SNAFU is both a deeply philosophic acronym, and a pleasingly profane one. It's meaning, "Situation Normal: All Fucked Up" reflects the Buddhist reality that life is suffering.
Traveling from snowy Salem, Oregon to sunny Napili Bay, Hawaii yesterday, we can testify that SNAFU is fully operative in the cosmos.
Not that we needed any confirmation of that. It's just good to be reminded (albeit as infrequently as possible) that when everything is going right with life, that's an anomaly.
Laurel and I started off fine, waking up bright and early for a planned 6:45 am departure from home so we'd have time to get to the Portland airport well ahead of Hawaiian's 10:15 am flight to Maui. I'd checked the Hawaiian web site fairly late on Saturday night and saw that HA 39's schedule hadn't changed.
The thirty-six degree weather and snow worried us a bit. The white stuff wasn't sticking, though, so we had no trouble driving up I-5 in nicely sparse morning traffic.
That was the high point of our travel day. On our speedy way to the airport I'd been worrying that we'd have too much time to kill before our flight left. When we checked in, my worries proved to be justified.
The Hawaiian check-in guy at the first class counter (we'd splurged on an upgrade, having lots of Hawaiian Airlines miles) had been joking around with us. So when he said, "Your flight will be leaving a little late…at 2:20 pm" at first we both thought this was another attempt to be funny.
Except, it wasn't. Mechanical problems had delayed arrival of the plane until 4 am in the morning. So now the crew had to rest for eight hours, or whatever, due to some stupid FAA rule.
I thought, Hey, just give them a couple of cups of strong Kona coffee. Or some Benzedrine. Shoot them up with meth, I don't care. Just don't make me wait four more hours at the airport.
Which is what we ended up having to do, spending much of the time talking about how stupid it was (1) for us not to have phoned Hawaiian and checked if the flight was on time, and (2) for Hawaiian not to have contacted us when they knew many hours ahead of time that HA 39 was going to be significantly delayed.
Fortunately, the baggage claim area of the Portland Airport had some empty seating with no arm rests, making for a comfortable place to doze and read the Sunday paper. Also on the plus side: Hawaiian gave us two $9 vouchers for lunch, meaning we each got paid $2.25 an hour to sit around until 2:20 pm.
Since we were in first class, once we boarded I figured that our travel troubles were over and we could relax in the lap of airline luxury.
I started to tense up almost right away, however – as soon as the flight attendant handed out the meal menu. We could select three of five lunch items, only one of which was clearly composed of vegetable matter. A salad.
Before he got to us to take our orders I could hear another passenger using the "V" (vegetarian) word, and mumbled regrets/explanations from the flight attendant. All of which were repeated when he got to us.
I've never been able to understand why nice restaurants and first class airline chefs believe that every single main dish has to meatified. Not only that, in this case every single side dish aside from the salad was laced with animal flesh.
So the potatoes and rice were off limits, leaving us with a small salad and a few other dainty dishes while the peons back in coach were feasting on meatless spaghetti.
That was promised to me if any spaghettis were left over, but I ended up having to scrape up the last bits of a hummus plate to keep body and soul together while I stretched out in my expansive first class seat, feeling sorry for myself.
SNAFU'ing on, I left a half-full glass of guava juice on the platform between our seats while I napped. When I woke up, it took me quite a while to figure out why my right shoe was wet. Along with my hip bag that I'd put on the cabin floor.
Sticky sweetness offered up a clue.
Adding to my bad hip bag karma, inexplicably I left it sitting in its guava soaked splendor when we deplaned. It was only after we'd gotten halfway to baggage claim and I'd started to think of picking up the rental car when a little voice inside my head said, "Good luck, since you don't have a wallet."
I had to wait a few more anxious moments for Laurel to come out of a restroom. Then I raced back to the gate and swam upstream against a throng of coach passengers, all of whom looked happier than first class me, stomachs being filled with meatless spaghetti and minds empty of concern about their wallets.
