Grinch stories still warm the heart


POSTED: Sunday, December 20, 2009

We knew that asking readers for their holiday horror stories of close encounters with the grinches of the world was a dangerous proposition.

As expected, we figured 50 percent of people would “;get it,”; 25 percent would deliver histories of personal woes and another 25 percent would accuse us of grinchiness for introducing reality to their merry holiday thoughts, ironically serving us with their own grinchy chidings.

Our real reason for soliciting these stories was to put grinches on notice for their mean-spirited antics in hope that they would know we are watching and they would be on better behavior this year, and in a way, it may have worked.

Maybe it's sheer coincidence that the slow economy has meant there are fewer people out shopping, but it seems there's more civility out there this year. Readers who did send in stories dug into Christmases past for memories of holiday wrongs, including one who had been waiting since 1972 to tell her story of waiting in line to pay for an item, then being accused by another shopper of stealing her $50 bill!

Another reader, Eric Demeter, sent us our own front page from Dec. 11, saying we won our own contest with a report headlined “;A Grinch Stole Christmas!”;—the story of thieves who robbed the Aloha United Way of $128,000.

Several others wrote in about pilfered savings, and Kevin Goin wrote in about another theft in Ewa Beach in which a thief ran away with a money jar set up for the Hawaii Foodbank. The thief had snatched it up right in front of a grandmother keeping watch at the table.

Beyond common thieves, there are encounters with the rude and downright mean who get by in polite society by appearing otherwise normal and even driving a Mercedes.

Our first- and second-place winners—respectively, Shawn Lathrop, now on the Big Island, though his story took place in Honolulu, and Julie Yee of Wahiawa—had encounters with these types. Lathrop will receive $100 for a tale of a Christmas Eve nearly ruined by rude restaurant patrons, and Yee will receive $50 for a tale of a parking lot encounter that left a dent in her spirit.

Two honorable-mention prizes of $25 each will go to Kathleen Sansone of Kailua for a tale of pilfered trees, and Skyy Kalahiki of Mililani for an unhappy toy story. Their stories can be found online. Thanks to all who took time out from the holidays to write.




Getting home to fiancee was all that mattered

I try to stay away from the crowds and throngs that clutter up the malls and shopping centers during the Christmas season as I am not one to enjoy that many people in one place.

When I have been forced to venture out for the necessary hunt for gifts, I have encountered such rude behavior as people pushing, letting their kids run amok, pushy salespeople in the parking lots trying to guilt-trip me into buying some useless stuff so they can allegedly travel on some missionary trip somewhere, and even people accidentally knocking down my children or purposely pushing them without so much as an apology. But the worst experience I ever had was while working in a small restaurant in Honolulu years ago.

It was winter of 1999, and I had graduated from HPU the previous spring. I was engaged to be married in May of 2000 and was employed as the Front House supervisor at Cafe Laniakea at the YWCA on Richards Street. I was used to handling difficult customers from time to time, but I was in great spirits that year with Christmas around the corner to be spent with my fiancee.

It was Christmas Eve, and I was waiting to close the restaurant so I could finish my last-minute shopping and spend the evening with my beloved. Since the cafe only served breakfast and lunch, I figured I would leave work early enough to make it to Ala Moana mall to do my shopping.

Ten minutes before we were to close, a couple walked through the door and asked if we were open. I told them we would be closing in 10 minutes, and they informed me that they were hungry and “;needed”; to eat. I took them to a table and let the last waitress of the day go home with the promise I would save her tip for her. I then had to tell the poor kitchen staff we had one last table, so they grudgingly stood by waiting for the food order.

Let me tell you, these ended up being the rudest people I have ever met while working in restaurants. They demanded this, they demanded that. They ordered food we didn't serve, and, when redirected to the menu, they complained about the food we offered.

Meanwhile, the minutes ticked away on my last-minute shopping. My fiancee called me at one point to ask what was keeping me, and I had to tell her we had one last table. I waited on these people hand and foot while they criticized the restaurant's location, the dim lighting (the daylight was sneaking away at this point) and even criticized our Christmas decorations.

I told the chef to go ahead and let the kitchen people go home and I would take care of the rest of the closing, keeping the spirit of Christmas in mind as I watched them leave to spend Christmas Eve with their families.

When it finally came time to clear the plates and drop the check, the couple wanted two cups of hot chocolate. When I informed them the kitchen staff had shut down the espresso machine when they left, they stated that they would wait for me to get it up and running again. I turned it back on, washed the last of their dishes, then quickly made their hot chocolates.

What happened next almost made me lose my mind. They sat back, pulled out cigarettes, lit them up despite the clearly visible “;No Smoking”; signs posted around the restaurant. I informed them that smoking was not allowed, and they ignored me as if I wasn't there.

Feeling defeated, angry and powerless, I retreated to the kitchen to finish cleaning up. When I returned to the front area, the couple was standing by the cashier counter tapping their fingers loudly. As I approached, the husband said in a loud voice, “;Well, it's about time. We've been waiting for you so we can get out of here.”;

I rang them up with a plastic smile on my face, thanked them for their patronage and wished them a merry Christmas. As soon as they were out the door, I ran to their table to clear it so I could finally leave. After serving them and suffering their rudeness on Christmas Eve, I found they had left a tip of one dollar. One dollar!

