Volcanoes and fried foods (rerun)

Today on Fun For Friday FAIC, a classic episode first posted in 2009. Enjoy!


I’ve returned from a brief vacation, visiting friends on the island of Maui. I’d never been to that part of the world before. Turns out, it’s a small island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, entirely made out of volcanoes. Weird! But delightful.

The most impressive thing about the Hawaiian Islands for me was just how obvious were — even to my completely untrained eyes — the geomechanical and fluvial processes which shaped the landscape. The mountains and craters and river valleys and red sand beaches and easily-fractured rocks were very different from the (also somewhat volcanic) much older mountainous landscape I’ve lived in for the past decade.

Also quite amusing to me was learning to read and pronounce Hawaiian place names. It is all very logical once you know the system; before long I could easily pronounce signs like WAINAPANAPA STATE PARK — wa-ee-napa-napa — or PUUNENE AVENUE — pu-oo-nay-nay — or MAILIBEHANAMONOTANA STREET — “Miley-Stewart-is-really-Hannah-Montana”.

Many thanks to my friends for putting me and Leah up for a week; if you’re going to Hawai’i and can stay with locals, I highly recommend it, particularly if they are awesome people. Everyone in Maui was awesome, with the exception of the rangers at (stunningly beautiful, even for Maui) Wa’inapanapa State Park, who are apparently consistently grumpy. As one Hawaiian, himself in the camping sector of the economy put it to me, “They do not have the big aloha“.

The most amusing encounter was on the Hana Highway. There are numerous little stops along the way, where someone has erected a hut or parked a trailer and is selling coconuts, smoothies, banana bread, and so on. Hand-lettered signs, stunning natural beauty, middle of nowhere, you get the picture I’m sure. At one of the larger such stops there was a young fellow, probably in his late twenties, serving a variety of fried foods. It was mostly traditional American-style Chinese food, but also he had french fries, fish’n’chips, and so on. He was clearly not a native speaker of English, but spoke understandably with a strong accent. We were waiting behind a middled-aged woman with a typically midwestern American accent. Their conversation went something like this:

Her: I’m not very hungry, can I just get the fish without the chips?

Him, not quite following her: Half order?

Her, louder: How much without the fries?

This went back and forth for some time, both sides becoming increasingly frustrated by the communication breakdown, until:

Her, even louder: Can I speak to your manager?

Leah and our friends and I silently boggled — there is no other word for it — at each other for a moment. Where on earth did this lady imagine that a manager was going to emerge from? There was a counter, behind that, a trailer with a wok in it, behind that, jungle, and behind that, huge jagged lava rocks followed immediately by the Pacific Ocean. And what sort of management structure does she think one really needs to manage a single guy selling pineapple fried rice at the side of a highway? My conclusion: people have strange beliefs. Moreover, sometimes their beliefs cause them to leave in a huff with neither fish nor chips, even when fish and chips are both plentiful and reasonably priced. Hopefully she had better luck in Hana.

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One thought on “Volcanoes and fried foods (rerun)

  1. I think for most people, most of their conversations take place on autopilot. I know that’s often true for me.

    If so, it’s disturbing that “may I speak to your manager” would be in this woman’s autopilot pilot script for ordering fish and chips.

    At one place I worked, a multinational headquartered in the USA, on our office network the machine naming convention was native flora and fauna. It gave me great, if not exactly virtuous, pleasure to watch Americans stumble over names like whauwhaupeka or puteketeke.

    And, congratulations on the new digs, I’ve missed this blog during the downtime.

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