Can't stand 'em, but Hawaii can't live without 'em. They harass monk seals, they drive erratically while trying to take pictures out of their car windows, they drive up costs and walk around in public places with nothing but their sunburns.
But I have to admit, I kind of like 'em.
As individuals, that is.
I love chatting with the relaxed tourist parents at the beach park as our sandy toddlers chase or ignore each other-- like the grandpa from Minnesota with his grandson-- or the hip and happening parents from Seattle with their adopted Chinese daughter and expensive camera (and no doubt highly frequented blog).
But my favorite thing-- and this is a confession-- is being helpful. My pulse quickens when a goofy red chevy convertible with four adults in hats and sunglasses slows down next to me on my walk and rolls down the window. Yes, I can tell you exactly how to get to the airport!
The other day I was walking home from the grocery store and overheard a young sunburned couple puzzling over where Shipwreck Beach could possibly be. I "eh-hemmed" and wondered if they would like some help. They had spent an hour on their rented scooters trying to find it-- I reoriented their map and told them some landmarks, and then said, like a woman possessed, "and if you go a bit farther, down the long the dirt road, you get to the REALLY beautiful beaches." They thanked me and scootered off, and I got to feel smug and helpful and in-the-know.
Maybe that's what it's about-- I like the couple of seconds where the tourists are allowed to fulfill their Lonely Planet duty and "befriend a local." I like the --albeit lame-- thrill of having the inside scoop, of knowing where to go and how to get there. Here, where still so much of the time I'm super-aware of my outsider, malihini, decontextualized, out-of-the-loop status, it's a brief rush to be a bit "local-er than thou."
So yes, tourism in Hawaii is an environmental and cultural plague and as sustainable as a heroin addiction. But as long as tourists keep asking me for directions and advice, I'm not sure I can quit it.