Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Getting lost in Chinatown

I've started a ridiculous habit while riding my sweet bike around Honolulu on various errands to grocery stores, thrift shops, surf shops, etc. Before I leave home, I study the map very carefully and plan my route. But I don't take the map with me (because I'm not a wuss) and then, on the way back, I attempt to cleverly make my way back by some "alternate route" on "less busy streets" that is very clear in my mind. Somewhere along the way I get thoroughly lost. As in, totally going the wrong way. The other night, for instance, a good hour after I should have been home, I found myself in front of the Ala Moana Towers scratching my head because the Ala Moana Towers are exactly at the opposite end of town from where I thought I was.

In my defense, I'll say that these streets are rough if you're trying to just go with the flow and feel your way around. There is not one straight street in all the land. And breezing through an intersection I can't tell if that sign said Kapahulu or Kapiolani or Kalakaua or Kealaolu. There are nasty potholes and road construction everywhere and the bike lanes just begin and end with no warning and then you darn well better crank it because that minivan taxi that feels like it's about to eat your back wheel really is about to eat your back wheel.

While the cops insist that sidewalks are for walkers and streets are for bikes, drivers don't really acknowledge this rule. I can count on getting cut off at least a half-dozen times on any brief ride. I've tried to exert my biker authority but to no avail, and only recently have I discovered why: it's not my turn yet. There appears to be an unspoken yet carefully structured hierarchy when it comes to cutting people off, and it's based on resident seniority. The longer you've lived here, the closer you are to the front of the queue in terms of bad driving privileges. For now, that crazy cab driver out-ranks me, but I calculate that I'll be safe from all front or back bumpers by 2081.

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