Friday, July 9, 1999

Could the shaka
become a sign
of peace?

A consultant says the island
gesture of good will could become
the solution to road rage

By Treena Shapiro


The shaka sign could become the national cure for road rage if Thomas Amshay gets his way.

Amshay, a motor sports sponsorship and event-marketing consultant in Ohio, thinks that "the thumb and little finger gesture used in Hawaii to convey good will and say 'hang loose' " could be the answer to anger.

It's no sham.

"It's a perfect tie-in for the race you're doing out there in November," Amshay said, referring to the Hawaiian Super Prix.

According to his plan, if professional racers shaka each other on national television when they accidentally cut each other off, the gesture of "whoop, sorry about that, let's get on with this" could catch on everywhere.

Regular drivers could pick up the trend and shaka to defuse a tense moment, Amshay said.

"Before long, the president will formally introduce the gesture as the peace symbol of the millennium, which will help to lead the nation out of the road rage epidemic."

But getting organizations like NASCAR or the Indy Racing League to endorse the shaka requires public support. "The sanctioning bodies are not going to do anything that is not their own idea or they're not getting paid for," Amshay warned.

Can this movement get off the ground?

Frank Fasi, who popularized the shaka sign during his 1976 mayoral campaign, said he thinks it would be tremendous. "Maybe it would make people think a little more kindly of each other," he said. "Also, I guarantee you it'll make people smile."

Fasi said the shaka sign originated with a Kahuku sugar plantation worker who lost his three middle fingers while crushing raw sugar cane. "He used to stand on the highway and when he saw people he knew, he'd give them a wave, with only the thumb and pinkie, of course, and a big smile," Fasi said.

Then a popular local character named Bill Pacheco began using the sign and saying "shaka brother," said Fasi.

"I think he meant shake it up, buddy. How's it going? Aloha. Have a good day. All those good meanings. It just meant a world of goodness," Fasi said.

But despite the positive sentiments associated with the sign, it may be hard to convince racing professionals to pick it up.

"(It) sounds kind of dumb," said Paul Giovanetti, promoter for Hawaii Raceway Park. "Don't cut them off to begin with."

But Giovanetti conceded, "I guess it's better than flipping them off."

Therein lies a problem. The person getting cut off might not know what the shaka sign is. "It could be construed as giving someone the bird," said Lt. Alfredo Torco, who is in charge of the Honolulu Police Department Traffic Division.

Or someone from the mainland may not know how to give a shaka sign. "They might use the wrong finger," Torco said.

But if the sign gains national exposure through professional racing or perhaps through the TV show "Baywatch Hawaii," Torco thinks Amshay's idea could be a good one.

Of course, it all depends on the shaka receiver. Aggressive drivers may not take kindly to any sort of conciliatory gesture, and hard-core locals may think the driver at fault is trying to get smart.

"It's a good idea, but for some it may backfire," Torco said.

E-mail Thomas Amshay for more information

E-mail to City Desk

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