We arrive at night. The concierge informs us that our rooms are designated “Deluxe Ocean View.” It sounds like their best rooms. I am very excited.
When the Bellman lets us in, I hear the waves crashing against whatever they crash against to make that sound. I step out on the balcony. I look at the ocean.
It’s over to the left.
I realize there are rooms facing directly towards the ocean. I wonder: If our room is designated “Deluxe Ocean View”, what do they call those rooms?
The following morning, we go the beach. Friends have done me the great favor of handling the beach chair arrangements before our arrival, relieving me of a job that is completely beyond my abilities. A successful beach chair arrangement involves “taking care” of people, and I’ve written about that. I can’t do it.
“Here’s a bribe. Treat me better.”
I can’t pull that off.
I settle in, and immediately notice that something’s not right. My beach chair is facing the ocean, but the sun is directly behind me, negating the possibility of my tanning and facing the ocean at the same time. I have two choices. I can do a “one-eighty” with my beach chair, so I can face the sun directly, or I can remain where I am, enjoying the ocean while the sun browns the back of my neck.
Let me stop here. You have to be a special kind of person to complain about Hawaii. I find myself up to the task. As usual, my complaints are legitimate. Our room had been mislabeled – it should have been called, “Deluxe Ocean View To Your Left ”, and the ocean – or the sun – or the hotel – one of them was in the wrong place.
Whiney? Annoying? Monumentally ungrateful? I plead “guilt” to all three. But “whiney”, “annoying” and “monumentally ungrateful”…
...with an explanation.
Over the past quarter century, our family has spent almost every Christmas Week vacationing at a hotel on the Hawaiian island of Oahu called the Kahala. (The place has gone through three ownerships, two of which were the Hilton and the Mandarin Oriental. The third and most recent acquisition was by an investment group called, I believe, "A Bunch Of Rich People Who Own A Hotel.")
We don’t go to the Kahala anymore. Primarily because of me. My family would go back in a second. They delight in the Kahala’s familiarity and comfort, the resident dolphins, and the fact that you can walk to the multiplex at the nearby Kahala Mall, and shop at the Ala Moana Shopping Center (though they already got everything for Chanukah.)
As a result of my insistence on vacationing elsewhere, whenever we try someplace new, the burden falls on me (at least I feel like it does) to provide my family with an experience that will make them forget the Kahala. The replacement hotel has to be perfect. Not being able to tan and face the ocean at the same time – that’s a deficiency. That’s a flaw.
So why do I mention it? Call it “Preemptive Complaining.” I do it first, so that they won’t be able to. There’ll be no “At the Kahala, the sun and the ocean are on the same side.” Point taken, and duly noted. Moving on.
By the way, it wasn't like we always got a “Deluxe Ocean View” room at the Kahala. (Those are reserved for reclusive movie stars and their "significant others" who never come out of their rooms.) Our rooms invariably face the golf course and the mountains. But the Kahala doesn’t lie about it. They call it a “Mountain View Room.” And the mountains are directly in front of you. You don’t have to pivot to your left to see them.
To be honest, I love the Kahala, and would gladly return annually. If it wasn’t for “The Thing.” “The Thing” being the reason I refuse to go back. What's “The Thing?” “The Thing” is an attitude.
Call it “Show Biz Entitlement.”
A lot of entertainment people stay to the Kahala. Studio executives, movie stars, hot-shot directors, television writers who wrote the “goldfish” episode on The Cosby Show. Owing to his cardiac episode, we know that Rush Limbaugh was a guest there this year. Limbaugh seemed an odd fit in terms of political tendencies – the Kahala clientele, I imagine, leans noticeably to his Left. But when it comes to entitlement, the "L-Man" fits right in.
I could relate many stories fueling my disenchantment with the Kahala. I once rented a floating rubber raft for the day, and a guy who used to be Helen Reddy’s manager tried to throw me off of it. That’s why you spend hundreds of dollars a day at a luxury hotel, isn’t it? To have some frothing at the mouth maniac screaming at you to get off your own raft?
But that wasn’t the deal breaker. This was.
I’m eating breakfast by myself. I’m almost finished. Suddenly, the “seater” – the person who seats people – comes up and says, “I’m sorry, Mr. Pomerantz, but a mistake has been made. This table has been booked by the Katzenberg family for their entire stay. I’m afraid you will have to move.”
Okay. First of all, I’m a fast eater. The wait would have been, maybe, five minutes. Shorter even, because I was almost finished. Then, there’s the Rudeness Factor. And finally, the request caught me off guard. I wasn’t aware you could book a table for your entire stay. I, apparently, couldn’t book one for an entire meal.
So what happened? Not much. I got up, carrying the remnants of my breakfast, and I moved to another table. Saying nothing. But thinking….
I will never come back to the Kahala again.
Which is why, last Christmas Week, we found ourselves on the Big Island of Hawaii (the Big Island is called Hawaii and the entire group of islands is called Hawaii; I don’t know how anyone gets their mail there), vacationing at the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel (and Condominiums).
It wasn’t perfect – there was the aforementioned sun-ocean-placement problem – and it’s unlikely it made other family members forget the Kahala. But as Larry David’s character, Larry David, would say, our Hawaiian holiday was pretty…pretty good.
Tomorrow – with the complaints now out of the way – I will tell you about it.