Luckily, my hip bag was right where I'd left it. Nothing else went wrong for a whole couple of minutes, aside from arriving at the rental car shuttle area a few seconds after the Alamo bus pulled away.
Once I finally got to the off-site Alamo center, I was directed to choose from any of the mid-size cars in their lot. Which turned out to be two identical gold PT Cruisers. This being one of those SNAFU days, I should have known that whichever one I picked, it'd be the wrong decision.
I drive to baggage claim to retrieve Laurel and our six pieces of luggage. We stuff them into the car. Then drive to the Kahului natural food store to stock up on healthy organic eats. Park. Press the "lock" button on the key fob.
And observe…nothing. Followed by more presses of the button that also result in…nothing. Laurel and I look at each other, panic bouncing back and forth between us (at least something is happening).
The Dark Ages beckon: a vacation during which each trip in the rental car begins and ends with – oh, dear god, the horror – a manual unlocking or locking of the doors.
Of all the SNAFUS we'd faced since leaving home, this clearly was the worst. I left Laurel at the store, made a U-turn, and drove back to the Alamo rental center. Pulling up on the street, I encountered an employee I'd met before having a smoke (though this is Maui, it was a cigarette) out on the lawn.
She fondled my keys, unsuccessfully attempting to open the battery compartment with her fingernail. "Often people take the battery before they return the car," she said. "Just return the car and exchange it for a full-size one."
Since the last mid-size PT Cruisers had departed the lot, now I'd be able to get a car better able to hold all of our stuff, including the countless bags of groceries Laurel was accumulating at that very moment. All I needed to do was transfer two large suitcases, two carry-ons, a boogie board, and a duffel bag with all of our beach/snorkeling paraphernalia.
No problem, if I could have pulled the old car up next to the new car. But a girl at the Alamo Returns Department waved me into the return line, even though I told her the car had just been used for a quick trip to the natural food store and back.
"You can pick out any full-sized car in that line over there," she told me. "Over there" meant halfway across the Alamo parking lot.
I asked her to watch the PT Cruiser while I started ferrying our crap to a different vehicle. She jumped onto the rear hatch compartment, where she contentedly sat during my three back and forth hauling trips.
First time over, I used what I hoped was a new-found car selecting intuition to pick a G6. I didn't know what a G6 was, but the name on the grill sounded sporty and it looked in good working order. I stuffed a couple of heavy bags into the trunk, then went to lock the car so somebody wouldn't rip me off while I made the next trip.
Shit. I'd managed to pick a replacement car that also didn't have a working remote, a fact that jumped out at me when I saw there wasn't any remote at all on the key chain.
So now I had to move bags from the G6 into a Grand Prix, which I picked solely because it was sitting right next to the G6 and I was getting way tired of playing with suitcases after a too-long SNAFU day. After a few more trips back and forth to the PT cruiser I was headed back to the natural food store.
Where Laurel had made a good start on the shopping, but it still took a while before we loaded umpteen bags into a pleasingly easily lockable car. I tore into the potato chips, a long time having passed since we feasted on those first class salads.
Check-in at the Napili Kai went smoothly, against my expectations. I was strangely pleased when the lot closest to our room was filled up and we had to hurriedly park in a handicapped space while rushing to move our luggage and groceries.
Ah, back to SNAFU normality. I felt even more at home when the first sound we heard upon approaching the door to our oceanfront room wasn't the surf, but loud country music.
It didn't go on too late, which pleased our jet-lagged souls. And so far today it's been country music quiet. I noticed this morning, though, that a guy in a room downstairs went out to the bushes adjoining the ocean, leaned over a railing, and spit an astounding spray of something into the greenery.
Then he adjusted his baseball cap, looked pleased with himself, and walked back into his room. I'm fearing that we're in the midst of some sort of redneck convention, though I haven't figured out why they'd come to Maui.
Fortunately, the island has a way of quickly erasing SNAFU memories. A few hours on the beach today, and a half hour swim in Napili Bay, got me pretty mellow.
That's what happens when one of the biggest chores of the day is framing Molokai between your knees.