comscore David Shapiro: Our city of anxiety is surprisingly serene on the outside | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Hawaii News | Volcanic Ash

David Shapiro: Our city of anxiety is surprisingly serene on the outside

  • BRUCE ASATO / BASATO@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                A Kalakaua Avenue sidewalk is all but deserted Friday afternoon. The threat of the coronavirus and the unprecedented travel and social restrictions have negatively impacted businesses in the Waikiki area.

    BRUCE ASATO / BASATO@STARADVERTISER.COM

    A Kalakaua Avenue sidewalk is all but deserted Friday afternoon. The threat of the coronavirus and the unprecedented travel and social restrictions have negatively impacted businesses in the Waikiki area.

After two weeks at home consuming news about the fear and turmoil gripping the world from a deadly pandemic with no clear end, I was fascinated by the tranquility I found when I finally ventured out.

I had a doctor’s appointment in town that couldn’t be postponed or done by tele-medicine. I needed the doc to actually examine me.

Filled with trepidation, I armed myself with both heavy-duty hand-cleansing gel and high-alcohol hand wipes, a stack of tissues for opening doors and pressing elevator buttons, and a makeshift fabric face mask with a zebra print that looked like it came from somebody’s bikini briefs.

I was struck by how quickly the anxiety faded after I went out the door and felt the sun and breeze on me for the first time in forever, my eyes stunned by the sudden light and vegetation that seemed impossibly green.

The sidewalks were empty except for an occasional jogger or dog-walker, and few cars were out as we weaved through neighborhood streets to the usually congested Pali Highway, where light traffic flowed smoothly even though one lane was closed most of the way as a state crew used the COVID-19 lull to get in some badly needed roadwork.

I’ve never seen downtown Honolulu so quiet, except for maybe when I worked the early shift at the newspaper on Christmas morning. Parking was so plentiful that we had to circle the block thinking about which of the many spots to use.

The few who were out and about practiced a kind of safety-first dance. They scurried by one another, nodding beneath their masks and veering to the side to maintain 6 feet of space as they passed.

I saw four people coming from different directions on the walkways toward a point where they would certainly converge and wondered what would happen. At the last moment, they all peeled off to keep the safe space without missing a step as they continued on their way. If only city traffic controls worked so well.

The doctor’s office had its own dance. Whenever anybody new came in, the four or five patients in the waiting room got up and shifted around to maintain the furthest possible distance.

All the staff wore masks except the doctor himself, who scoffed at mine as he looked at my boo-boo and prescribed me meds that would hopefully keep me from having to come out again.

As I awaited my ride home, I holed up between flower planters, where nobody could get within 10 feet of me.

Dystopia is supposed to be dark and foreboding, not sunny and scented with hibiscus.

It was difficult to remember what normal used to be, much less how we’ll ever get back to it.


Reach David Shapiro at volcanicash@gmail.com.


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