WHAT a way to make a living. You get up before dawn, put on your best-pressed aloha duds, take your well-worn carnation lei out of the refrigerator and kiss the spouse goodbye. Then you go stand on the Pali Highway and wave a sign at rush-hour motorists begging them to elect you to the Legislature.
Rating the best
Political sign waving used to annoy me until I realized that candidates are just trying to spare voters disappointment. If they campaigned with any dignity, they're afraid we'd expect them to serve with dignity if elected.
To amuse myself on the commute between Kailua and town, I pick each election's best sign-wavers for my personal Hubie Awards for human billboards. These are my 1996 winners:
Most persistent. Kenny Goodenow, a graduate student running for the state House of Representatives in the 51st District, has lived on the highway for months. His smile is a little goofy, but earnest. At the beginning of the year, few had heard of the guy. Now every voter in the district knows who he is. Will it translate into votes?
Easiest on the eyes. State Senate candidates Jackie Young on the Kailua side of the Pali and Suzanne Chun-Oakland on the town side manage to project a little grace in a tasteless situation. Is there a message in the fact that only women candidates seem to know enough to stand back from the edge of the road?
Boss boogie. Mark Duering, who is running for Congress in the 1st District, has this Macarena thing going. As his hips sway to an inner beat, his sweeping arms point first to you, then to himself and finally to his sign on the telephone pole telling you who he is.
His little dance doesn't tell you much about what he stands for, but I'd rather see a candidate dancing around the street than dancing around the issues like his mudslinging opponents Orson Swindle and Neil Abercrombie.
Simply the best. State Sen. Whitney Anderson circles his arms in a tight swimming motion, pointing at one car with his left hand while bringing his right hand around to wave at the next car. He makes eye contact with every driver. It's amazing to watch.
All the while his lips are moving as though he's talking to you. I've often wondered if he's just mouthing silently or actually saying something. And if he's saying something, what?
Simple greetings? "Hiya, hiya ...Whassup ...Howya doin' ...
Lookin' great ..."
Curses under his breath? "&$!%# exhaust fumes ...&$!%# heat ..&$!%# Hawaii drivers ..."
Rock & roll classics? "Haaaang on Sloopy, Sloopy hang on (hang on, hang on) ..."
Lazy way out. Candidates for the big offices sleep in and send surrogates out to wave their signs for them. Looking at the armies Jeremy Harris and Arnold Morgado have dispatched up the Pali, I can't tell if they're running for mayor or re-staging Kamehameha's decisive battle of the Koolaus.
I'VE got to admit some empathy for the sign-wavers. When I was in high school, a Kapahulu gas station hired me to dress up like a clown and wave a shaka sign at motorists to entice them in for a fill-up and a free Coke from a young cutie.
My fringe benefit was hitting on the young cutie during my breaks, but she always gave me the brush-off. "Oh, David, you're such a clown."
It wasn't a bad gig, but I fail to see how it qualified me to serve in the Legislature. Wait, let's think this through. Clown. Legislator. Clown. Legislator. Clown. Legislator. OK, I take it back. Maybe it was the best preparation I've ever had to serve in the Legislature.