind our car, its headlights pointing toward oncoming traffic.

To make a long story short—obviously, I made it out alive—here’s what I learned:

  • It’s no trivial task communicating Hawaiian location information to an Emergency Roadside representative based in Texas.  “Two miles past the aquarium on Highway 30 en route to Lahaina” only solicited a “How did you spell that?  L-A-…, ahh, what’s the next letter?”  I put one of the traffic safety workers on my cell and could tell his “near Ma’alaea Bay” directions drew an equally vacant response on the other end.  To his credit, the Texan eventually managed to dispatch a truck to tow the car (with me as passenger) to the hotel.  The driver, a born-in-Maui local, said we were lucky nobody plowed into us.
  • Cell phone coverage can be spotty.  We attempted numerous calls to the resort, and to a local taxi cab company to transport Betty and the kids to the hotel, but got only an “Out of Range” message on our phones.
  • Hawaiians are indeed friendly (except for the Aloha-less hag back at Budget).  The traffic security officer, sensing our plight, kindly offered to drive Betty, the kids and our luggage, to our resort, a half-hour trip.  Truly an act of kindness. He even got the hotel’s front desk to waive that night’s parking fee for us.
  • I’ve had little luck with North American cars.  Budget replaced the Aveo with the “Only-A-Car-Rental-Company-Would-Buy-This” Pontiac G6.  Its entire dash is lit up in red—odometer, tachometer, speedometer, warnings—you name it (see the “Change Oil Soon” message in the image below).  I spent an inoordinate amount of time scanning for warning lamps, unsure whether they would appear in red or some other colour.  Note: On the Road to Hana, I had the déjà vu privilege of seeing the orange “check engine” icon light up because of, yep, you guessed it, more roadwork.  This time we were told to get out and stretch our legs because it was going to be a twenty-minute wait.  I was unable to get into Drive or Reverse when it came time to move.  The car would just coast as if in neutral.  I put the emergency flashers on.  Cars had to skirt around me until I restarted the white P. o. S. and managed to engage gears.  I’m glad somebody in Detroit had the temerity to slam his uncalloused fist on the meeting room table and make himself heard: “Orange, the lamp’s got to be orange.”

Maybe I’m a traditionalist.  With effort, I’m sure I can train myself to equate red with “all clear”.

Pontiac G6 Dash

Pontiac G6 Dash

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