I Had To Go To Hawaii to WORK! A Picture Story

by Bob Sparrow

Two weeks ago I had to go to Hawaii to attend a conference for work.  Economic times being what they are, I was asked to keep the expenses down, which I did.

My flight over to Hawaii on economy airline, ‘Pan Chance’ was highlighted by sitting next to a family with two whining, snot-nosed, germ-infested kids, while the flight home was a relaxing ‘red eye’ in one of those oh-so-comfortable, non-reclining coach seats in the very last row – if I had been any further back in the airplane I would have been handing out toilet paper.

The conference was at the beautiful Kaua’i Marriott, where I only saw the inside of the vendors’ hall, but I did buy a postcard in the airport of the beautiful Grand Hyatt Kaua’i shown below.

I didn’t stay at either of those hotels, I stayed at the Mano Kalanipo,


which was not so beautiful.  I was to learn later that ‘Mano kalanipo’ is Hawaiian for ‘Where Rats Come to Play’

I should have known it wasn’t a first class hotel when a chicken showed me to my room . . .

and the bathroom was ‘out back’

My hotel was several miles from the conference hotel, but I got a good deal on a vehicle from Toro Truck Rental

We were late in signing up for the conference, so they squeezed us in at the last minute.  Here is a booth from one of the other vendors at the conference

Here is my ‘booth’ . . . really!

It was like being back at the ‘kid’s table’ at Thanksgiving

Here is a typical booth banner

Here is my booth ‘banner’ . . . really!

But I remembered what my old college education professor, Dr. Telecky, told our class, “If you’re a good teacher, you can teach in a barn.”  I thought he said ‘bar’ and well, it’s perhaps why I’m not teaching any longer, but that’s another story; the point is I was determined to make the best of this bad situation. 

I was going to overcome all the odds and show my boss that I was there to work – no ‘just hang loose’ for this guy.  As documentation for my Spartanesque time in Hawaii, I attached the following pictures and narrative to my expense report:

Here I am not lounging by the pool

Nope, you won’t find me taking a refreshing dip in the pool either – kids have probably been peeing in it all day

That’s me not tanning myself on the beach – because I fully understand and appreciate the harm that ultra violet rays can cause to the skin

Here’s a picture of me not renting one of those stupid outriggers – it’s probably like riding a bike with training wheels

And don’t look for me having one of those over-priced mai tais at a cute little tiki bar – I hear they don’t put any booze in those things anyway

Here I am not getting a table at one of those open-air, beach-side restaurants – if I wanted to eat outside I’d go camping

No, you’ll find me inside talking to a real Hawaiians about real business

How did I do?  Time will tell, but I’m going to stay away from the boss for a while until the tan I didn’t get goes away.


By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

My husband, big tough guy that he is, hates to fly.  He has not been on a plane in 12 years, which means that he has never experienced the joys of the TSA. When we used to fly he needed fortification so although he’s really not much of a drinker, I would fill a water bottle with vodka.  He’d order some orange juice, pour a little “water” in it, and he was set to go.  Of course, sometimes he would drink a little too much “water” and start referring to the flight attendants as “buckaroos”.

Needless to say, the old vodka/water bottle trick is no longer possible so we drive everywhere.  We actually enjoy it – he drives, I knit, read or, more commonly, eat.  Last week we made a quick trip up to Sonoma to visit my mother so I spent a lot of time in a car.  Which is another way of saying that I gained five pounds.

We always start our road trips with a stop at a Starbucks.  In fact, our starting time from any destination is dictated by their opening time.  I used to order up those delicious blueberry scones until I read that they have the caloric content of a milk shake.  Last week I briefly considered how much effort it was going to take to drive to Sonoma.  I ordered a plain bagel.

So by 5:30 a.m. I was set to go.  Normally I don’t eat breakfast until 7, but the bagel beckoned me from its bag.  By 5:45 it was history.  As the trip went on, and by “on” I mean another hour, I’m hungry again.  I look in our “feed bag” to see what I can nibble on.  Oatmeal cookies?  Great.  Oatmeal is definitely a breakfast food.

