Sunday, January 14, 2018

ICBM False Alarm Hawaii

I awoke to my rude alarm clock this morning just like any other day, but this time it was a bit earlier than usual, especially for a Saturday. It was 5:40 a.m. and it was the first of two waves of alarms [the next being at 5:50 a.m.] that woke myself and my partner who had been sleeping on the futon in the living room. We've been hosting some friends from out of town for the past week and were happy to give up our bedroom in order to lodge them comfortably. To catch a 7:30 a.m. flight bound for LIH from HON we needed to wake unusually early. As everyone woke and gathered themselves, I still had some things to prepare; a menial task of offloading an SD card to my computer before that same SD card would then be immediately repurposed to document their trip to Kauai. I did that as the girls got ready.

When we were all collected, I took the driver's seat with my newly minted drivers license, only to find out that I had sleepily grabbed the wrong set of keys! Inconvenienced and annoyed at myself, I returned to unlock the apartment for the right keys, only to again; fully lockdown the apartment for a second time. It was a crisp-cool cloudless morning, you could see the luminescent moon in the multi-color foreground of an impending dawn. A foggy/dew/vapor had collected on the inside of the car's windshield making it difficult to see through until the newly charged air conditioning system busted through it.

By 6:17 a.m. we were on the road. I remember looking at the clock as I drove the two travelers I was entrusted to deliver to the airport; ensuring that they we were to truly arrive in time. I can't really remember what we spoke about on the car ride, which is pretty typical for me when it's so early [for me] and I'm preoccupied with driving. Probably some shit about my lame bands or whatever, or some trivial conversation about loose travel plans. I do remember we spoke though, at least some bit about using Starbucks gift cards at the airport-based coffee establishments.

I assisted the girls with their belongings as they unloaded themselves from the vehicle. A cooler bag that had been lazily stuffed with trash from some previous beach adventure(s) released itself of all it's contained melted-ice, beer-bottle caps, half-empty sunscreen bottles and other various forms of beach-amusement paraphernalia. Embarrassed by the attention that the sound of scattering things and unsightly rubbishes had brought me, I quickly gathered up the second-hand mess that I unknowingly inherited assisting the two with their luggage. We said our goodbyes and we went our separate ways. They were headed for paradise, and I was headed to normalcy.

I rejoined the stream of traffic, and was cautious of the chaos that airport arrivals and departures typically brought, becoming a little more hypo-aware. As I began to return to the the freeway, I remember thinking "damn, this guy is close..." as I looked in my rear-view, triggering a brief memory of a similar scenario when my Uncle Tito was at the wheel taking me home after one of my neighbor island gigs. ...but perhaps it was only just because I fell for the "OBJECTS IN THE MIRROR ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR" misperception. This ride home was probably one of the only times I had driven the car by myself. Alone. Serenity. I listened to the radio as I looked over the downtown skyline, noticing that the moon had taken second stage to the glow of the rising sun. More importantly, I noticed that one of them left a canteen full of coffee. Looks like they will be going to Starbucks, and I won't have to now.

I returned home with the neighborhood seemingly still asleep. I was up unusually early for a work day. I remember being as delicate as possible earlier that morning, loading the luggage into the car, trying my best not to wake the neighborhood. For a third time, I unlocked the apartment, and still had some menial things I wanted to do/finish on the computer before I began my morning work commute. Strategically, I left the ancient computer of mine running during my taxi service in order to shave off precious minutes of reboot time that old devices like this one suffer from. I received a peculiar message from my coworker I was to see less-than an hour later, which was kind of out of the ordinary... guess she was bring a loved-one whom I had never met -- only heard about -- to work with her today. A little more unordinary. Time stamp: 7:07 a.m.

By 7:30 a.m., I had completed what I needed to do on the computer and was on my way to work just like any other day. I was already wide-awake, and was self-assured I'd make it with time to spare, which always takes the stress off the trek, making me a little less of a societal-asshole than if I were a stressed systemic-procrastinator and "behind schedule" like everyone else. It was still quite cool, and I remember shivering, hoping that the sun would show itself soon and give me some warmth that my body couldn't generate for itself, even during the bike ride.

I arrived to work, and docked my bike at the sidewalk bike-locking rack. Timestamp, 7:56 a.m. I was early! Leizurily, I went to the nearby convenience store I regular for my much anticipated cup of coffee and morsel of sustenance. Today was different though, being that I had already drunk the travelers' forgotten coffee, I wasn't fiending for coffee, and wasn't at all hungry. I opted for a can of V8 juice, which I never really do for breakfast. Today was different though. I chose the empty cashier nearest the exit, the one that I have always perceived as the primary checkout stand. There she was, "NAME TAG", a shop clerk whom I see almost every day. We never really exchange any more words than what is professionally required of the two of us. Seems kind of strange being that I've been working here for 5 years and have never really have had more than a few stand out conversations with this person. Seems a little dehumanizing, but, maybe she's not a morning person like me, or maybe I'm just not an interesting person to want to talk to, maybe I'm anti-social? Or perhaps it was because I was raised by women and don't feel like it's my responsibility to initiate and encourage conversations? She counts the change out to me and says her ritualistic "save your receipt for free gifts" once we've finished our transaction.

