Long time ago. I’m on hiatus, the “down-time” period between television production seasons. I have scheduled a vacation to the Hawaiian island of Kauai. Primary city, Lihue, pronounced Li-hoo-ee.
I am traveling alone. The plan was otherwise, but it didn’t work out. I land at the Lihue airport after dark, and I rent a car. The news that I had passed my driver’s test on television under questionable circumstances (See: “Driver’s Test” – September 18, 2008), had clearly not yet reached the authorities on Kauai. They were letting me drive on their island.
It’s spectacularly green on Kauai. The lushest vegetation imaginable. And for good reason. It rains there every day. Sprinkles, showers, blistering downpours where you can’t see a thing through your car window. This is the weather they’re trusting me to drive in.
Oh, and the speed limit is fifty miles an hour.
And I have absolutely no idea where I’m going.
Night driving in a strange locale through a monsoon at fifty miles an hour. Who’s betting on me?
I get there. I am taken to my room. I unpack. And I collapse.
The next day, I sit by the pool and, as they say, work on my tan. It’s my favorite kind of work.
The relaxation is sublime. I have books to read. I’m turning brown. I nod off. I wake up. I get a freshly caught fish sandwich from the “Snack Shack.” I lie down again.
My kind of adventure.
So what if I don’t take in the attractions on this real life Garden of Eden? So what if I go home and people say, “What did you see there?” and I say, “My room and the pool”? This is my vacation. And my plan is to luxuriate in uninterrupted comfort the entire week.
There is one cloud on my idyllic horizon. From the day I arrive, men in polyester suits, carrying laminated folders swarm over my “relaxation area” trying to sell “time shares” for condominiums on the “Garden Island of Kauai.”
They won’t leave us alone, “us” being vacationers, who didn’t come to Kauai to be harassed by yammering “infomercials” in patent leather, white shoes.
I try desperately to avoid them. Whenever some real estate vulture heads my way, I get up and go to the bathroom. People must think there’s something wrong with me. I’m “going” six, seven times an hour.
I know myself. I’m blood in the water. No sales resistance whatsoever. If these condo sharks get their hands on me…(WITH A "KRAMER-LIKE" WHIMPER)...I’ll buy something.
I have to escape. It appears that, despite my powerful preference to do otherwise, I will be forced to explore the island.
That means getting back in the car.
Okay, so I’m driving away from salesmen. That had to be done. But where am I going? And how will I get there without running people over?
An idea comes to mind. Instead of driving, and the risks that that entails, I can tour the island by helicopter. It’s the perfect solution. I’ll make my way to the “helipad”, I’ll hover over the points of interest, and I’ll return to the hotel later, when the hyenas have gone home.
It’s interesting. I wouldn’t call myself a brave person. Yet, brave people I know are afraid to ride in helicopters and I’m not. Hah!
I’m not sure why I’m not afraid of helicopters. There’s a shameful litany of things I am afraid of. Space, not even cyberspace, could accommodate the entire inventory. Trust me, it’s quite a catalogue.
I think part of my fearlessness involves the romantic outcome of the worst-case scenario. It’s kind of exciting. “TV Writer Dies In Fiery Helicopter Crash.” I can live with that headline. Well, not live. But be immortalized by it. It’s a glorious exit. Way better than “TV Writer Chokes To Death On Apricot Pit.”
I sign up for the helicopter tour over Kauai. And it’s breathtaking. Especially traveling over what they call, “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” A vast, green gorge. Somewhere I’ve got pictures. Magnificent, even with a cheap camera. And for no extra charge, they threw in a rainbow.
The trouble is, how many helicopter rides can you go on? The “wolf pack” is still on the prowl, cruising for condo customers. Which puts me back in the car.
It’s think it’s King Kamehameha. Anyway, it’s some Hawaiian king. The Kauaiian Tourist Bureau has it set up, so that at every point of exceptional scenic interest, there’s a sign with the king’s likeness on it, indicating, “This is a Spectacular Scenic Site. Look at it.”
You park on the widening in the shoulder covered with black cinders, you get out of your car, and you take a picture.
So I’m driving around, and whenever there’s a King Kamehameha sign, I do what you do – I stop and get out. The king is not lying. The sites are jaw-droppingly beautiful. I get terrific pictures.
One time, I pull into at a “Scenic Site”, I get out of the car, and I take my camera. The rain’s coming down, but, you know, it’s not Noah levels. I check out the “Scenic Site.” On the money again. It’s spectacularly scenic. I raise the camera to my eye to take a picture. I pull the camera closer for a better focus…
and my contact lens flips out of my eye, and it falls into the cinders.
I have two eyes. But my left eye is pretty much an honorary position. It doesn’t do a lot of seeing. I wear a contact lens in that eye, but all that does is bring things into focus. I still can’t identify what they are.
My “working eye” is my right eye. But it only works with the “correction” of the contact lens. And right now, that lens is lying somewhere among the cinders on the shoulder of the “Scenic Site.”
You see the irony here? I need to see to find my contact lens. And without my contact lens, I can’t see.
This was before cell phones. I can’t call for help. I can’t drive away and get help because, of course, I can’t see. And even if I could, what are my chances of finding that exact spot again? I’m standing over it, and I don’t know where it is.
I am very upset. Stranded, on a lonely stretch of highway in Kauai, with a car I can’t drive, and no way of calling for assistance. My contact lens lies buried in cinders.
And it’s really starting to rain.
My options were very few, one being to pass away, sightless, by the side of a road. Or, I could try not to.
I got down on my hands and knees over the spot where I’d calculated the lens had fallen. I opened my right hand, palm facing downward, and very slowly, I swept it along the uneven ground, hoping against all odds, that by touch alone, I would find my missing and desperately needed contact lens.
And I did.
Is that an greatest story, or what?