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Oahu: Misadventures in Paradise
By: Stephen St. Denis | August 1st 2018, 1:01 pm
Stephen St. Denis

Stephen St. Denis has criss-crossed most of the U.S and Canada, his home country, to a lesser extent .He has also travelled extensively in Australia and New Zealand. He is done this travelling alone with a power chair. Despite all his travels, he hates to fly because the airlines are always coming up with new ways to break his chair and he has to tell them that Hertz does not rent power chairs. Played a key role in the planning and implementation of low-floor buses in Ottawa, Canada. Recently retired after 32 years with the Canadian Government in the IT sector.

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I have just returned back to Canada after visiting the beautiful island of Oahu.  I went alone relying solely on my power wheelchair and TheBus for mobility. While I was there I had a few mishaps. One day I went to Kailua Beach because it was highly rated and to get away from the crowds of Waikiki.  I got caught in a typical Eastern Oahu downpour which short circuited my wheelchair, leaving my stranded on the side of the road. Three Good Samaritans stopped and pushed my 300 pound wheelchair and me to a safer and dryer place.

After unsuccessfully calling two major cab companies who advertised as having accessible vehicles, they called HPD. One, two and then three officers arrived.  I guess they have no crime on Kailua on a Saturday night, An officer, I call Inspector Gadget, had a toolset which he used to practically take the wheelchair apart and borrowed a vacuum cleaner to try to dry it out, but no such luck. Then someone remembered the Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii who helps visitors in unfortunate situations.  They hooked me up with a nice lady who operated an accessible taxi.  She braved the storm and drove me back to Waikiki

She also lent me a portable wheelchair which I could not move myself.  Since it was on the long weekend so it would be at least a couple of days before my wheelchair could be looked at.  I get very frustrated when I lose my independence. One waitress from the Wailana Coffee Shop pushed me back to my hotel and on the second day I called up the lady with the van to drive to the beach just to get out of my room. Later, a security guard from the Hawaiian Hilton Village pushed me back to my hotel a block away, risking getting in trouble for leaving the property.  Those two days sure taught me a lesson in patience and humility, traits that are not my strong suit.

Finally, my wheelchair was working again. I went up to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.  I had become over-reliant on Google Maps for directions.  So when the walking directions wanted me to go down two flights of stairs and the battery in my phone was dying, I knew I had just a tiny problem.  While trying to retrace my steps, someone in a pickup truck stopped to see if I was ok.  I told him I had to catch a bus to get back to my hotel because I was taking a shuttle to the airport.  Once again, we tried calling the same cab companies who said they had no accessible vehicles despite saying so on their websites.  He then he offered to put my wheelchair in the back of his truck and take me back to the hotel himself.  When I told him it would take three men to lift it, he flagged down a police officer and another man to help, I climbed into the truck and off we went.  Once again, providence was on my side.

These acts of kindness and unselfishness will never make the headlines or even the front section of any mainstream newspaper.  Instead, the steady stream of scandals, increased nuclear threats and senseless school shootings leaves us shocked, angry, fearful and numb.  It would be an interesting experiment to see how our collective feelings would change if good news stories were moved to page one ahead of the rest.  I don’t want to live in Pleasantville, but I believe that a more balanced approach to reporting the news would go a long way to changing how we see the world and our place in it.

In any case, I return from Hawaii with renewed faith in my fellow man (and woman).  What better souvenir could one ask for?

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