April 2005

Aloha Spirit

Aloha © Aris Dervis

© Aris Dervis 1989

Monthly Spirit

April 2005

Aloha Spirit

Aloha is a word that means "hello," "goodbye," and "love" in the Hawaiian language. But the Aloha Spirit is a much more pervasive philosophy that underlies the personal actions of the inhabitants of those beautiful islands. The following is a true story.

We were celebrating Aris' 43rd birthday on the island of Maui. We decided to drive the celebrated Road to Hana. As hardcore New Yorkers, the custom of driving is very foreign to us. I never learned how to drive, and Aris is an occasional driver at best. The Road to Hana can be challenging even to someone who got a license at 16. We spent the day enjoying waterfalls and sacred pools, flowers and greenery singing with vitality. At the end of the road was a stand that sold leis on the honor system. I bought one and soon the interior of our rental car was filled with exotic perfume.

The sun seems to set very quickly in Hawaii, despite the signature sunsets. We were almost back to our house in Haiku when a tire blew. Aris managed to steer the car to the shoulder of the narrow road. It was 6 p.m. and pitch dark. We didn't have a phone. We didn't have food or water. The road was deserted. All the tourists had finished their business long before. The thought of changing a tire, or even knowing if we had a spare, was way beyond our abilities. The best solution we could come up with was to sleep in the car until daylight, and then go for help. Not a glamorous way to spend a birthday.

And suddenly we weren't alone. Standing right in front of our car was a very muscular man, arms folded across his chest. He regarded us in silence. Was he was a serial killer, out on a rampage? This day was going from bad to worse.

"Aloha," he said. "What's happening, bro? I live on the top of the hill and I was bringing my garbage down to the road when I heard you blow that tire. Do you have a spare?"
We didn't know. The stranger took control. He found the spare tire well hidden in the bowels of the car along with the incomprehensible jack. Now it was a fifty-fifty chance that he'd use it to bash our brains in.
We watched in awe as he took control of the situation. Effortlessly he removed the damaged tire, replaced it with the spare, and never broke a sweat. His arms looked supernaturally huge to us in the dark. We were two helpless morons standing by as he not only changed the tire, but also managed to initiate a conversation.

"Where you from?"
"New York."
"Long way from home."
"We love it here."
"Thank you. My name is Ipo."
The job was finished in record time. "Ipo, you really saved us," I said. "Let me pay you."
He looked at me with something like pity mixed with amusement. "No way. I just want you to have a good time on my island."
I retrieved the fresh lei from inside the car and placed it on his shoulders.
"Mahalo," he said.
"Mahalo," I echoed.
We drove home wondering if he were real, or some aloha apparition of angelic proportions.

We dedicate this shrine to Ipo, whoever he may be.

For a more detailed description of the Aloha Spirit, check out Aloha Spirit