I knit, read, look out the window and realize I’m starving.  It must be lunch time.  I look at the clock- it’s 9 a.m.  Back into the feed bag.  Crackers. They’re only 30 calories each. I munch on a few of them.  And then a few more. I’m a firm believer in the theory that calories consumed while you’re in a car don’t count.

By 11:30 I was looking for the nearest restaurant.  Okay, “restaurant” might be a stretch.  I’m usually thrilled if we can find an In-N-Out but I’ve been known to settle for McDonalds.  I draw the line at Denny’s – my standards may be low but I do have some. We stop at Bob’s Big Boy and I order a salad because I’m on a diet.

Mid-afternoon brought a whole new set of challenges.  We were close to our stopping point and I was exhausted from all the driving.  But we’re staying in a new place and I had no idea what kind of food might be available.  Better load up while I’m still in the car.  A couple of handfuls of almonds, a couple of chocolate squares and some Pop Chips fortify me for whatever lies ahead.  It was more food.

It goes on like this for days.  When I’m at home I’m a three-meal-a-day person.  In the car, I eat like I’m on death row.  Some people are inspired by the lure of the road.  Me – I take any road trip as a personal challenge to see how much food a human can consume.

My vista for the upcoming week?  The view from the treadmill.

Pomp & Circumcise

by Bob Sparrow

     This week’s road trip is a virtual one to college campuses – much like how my college professors described my experience on college campuses – virtual. The ‘old’ definition of virtual according to my iPhone is ‘slightly short of or not quite accomplished’.  Yep, that sounds like something my professors might have said.  But I digress.

     This year will see 1,781,000 bachelor degreed students (That’s right, over a million and a half more people out there looking for jobs that aren’t there) sitting through their ‘last college assignment’- their commencement exercise.  Few of them will actually be paying attention to what is being said by their commencement speaker.  Pre cell phone, students who were mostly hung over, stared blankly into space as the speakers droned on.  Today, they’re tweeting, texting, taking pictures of that girl from Psych class who said she wasn’t going to wear anything under her gown, or they’re staring blankly into space.  It turns out students are well-justified in not paying much attention; most commencement speeches are either too pedantic or the start of some comedians summer concert tour.  This year students get the added advantage of having Obama and Romney preach to them about their responsibility to vote . . . for them.

     Advice has come from a wide variety of sources from Winston Churchill to Kermit the Frog.  Guess which one said, “Don’t be content to be a tadpole, work your tail off, get out of the swamp.”  Then there’s the famous ‘sunscreen’ speech.  It was supposedly given by Kurt Vonnegut in a commencement speech at MIT, but was actually written by newspaper columnist, Mary Schmich, as a commencement speech she would have given had someone asked her.  No one did.  In it she extols the virtues of flossing, singing, stretching, but most of all using sunscreen.  Jon Stewart, Will Ferrell and Stephen Colbert have given some truly humorous commencement speeches.  Pulitzer Prize winning humorist, Russell Baker’s comments to Connecticut College in 1995 still hits home today: “The best advice I can give anybody about going out into the world is this: Don’t do it.  I have been out there.  It is a mess.

      One that truly inspires, not only for what it says, but for who said it, is Steve Jobs’ commencement speech at Stanford in 2005, which included the following:

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma–which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.”

     He finished his speech with, “Stay Hungry.  Stay Foolish.”

     If you guessed Winston Churchill on the question above, you got it wrong, but he is known for giving the shortest commencement speech on record.  He gave it to his old preparatory school, Harrow School, in 1941 – he was a bit preoccupied at the time.                                                                                                                                                           “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never–in nothing, great or small, large or petty–never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy”.

That’s it.  It strode off stage, lit a cigar and got back to the war.

     And finally, Matthew Gilbert, columnist for the Boston Glove gave the speech that no graduate wanted to hear:

     Unfortunately, after a final night of Dionysian revelry, you will awaken to a strange, frightening, and unfriendly world. A world in which you must sacrifice all you hold dear for a paycheck, a world that strips you of your youthful vigor, a world in which a truck driver is paid more than a teacher, a world in which the glass is always half-empty.  In short, you will become that which you had hoped never to be: your parents!”

