No Playing in Restrooms


I'm deviating from my soapbox/deep thoughts with Jack Handy/Sunday School lesson with a moral to the story format. And instead of talking about story, I'll tell one.

My friend Deanna recently moved to Kauai. Like me, she came here with a sparse itinerary. The ways I've been able to live and play on this island have been amazing, but I'm always ready to shake the magic snow globe and see where all that fluffy stuff lands. All that to say, I left a roof and bed to live the hobo life for a while.

Deanna and I rented a little white Ford Ranger who we lovingly call Henry Junior, in honor of Deanna's much beloved Henry (Ford) Senior. Henry Junior struggles, as most island cars do. His headlights are cross eyed, he is infested with cockroaches, and all of his doors need to be slammed "harder than normal" for full closure. We love him. Chris Farley infamously played an SNL character who lived in a VAN down by the RIVER! Well I will see your van down by the river, and raise you a TRUCK down by the OCEAN!

I wake up Hawaiian freezing. It must be below 70 degrees. Instant disdain. My second train of thought is a series of questions about the audible assault I'm experiencing, which comes with some visual accompaniment. Why is the pop music blaring at 6:43 am? I love the Top 40. Ask anyone. But not before my sleeping bag is unzipped. Those 3 foot woofers change colors?! If I was on crystal meth (the island hobo drug of choice), I would love that sunrise light/sound show. But I'm not. And I don't.

"Deanna, I swear to god, if you check that roach trap one more time.."

Deanna has a morbid fascination with checking our Hawaiian Hoy Hoy cockroach trap. On a level that would rival any 10 year old boy.

"Fine!", she says, as she lumbers off to brush her teeth in the campground bathroom. For someone so small, she manages to move like a retired WWF wrestler imitating a chimpanzee. I roll my eyes. I've gone pro with the eye roll lately. I grab a toothbrush and follow her to where she has paused outside the bathroom for some light reading. The sign says, "Do not take a bath in the restrooms. No rubber balloons in restrooms. No playing in restrooms."

"What do you think they mean by "rubber balloons"?", she asks.

I'm under the impression that double entendres are significantly rare in state park signage. So I think they mean rubber balloons. My curiosity is more about the story that inspired said sign. Oh you know, the great water balloon fight of 2002. We lost a lot of our best bums that day. I'm thinking I should ask the guy flying the Hawaiian flags off of his truck with the banner reading, "Hawaii is NOT America and NEVER WILL BE!" He looks like a historian.

Our first stop of the day is the laundromat. A classic hangout for people living out of their cars. The bed of our truck is loaded with recycling that I'm taking off as a part of one of my many island jobs. It also has a wood pallet and maaaaaaybe a few tree limbs that we jumped out to get because they looked like they would make a solid campfire. I start moseying in. I'm looking like a super fashionista in thermal pants, a Walmart skirt, wool socks, Chacos, and a hoodie UNDER another zip hoodie. Who knows where my hair is. Probably on tour with an 80's band.

"Do you want my recycling?", asks a guy with shoulder length greasy gray hair and a Hawaiian shirt.

"Excuse me?"

"It looks like you're taking off recycling. Do you want mine or not?", he huffs.

"Thanks for the offer, but do I look homele..?", I look down at the wool socks and Chacos and refrain from finishing the question. Thank you good sir, but I'll pass.

Then it's off to brush my teeth in a grocery store bathroom and jaunt to work. I work in landscaping with a local man who has 11 children, 11 teeth, a lifted pickup, and an affinity for Eminem.

"Yo girl! You look like you gettin' thick here in Hawaii!"

Thick, you say? I gotta tell you bro, that's not something a lot of mainland girls like to hear.

"It's a good thing! We like our women thick. We don't want any of that anorexic shit."

I'm left to wonder if there are available descriptors between "thick" and "anorexic".

Deanna and I meet up after work. It sounds way more casual than it is. Because "meeting up after work" means that one of has the dear old pickup, and one of us is doing what I've dubbed the "hippie triathlon" of hitchhiking, walking, and taking the bus. We talk story and make our way to a beach. Our day hasn't necessarily been hard in the traditional sense, but it's taken a lot of energy. So we sit on the beach in a quiet haze with a 6-pack between us.

"Is that a sea turtle?", she asks.

Oh yeah, Kauai gives you a bigger paycheck for a long day than you thought to ask for. Good thing I filled out all of the paperwork for the direct deposit to my soul. If you're going to be a hobo in Hawaii, be a honey badger hobo. Do it all. Do it fearlessly.

PS: I am in no way trying to demean the many folks who struggle with real poverty and homelessness. I am incredibly grateful that all of my basic needs and then some are provided for. I choose the gypsy life as a vehicle for building experiences and weaving stories. Not to prove any sort of social or political point. Much love.

Amber Gruber