Hurricane memories.

I told a friend that I had a Hurricane Iniki story that was too long to type in over the phone, and that I would type it in once I was at a real computer. As I find myself at a computer…

TL; DR: meri almost missed a hurricane by not coming out of her apartment. It’s not a very good story, but it amuses me, for some reason.

Back in September of 1992, my boyfriend (who we will call TDP) and I had just moved into our very first apartment together. It was actually the basement studio apartment of a house belonging to Consulate General of Bangladesh in Honolulu (which has no bearing on this story whatsoever, but it’s fun to say). For those from Hawaii, the house was atop the Pali, on Old Pali Road. (For those not from Hawaii, think rain forest on a volcanic ridge, and you’re not far from wrong.)

This is, of course, in the days before the ubiquity of cell phones and always-on internet. I think one person in our social circle had a pager, but that was because he was working as an admin for an online service that most of you have never heard of, and the rest of you have forgotten existed. What I’m trying to say is that, without a land line (remember those?), you didn’t really communicate.

As was the practice at the time, you were actually given your land line phone number long before the telephone company got around to flipping the bit that actually turned on your phone service. So, TDP and I disseminated our new number amongst our friends, warning that it could be a day or two or ten before it would be working. (If you think telcos move slowly, and have never lived in Hawaii, you’ve been operating under a mistaken idea as to what the word ‘slowly’ means.)

So, TDP and I were settling in to our new place. We didn’t have a car, but the bus stopped right outside our door, which was handy. We were not, however, near anything at all, which was not. We could get on the bus in one direction, and go traverse half the north-south distance of the island, and end up in Honolulu, or the other way (and the other half of the island) and end up in Kailua, but there was little in between. But, we had our computers, and our television, and lots of books and music and games. Oh yeah, and I think there was something involving “going to college” going on at that time, too. In retrospect, we were probably missing some of that, what with the moving.

Around rolls Friday morning, at some ridiculous pre-dawn hour, when the alarm clock starts to go off. Now, even if I had been planning to attend classes that day (which I don’t think I was), there was no way in hell I had set my alarm for 5:07 AM. Still, one does what one does, and I beat on the alarm clock. It didn’t shut up. (Remember: there were no beeping cell phones or pagers or iPads or anything like that at the time.) I was left to understand that, by some magical intervention, our phone was ringing.

While this was novel (and somewhat interesting because it hadn’t taken Hawaiian Tel the minimum of 10 business days to turn on our phone) it was still 5:07 in the morning. I picked up the receiver and said, “Call back later,” and hung up, rolling over back into bed in one groggy motion.

The phone rang again.

Sighing, I picked up the phone again, say, “GO AWAY,” and hang up. This time, wily to the ways of the caller, I did not roll back into bed.

The phone rang again. “Mary! It’s RZW!” Ok, so a friend. Someone who had a right to have the number. Not someone who should be calling me at 5:08 in the morning. “Is someone dead?” I asked. “No, but-” “Call back later.”

15 seconds later, the phone rings, one last time. I pick up the receiver, beginning to offer a great deal of profanity to my caller, when my shouting is outdone by the caller. “SHUT UP! There is a HURRICANE coming! Turn on your damned television!”

“Oh. Huh.”

As it turns out, it was the morning of Friday, September 11, 1992, the day when Hurricane Iniki would do its very best to flatten the island of Kauai. (For those of you who have seen Jurassic Park, some of the storm scenes are of Iniki, which was being filmed on Kauai at the time.) It was unclear (at least to us) what path the storm was going to take, other than it was going to hit Hawaii. And, living where we did, we were certainly going to see a lot of wind. And while we might have had something resembling canned goods (college students, natch), we lacked things like bottled water, flashlights, candles, and a battery-powered radio.

So we grabbed our bus passes, and headed out the door. While traversing the carport, our landlady (who was busy bringing plants inside) saw us and said, “I thought you had gone to your parents’ house! Out of the wind! If you’re staying here, make sure you stay safe.”

Somewhat unnerved, we headed into Honolulu, attempting to find supplies. I don’t remember exactly what we walked out with, but it was something along the lines of a case of Mountain Dew, a roll of paper towels, and some graham crackers. Oh yeah, we were set.

When everything was said and done, there was very little damage at our new apartment. Some plants (that the landlady had apparently missed) were knocked over, and some palm branches came down. It was pretty much a non-event for us. Had we not received the frantic call, and simply gone about with our sloth-like plans for the day, we probably wouldn’t have noticed much at all.

And that’s how I ended up almost missing the only hurricane I’ve ever been in.


Side note: Iniki would play a significant role in my life later on, in a roundabout sort of way. As mentioned previously, much of Kauai was flattened by the storm. Depending on which version of the history you believe (warning, that page plays sound when opened), an online service was born to help people pool and distribute resources. This service would become Hawaii Online, the first ISP I ever worked for.


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