Hawaii has a good PR department. Really, though, how hard is it to sell the place? Tropical weather and beaches, volcanic geomorphology, sunrises with coffee, sunsets with Mai-tais... it is not hard to find a positive spin. I would guess that the Hawaii travel bureau writers have one of the world's easier jobs. But do you know what you don't read much about? The public showers at Ala Moana State Park.
We spent Thanksgiving with a motley collection of family, sharing a house in Kailua, Oahu, living easy. Nothing much to report, just food, drink, good company, warm weather, and salt water. But due to a change in our flight schedule, C and I ended up with an extra day to kill at the tail end of the trip. Homeless for the day, we made our way to Honolulu, ultimately claiming space on the sand at the Ala Moana State Park beach because, well, you have to get your fill of heat and sun and salt while you can. A day at the beach, however, means sand stuck to sunscreen and sweat, a grim combination when staring down the barrel of a red-eyed flight back home. But no worries, we thought, public showers offered a chance to legitimately bathe, change, and fly home in comfort.
Satiated on the sand, we ambled to the showers with shampoo and soap. The space had a bench for changing, cinder block walls, stagnant water with other fluids floating (source best left unconsidered), ants, band-aids, hairballs, and two hooks offering space to hang your possessions, hoping against hope that you could keep your towel and clothes off of the floor. There were two shower heads, one at regular height, the other—designed for pets? for feet?--stuck out at thigh level. Guess which one was taken when I walked in?
No problem, though. Disrobing without touching the ground required a complicated choreography, a dance that took some time to bring to completion, plenty of time for the other gentleman to finish. Or rather what should have been plenty of time. But this may have been his first shower this year. He was going to town with the scrubbing. Naked I had the choice of standing awkwardly watching the orgy of soap or turning to the ankle washer. Lesser of two evils, I tried to lather my hair and soap my body, scooping water in cupped hands to toss over my shoulders and head as needed. Half-bathed, I scurried back to my towel. There was no slow down of activity under the other shower-head, and he was re-lathering as I left.
But at least he didn't talk to me. Next door, C wandered into a similar physical space. Both showers were open, but another woman was at the bench. C stepped up, starting getting out of her two-piece. The other lady exploded.
“I would appreciate some privacy!”
Privacy in a public shower in Hawaii's largest city? Unsure how to respond, C stammered. “I, um, will just be a minute.”
“Don't look at me! This,” referring to her body, “is disgusting!”
C, flustered, only half out of her bathing suit, scooted silently to the shower and rinsed. A quick pat-dry, then get the hell out of there. Best not to try and reason with the other woman.
We walked back to the rental car, past the out-door showers on the beach which, in hind-sight, may have been the better option.
A few pictures from the trip (but none of the showers):