I never saw those people again and secretly wished they would step off a curb in front of a bus barreling through an intersection and get squashed like a couple of cockroaches.

When I finally reached home, I told my fiancee about the couple and how inconsiderate they were. She simply hugged me, gave me a kiss and told me it didn't matter. I was home with her, it was our first Christmas together and that was all that mattered. Ten years, three kids and a mortgage later, she's still right.

—Shawn Lathrop




Driver gets comeuppance but not the parking space

While trolling Ala Moana shopping center for a parking stall, I stopped behind a high-end Mercedes Benz that had stopped in the middle of the aisle.

The woman driver decided to go ahead because there were no parking stalls available. When she reached the end of the aisle, she had already passed seven parked cars. I did not pull ahead because I saw some people walking toward their car, and I decided to wait and see if I would be blessed by the “;Parking Gods.”; Lucky me, they stopped and entered their car, which was right ahead of me.

When the Mercedes saw their brake lights, she put her car in reverse to try to get to that stall. The unwritten rule is, if you pass and there is a car behind you, you lose that stall. By reversing, she blocked the car trying to back up, while expecting me to reverse to let her have the stall.

By that time, someone else had come up behind me so even if I wanted to back up, I couldn't. She leaned on her horn and made rude gestures for me to back up, threatening me by reversing so far back that she intentionally hit my bumper.

I was feeling the holiday spirit so I didn't let it rile me. I was even singing along with Christmas songs while she and her passenger yelled and gestured at me. I couldn't go anywhere so I just stood my ground.

Finally, the people in the car trying to get out and the driver behind me got out of their cars and approached the Mercedes. They were two big bruddahs. They argued with the two women, and it got rather heated. They got on each side of the car and started rocking the Mercedes back and forth while I enjoyed the entertainment.

Finally, the driver of the Mercedes conceded and drove off.

Later, when I returned to my car, my poor Toyota was “;keyed.”;


—Julie A. Yee



After 2 trees stolen, family gives up planting

In 2007 my sister and son flew in from Kailua-Kona, and we went to Koolau Nursery to buy a Norfolk pine tree. We got a 5-foot tree and went to Pali Highway to plant it with all the other trees. (We wanted to honor my mother, who was no longer with us but who enjoyed the decorated trees while she was alive.)

From there we were off to purchase hundreds of small red ribbons and red Christmas ball decorations. My then 7-year-old grandson, Bryson, and I spent several hours decorating the tree. It wasn't a week later when somebody cut the tree down and took it. Lots of tears from Bryson.

We didn't give up. In 2008 Nalani and son again flew in from Kailua Kona. Off to Koolau to purchase another tree and then off to buy red ribbons and red Christmas balls. Bryson and I again spent a good deal of time decorating the tree. We also made many trips to water the tree.

This time, it only took a couple of days for the tree to be chopped down and stolen with all the decorations. Bryson and I shared tears together.

This year we gave up. Twice stolen is more than we can handle.

—Kathleen B. Sansone




Adult acts like a child in battle for a doll set

I have a holiday tradition. Every year, whenever I go Christmas shopping, I bring my children along (aside from Black Friday, of course).

Yes, people shake their heads in disgust, but I do it because I normally only have one or two opportunities to do my Christmas shopping, and it's very hard to find someone to watch my three children, all under the age of 5.

By bringing my children along, I can see what toys they get excited about, and buy them without a single doubt that it will make them happy.

On Dec. 6 we went toy shopping at Toys R Us. My kids were extremely excited as soon as they saw the big colorful letters on the face of the building. I packed them into their stroller and headed into the crowded store. The first section we decided to check out was the doll section.

When we reached the section, I took my daughter out of the stroller and asked her, “;OK, which toy should we get for Kaya (her cousin)?”; I then let her browse the shelves, watching her tap on “;Try Me”; buttons and observe bottled milk slowly disappear with a slight tip into a baby doll's mouth.

As I was walking through the aisle, I noticed that my daughter had picked up a doll set from the shelf. I continued browsing. About 10 seconds later, I heard my daughter crying. I turned around, and to my dismay a woman was scolding my daughter. She was standing above my daughter with her finger pointed in my daughter's face.

Immediately, I ran up and asked the lady why she was scolding my daughter. She stood up straight and said my daughter had taken a toy from her cart.

I was about to apologize but realized the woman was lying. I told her, “;Actually, I saw my daughter grab this toy off the shelf. She didn't get it off your cart. You're obviously mistaken. I think you owe my daughter an apology.”;

She looked at me in shock and said, “;If anyone should be apologizing, it's you and your daughter! She grabbed the toy off my cart, and you're lying for her! This is ridiculous!”;

I could not believe that someone would stoop to this level. This woman was blaming my 2-year-old, who isn't tall enough to reach into a cart, for something because my daughter is too young to defend herself.

In a nutshell, I told her that my daughter grabbed it first, I saw it with my own eyes and we were leaving with it. Granted, there may have been one or two inappropriate words in the bunch, but I prefer to leave this PG. The woman ended her conversation with a regard to my parenting skills, and I ended the conversation with a regard to her insanity.

Apart from five minutes of crying my daughter went through, she was immediately glad she got the toy. Yes, to make her happy I told her the toy was hers to keep. That woman may have ruined our shopping day, but I refuse to let her ruin my children's Christmas.

—Skyy Kalahiki