Congratulations grads and welcome to the mess – you’ll get used to it.



By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

I’m getting older.  There are numerous signs to remind me of this but foremost among them is that I’m getting grumpier.  I am easily annoyed by things that don’t work.  I could insert some joke here about our government but that’s too obvious – and besides there are lots of other people griping about that.   Slumping stock market?  I can deal with that.  Nope, I’m annoyed with the little stuff that sucks the life out of me every day.   Here’s just a slice from my last week.

1.  I went to Costco to buy a jar of almonds.  $500 later I checked out. Among the things I bought was a package of scissors.  They were encased in a plastic “clamshell”.  Ironically, the reason I succumbed to buying the scissors is that my old pair could safely be given to a 3 year old.  In other words, they were no match for Costco’s plastic.  I tried to pry the package apart.  No luck.  A swift slice with a paring knife resulted in a “swing and a miss” and practically sliced my finger off.  I hacked at it with a utility knife, looking a bit like a  scene from Psycho.  But the blade was too dull for the “Costco shield”.  My language, on the other hand, was becoming quite colorful.  What I needed was a really sharp pair of scissors.  Like the ones in the package.  They were as well-guarded as the Crown Jewels.  I thought about whipping out my husband’s chain saw.  At last I found a newer utility knife.  Success!  The scissors were freed from captivity but I was exhausted from the effort.  Do you think the CEO of Costco has ever tried to open one of these things?

2.  My husband and I have been trying to eat more healthy the past couple of years.  We are under the delusion that consuming our daily servings of fruits and vegetables now is going to make up for a lifetime of Oreos, Dairy Queen Blizzards and Chili Cheese Fries.  So I spend quite a bit of time in the produce section of the grocery store.  Have you tried wrestling with those plastic bags from a roller that you put stuff in?  They are impossible to open.  Yesterday I wanted to put some tomatoes in one.  No matter how much I tried, I couldn’t get the bag open.  I used to solve this problem but licking my fingers and then twisting the edges apart.  But ever since I read that grocery cart handles are the dirtiest place on Earth, I make Howard  Hughes look like a meth addict by comparison.  I took the tomatoes and the plastic bag over to the carrots that had just been sprayed (by the nozzle that also is full of germs, by the way) and wet my fingers on that moisture.  Okay, I’m a little nutty about this but really – can’t they make a bag that will open without me having to risk the norovirus?

3.   We have been customers of Direct TV for 12 years.  I’m pretty handy with AV components so I’ve been pretty successful in fixing most of the problems we’ve had with receivers over the years.  But last Thursday our receiver went out and none of my usual tricks would fix it.  I was terrified that I might miss “The Real Housewives of Orange County” so I broke down and called customer service.  It went something like this:

Me:  (After 30 minutes on hold) Hi – my receiver is not working.  I have pressed the red reset button, I have unplugged the unit for 15 minutes, and I have put new batteries in the remote.  I think I need to be connected to your next level of technical support.

Them:  Hello.  My name is Lobert.  (Okay, so I’ve been transferred to some country where they have trouble pronouncing “r’s”).  First, I need to ask you some questions.  Have you tried pressing the red reset button?

Me:  (Annoyed) Yes, I told you, I’ve done that.  I’ve also unplugged it and changed the batteries in the remote.

Them:  Have you tried unplugging it?

Me: (on my last nerve) YES!!!  I told you that – TWICE.

Them:  I have to go through my list.  Have you changed the batteries in your remote?

Me:  (eyeing the ice pick and wondering it it will go completely through my head) Yes – I’ve changed the batteries.

Them:  Oh, well if you’ve done all that then I can’t help you.  You need the next level of support.

So, here I sit, no TV, but I’m eating tomatoes and I can cut coupons out of the paper with great precision.  That will have to keep me happy for now.