Honolulu Lite

by Charles Memminger

Friday, November 20, 1998

Sounds of silence
will hurt Waikiki

YOU'VE probably heard about the Waikiki residents who are attempting to soundproof the Hawaii Convention Center.

From what I can tell, the Noise Advisory Committee is made up of a group of Oahu residents who are so sensitive to noise that they choose to live in the noisiest part of the island, Waikiki.

Now, it would be easy to pass off this group as a bunch of easily irritated fussbudgets fighting a futile effort to turn Waikiki into the land of the living dead. But that's not fair. We must remember that Waikiki is a "neighborhood," as well as one of the world's most popular tourist destinations.

Some people LIVED in Waikiki before Waikiki became Waikiki. They didn't ask for it to become a noisy population magnet attracting garishly dressed visitors. (Although I'd like to know how many Waikiki residents moved into the concrete jungle fully aware that it would not be a soothing place for quiet meditation.)

All Waikikians ask is that their feelings be considered and that people using the Convention Center walk around in little cotton slippers, speak in low tones and sing karaoke in a whisper.

(For writing the preceding sentence I will be pummeled with harsh invective by denizens of Waikiki and some will even speak loudly to me on the telephone at levels approaching 65 decibels. I have found that the sound-sensitive have very little sense of humor when it comes to discussing their disability.)

THE plight of Waikiki hush-meisters reminds me of the late comedian Sam Kinison's observations about African tribes who face years of starvation in areas where food is scarce. Why do they bother to stay. "MOVE!" he would yell in his trademark 1,500-decibel voice. "THERE'S NO FOOD HERE! MOVE TO WHERE THE FOOD IS!"

With the current sound guidelines, Sam never would have gotten to perform on the rooftop of the Convention Center. He's dead, so it's a moot issue. But his advice may have some merit to Waikiki residents who want to hear birds cheep and crickets chirp, instead of the sound of drunken revelry, city buses and occasional gunfire: "MOVE! THERE'S NO PEACE AND QUIET IN WAIKIKI!"

I once lived in a condo across from the Ala Wai Canal that was constructed in such a way that sound seemed to crawl up the side of the building. A housing-challenged person of no financial means used to walk along the street late at night yelling at invisible demons and the acoustics were such that I often felt he was standing at the foot of my bed. I realized that as long as I lived in that building, I would be subject to this auditory anomaly and so I eventually moved.

Now I live in Kaneohe where roosters of the 85-decibel variety reside with gusto. Since members of the poultry family rarely respond to noise guidelines, I guess I'll just have to live with discomfort.

What's the point? I don't know. The world's a noisy place and an island is a tiny place. And no matter where you go, there you are. The nature of a convention center, especially one that has a lovely rooftop area for entertaining, is that noise, like rooster poop, happens.

Nearby residents could content themselves with the knowledge that the sound of singing, the clinking of Mai Tai glasses and the occasional "Three Cheers for Salesperson of the Year!" actually is the sound of money being spent. It is the jangle of thousands of dollars pouring into the local economy. It is the cacophony of police being hired, roads being fixed and parks being built. It is the din of a healthy economy, which is a sweet sound we haven't heard for quite a while.

Charles Memminger, winner of
National Society of Newspaper Columnists
awards in 1994 and 1992, writes "Honolulu Lite"
Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Write to him at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin,
P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, 96802

or send E-mail to charley@nomayo.com or

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