IMR: 1999: October: 01 —  Friday, 10:12 p.m.
Our Apartment, Makiki, Hawai`i

[ Click for full size. ]This week, two unrelated and, sadly, dissimilar intrusions of local news into my little world.

First, a bank robbery yesterday at the main branch of Bank of Hawaii, the building just opposite my office on Fort Street downtown. The robbery itself wasn't terribly exciting — especially since O`ahu has seen at least a dozen holdups in the last month — but what happened afterward was enough to derail work for the rest of the day.

The suspect, it turns out, ran out of the bank and straight into our building. To our floor, in fact. The office right next door.

He was in drag. Right down to a ridiculous wig. He asked the receptionist for the key to the restroom, and as she told it, "I didn't know what key to give him, so I just held out both and let him pick."

He took the women's key. And was never seen again.

Ten minutes later, someone found a bag of clothes tucked behind a toilet. Eventually our building's security crew connected the bizarre visitor and the swarm of police next door and called them over.

HPD tossed fingerprint dust over everything and put "POLICE LINE — DO NOT CROSS" tape across the restroom door. Lacene was completely entranced by the excitement, hanging out with the guards and collecting gossip from our neighbors. I made myself useful by escorting the more adventurous female members of our staff to use the men's restroom, becoming far more acquainted with my coworkers' plumbing than I needed to be.

All was back to normal today, except that the building management had to change the restroom lock and issue new keys to every tenant on the tenth floor...

But the interesting bit? The stray, probably unrelated fact that I haven't shared with anyone (since no one asked)?

Our office's communal women's restroom key — the one that hangs on my desk for the interns and visitors to use — disappeared on Tuesday. I just figured someone had taken it home by accident (Jen frequently pulls the office mail key out of my pocket), and that it would turn up again eventually.

It didn't. And hasn't. Ooooooeeeooo...

"Find the key with this cheap, plastic, logo-imprinted luggage tag tied to it," says Columbo, sucking noisily on his cigar, "and you'll find your robber."

[ Ke`eaumoku and Heulu ]Secondly, and less scandalously, the street we live on turned up on the front page and on the evening news a few days ago. The intersection of Ke`eaumoku and Heulu streets, a stone's throw from our balcony, is going to be the subject of a daring experiment in civil engineering.

The city is going to build a roundabout, described euphemistically as a "traffic calming device," in the middle of the road.

No longer will motorists be able to streak down steep Ke`eaumoku Street at 60 miles an hour (the speed limit is 25) trying to beat the light at Wilder Avenue, whipping past a large church, a preschool, and a big city park in the process. When they hit the "roundabout," they'll have to slow to a crawl to go around what is essentially a big, round, concrete planter before continuing down the hill.

It sounds like a real pain in the ass, and I know we can expect to hear the occasional screech of tires, but I think it's a good idea.

There were roundabouts everywhere in New Zealand. It was the first place I'd ever seen them, actually, and that was less than a month ago. But they seemed so elegant and effective, I immediately wondered why they didn't catch on back home.

Instead of four-way stops, which are annoying in general (and are even worse here with Hawaii's "so polite they're stupid" drivers), motorists just flow gently into the roundabout, yielding only when neccessary, and pop out wherever they want without having to worry about complete stops or who goes first. I think you even lose less time, even though overall, people drive slower.

Lemme tell ya, it'll make a big difference when I leave for work in the morning, nervously poking my car's nose out as I drive out of my basement parking lot, blind as a bat (my neighbors parallel park right up to the driveway), into rush hour. Homicidal Makiki residents will only have had twenty yards to build up speed.

And here's the interesting bit about this story. (Well, semi-interesting bit.)

The city made a big deal out of announcing the project. Mayor Jeremy Harris, Andy Mirikitani (and other members of the city council), various state administrators and assorted neighborhood VIPs were there. All the TV stations and papers were there.

And, since the event was billed as the "groundbreaking ceremony," they had to truck in a big pile of dirt for all the politicians to stand near. The footage of Harris and Mirikitani, squeezed together in the driver's cab of a small bulldozer like a couple of lovebirds, made my day.

Of course, when the cameras left and the VIPs tossed their leis and headed for the links, a sad crew of state workers was left behind to clean up. They loaded the now scattered dirt back onto a truck, swept and washed down the street, and basically removed all signs that anything happened — or would happen — on that spot.

Haven't seen a single hard hat in the neighborhood since.

© Ryan Kawailani Ozawa · E-Mail: · Created: 01 October 1999 · Last Modified: 09 October 1999