Writing about “Staffing Season” as I did recently reminds me of the block of time immediately preceding staffing season – “Hiatus.”
“Hiatus” refers to that period after production for one season is over and the beginning of production for the following season begins.
After numerous months of fourteen-plus hour days’ exertion, not surprisingly, during hiatus, your brain almost immediately turns to mush.
Once, during a hiatus period, I was talking with my boss, explaining that, compared to during production when we crammed unimaginable amounts of activity into a single day’s effort, that particular hiatus day the only task I had successful accomplished was the acquisition of a replacement wastebasket, only to discover that my brain was so “overtaxed” performing that errand, I could not remember the word “wastebasket.”
“I spent the whole day buying a, uh … uh … a, uh…”
It was enormously embarrassing – I had just revealed to my superior that I was functionally “brain dead.” This was hardly a self-serving demonstration of seasonal effort – as in, “Look how hard I worked last year” – I was simple unable to think anymore.
Hiatus was the time for your put-off dentist appointment. Today, if I were still working, it would be time for me dentist, primary care physician, eye doctor, urologist, gastroenterologist, cardiologist and dermatologist appointments. It’s not ageism that keeps writers of my vintage from working. It’s medical check-ups.
That’s a joke. It’s ageism.
Hiatus is also the time for travel.
And here – finally – begins my “Holiday Happenstance.”
Kauai, a less frequented Hawaiian destination than Oahu or Maui, is known as “The Garden Island.” Accurate to its designation, Kauai is botanically spectacular. If they held an annual “Hawaiian Beauty Contest For Islands”, Kauai would be victorious on every occasion. That is probably why they don’t have one.
Anyway, I was supposed to go there with somebody but it didn’t work out. I am not being coy about the matter. I simply no longer remember why. (Look at that – a personal grievance I have actually let go of.)
So I went to Kauai by myself, the dual problems being that I was taking a romantic vacation alone, and I was missing a driver. I shall leave you to determine which liability was the more debilitating.
Relegated to taking the wheel, I rented a car at Lihue Airport and away I went.
The immediate difficulties being that I am – being magnanimous – an uncertain driver, there are no illuminating streetlights, the rain was coming down in sheets (you do not become “The Garden Island” without torrential downpours), and I arrived on the island at night.
You can consider yourself lucky that you were not driving behind me as I made my way tentatively to my hotel, situated on the other side of the island.
The next day – which was at least periodically sunny – out of interested and so as not to let the rented car I had paid dearly for go to waste, I took an extended drive around the island. Feeling vacationally magnanimous, I even picked up a couple of hitchhikers. It turns out they hailed from a commune called “Taylor Camp”, pitched on the northernmost corner of the island. Retrospectively, my gesture was either friendly or foolhardy, or both. My opening the car door to strangers occurred not long after the Manson Family debacle.
RETROSPECTIVELY IMAGINED HEADLINE:
“COMEDY WRITER HACKED TO PIECES IN TROPICAL PARADISE”
That did not happen. (Obviously.) Nor did being invited to spend the night at the commune – another tale of memorable debauchery I am unable to pass along.
The following, however, did happen.
I am driving back to the hotel, circling the island on its only highway. Suddenly, I catch sight of a roadside standard featuring a painted picture of Hawaii’s historical King Kamehameha, which I had already learned, designated points of particularly scenic spectacularity.
Eager to check out the terrain, I parked my rental car by the side of the road and got out, brandishing my camera.
The view was magnificent, all right. I stood quietly, silently luxuriating in the splendiferousness before me. Then I lifted the camera up to my eye to capture its enchantment for posterity…
… immediately dislodging my right contact lens, which dropped noiselessly to the rubbly roadbed below.
Since I see very little out of my left eye, I was now effectively sightless.
… in the middle of nowhere… totally alone… incapable of driving... or, in fact, seeing six inches in front of my face.
As Chester A. Riley used to say on his 50’s sitcom…
“What a revoltin’ development this is!”
Having no options, other than to cry or flag down a passing automobile to somehow assist me, I knelt down on the pebbly “shoulder” and, as I had seen “blind people” do in movies – looking straight ahead because what’s the point of looking down when you can’t see anything anyway – I felt around in the cindery surface, searching for my departed contact lens, a one in a million shot, but what choice did I have, and – swear to Gosh…
I found it!
(NOTE TO WRITERS: I was originally thinking of calling this post, “A Holiday Miracle”, but changed it to “A Holiday Happenstance” so as not to telegraph the ending. Steven Spielberg once called his two-season-long television series, Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories. I judiciously “went to school” on that misjudgment. Spielberg was tipping the resolution of every episode – it had no choice but to be “amazing.” Similarly with the prognosticational give-away, “miracle” – you eliminate all the surprise.)
I moistened my magically recovered contact lens, inserted it back in my eye, and I drove back to the hotel, where I left my rental car untouched for the remainder of the holiday, prudently, I believed, as it is egregiously “piggy” to expect two miracles during a single vacation.
The following hiatus I went off to Tahiti, which I will tell you about tomorrow.
The trip was a “once-in-a-lifetime” but don’t expect another miracle. If they occurred on every vacation they would no longer remain miraculous.