Finally arriving at work, it's 8:03 a.m., and the co-worker(s) still haven't arrived. No big deal, I began to sloppily do the opening duties/rituals. Unlock door here, turn light on there, clock in, put my things away, etc. etc. etc. in no particular order. It wasn't long, and my co-worker arrives with her partner and she tells me that we have no bookings this morning. I immediately think of what kind of personal work I could get done with the morning...

8:07 a.m.
Emergency Alert

"Missile... coming?" "Is this for real?" "What do we do?" We look at eachother. I think to myself: where are the air sirens? We need a radio! And we don't have much time if this is for real. I attempt to use the company computer to find an online radio of some sort as the others buried their faces and frantically clawed at their phones searching for answers on their handheld answer boxes that we commonly call as cell phones now. Experiencing the grudgingly-slow pace of a computer boot screen for a second time already today, I think to ask the taxi men at the hotel to use their car radio to tune into the AM stations. Of course, as destiny would have it, two tourists enter the shop completely unaware of the impending nuclear ending, looks like they want to go surfing. I'll leave that up to the co-worker who was late and brought their partner.

I jog over to the taxi's who of course are all foreign and very poor with English. I explain to them to turn on their car radios. Some of them saying they have no radios. ? Did you not see the message? Are you guys not concerned? Listen to the AM radio!


? that's weird... an alarm versus an immediate seek shelter order. Should I believe a cellphone, or a radio station?

I return to the shop to find the two tourists still there insisting to us that this is a false alarm. "If CNN isn't televising it, then it's not real." they argue. Gosh, I would hate to be wrong if I were you. "We have a bunch of methods of shooting those things down. We're safe." Really? Where's your PHD in rocket science? And when have we ever had fully documented instances of repelling an impending ICBM travelling at 5,000 meters per second that we were not already informed of being launched?

I think to myself, there is no way that a news channel halfway around the world could get it together in time to broadcast to a community halfway around the world again, that there is or is not a missile traveling our way, it would be immediate services that would be informed. Police, Air Sirens, Radio, etc. I don't have time to have discussions with fact-check-free people feeling impervious because they're on vacation and believe things that they don't really know much about; only repeating what they're told.

I called my girlfriend, a traveler whom I had said goodbye to that morning. I told her, "go straight to my mom's house." I knew she wouldn't know what to do... Growing up on Kaua'i, there is always a looming awareness of missile threats. To say I hadn't thought of what it would be like if a missile were to be headed our way would be a lie. "Just get to my mom's house. I'm going to see if I can make it home."

Home. Where I always have at any given time enough food and water to survive for at least a month. Home base. Where I know where all my survival tools are. The fortress. Where I know I am in control of my destiny, and ultimate safer because of it. The bunker. It was too far away and I would not have enough time to get there lest I wanted to be vaporized and memorialized as a shadow etched into the wall of a mangled building. I suppose immediate shelter would be the shop. The place I've been working at for 5 years. Wow.

My sister called, and told me she loved me. Maybe this was the end? So sweet, but I thought to myself, don't worry about me, worry about yourself and the kids! I know you love me, and I hope that everything I say and do reflects that I actually love you all.

I decided to get in touch with hotel security one last time to see if they had a radio. They informed me that they had spoken with HPD earlier -- it was a false alarm. Really? I hope so. I returned to the shop to tell my coworkers that it had been a false alarm. What a relief.

8:43am. Shortly thereafter the two tourists returned to the shop. I guess they had left the shop too to find out what was really going on, but now they were back. One was very proud to say "I told you so!" But again, I'd really hate to be wrong if I were him. I remember thinking about reading testimonials of people who witnessed Pearl Harbor, and even 9/11 who were also saying and feeling like "nah... this isn't real." Anyway, I guess it was time to give a 9am surf lesson.

I did the surf lesson, we were in the water paddling out by 9:02 a.m. and it went well in spite of it's sobering nuclear-armageddon overtones. It was an especially beautiful day, and probably even more so after having quite the scare. I uncharacteristically unprofessionally shared a personal morbid thought with my client, a thought I typically have whenever I watch propeller airplanes fly overhead thinking of what it must of looked and felt like seeing a bunch of aircraft like that dropping bombs over pearl harbor just a dozen miles away or so. A location that I can see fairly well from where I'm at when I'm working almost every day. My imagination puts two and two together sometimes when I'm out there.

I started collecting my thoughts throughout the day of some of the other things I thought about during that intense 45 minutes this morning. I thought about how all my loved ones are not physically near to me, but always in my thoughts. I thought about how tragic and violent a nuclear reality could be. I thought about how trivial the events and thoughts I had in the early morning before the scare were.

A couple months ago there was a false air siren alarm that went off which gave me personally quite the scare too mainly because I was out at sea, no AM radio in sight out there haha. I guess for that one everyone had access to the "false alarm" information, but being that I wasn't anywhere near a communication device, I was concerned the air sirens were sounding on a day other than the "first working day of the month."

A very sobering experience to say the least.

The main takeaway; I need an AM radio.