comscore Cold drinks and a kind word send young man into street | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Lee Cataluna

Cold drinks and a kind word send young man into street

Honolulu Star-Advertiser logo
Unlimited access to premium stories for as low as $12.95 /mo.
Get It Now
    Harold Wong with his hand-lettered sign, on a personal quest to bring about a better week through free Gatorade.

Usually when a guy is standing on the side of a busy roadway holding a sign, he’s selling something or asking for donations. Sometimes he’s promoting a blow-out mattress sale (whatever that means) or a benefit car wash nearby. When it’s election season, he’s trying to get you to think he’s humble and hardworking enough to stand like a doofus and wave at cars.

All Harold Wong wanted to do was help.

Sort of. In a small way.

Just buy folks a drink and wish them well on their travels.

“Last week was a really lousy week,” he said, though he didn’t use the word “lousy.” Instead, he used the unprintable word that starts with S and rhymes with “gritty” and is commonly used when describing a week when there was another horrifying campus shooting, flooding in the South, weird weather around the state and a shutout football game for Hawaii’s Rainbow Warriors. Again.

Take your pick. There was a lot of misery to choose from. Wong wasn’t specific.

He was just hoping that this week would be better.

So there he was on Monday morning in the intersection of Dole Street and University Avenue from 6 a.m. until about 7:15 with a red plastic cooler, a hand-lettered sign and an air of businesslike pleasantness.

“Mondays suck,” his sign read. “Free Gatorade!”

Wong, 26, had worked his shift overnight at Station Bar & Lounge and headed to Manoa to enact his plan. He was still dressed for work in a white long-sleeve shirt and black pants and suspenders but looked like a college student out there perhaps conducting field research for a sociology class.

“No, I’m not a student. I’m a UH grad. That’s why I’m a bartender,” he quipped. Then he smiled and said, “You can put that quote in the paper.”

He stood on the concrete median next to the traffic signal while cars coming up University Avenue and turning right onto campus whooshed by. When traffic stopped for a red light, he made eye contact with drivers, did the facial expression for, “Hey, want one?” (eyebrows up, mouth in a questioning smirk), and trotted out to deliver bottles of Gatorade to anyone who indicated that, yeah sure, they did want one. Wong bought 54 bottles of Gatorade for his mission — Gatorade, because, he figured, people like it and it picks them up. Why not?

Wong, who was a theater major, was pretty low-key about the whole thing. No philosophizing, no airy talk about saving the world. He just did it — not even sure why — and was glad he did.

When the bottles were gone, Wong put on his backpack and rolled the empty cooler up the street toward the bus stop. He lives in Mililani and had a long way to go to get home. He thinks he might do this again. People seemed to like it. He seemed to like it. It was cool.

“Besides,” he said, “I already made the sign.”

Reach Lee Cataluna at 529-4315 or

Comments have been disabled for this story...

Click here to see our full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak. Submit your coronavirus news tip.

Be the first to know
Get web push notifications from Star-Advertiser when the next breaking story happens — it's FREE! You just need a supported web browser.
Subscribe for this feature

Scroll Up