Last Monday, a little after 6 p.m., I was driving home from dance class and was surprised to see a big orange road sign warning of a DUI checkpoint ahead. Sure enough, as I crested the hill, the MPD task force came into view. They already had several cars pulled over and it looked like at least one driver was receiving more than the usual polite greeting. The rest of the short drive home, I felt slightly uneasy. Not because the checkpoints make me nervous; on the contrary, I usually feel comforted when I see the DUI Task Force doing their duty. But this was the first time I'd seen them out in broad daylight. On a Monday. What does that say about our community, that we now have intoxication checkpoints at 6 p.m.? Are there really that many drunks driving around before dinner? The thought saddens and scares me.
Before Monday, I had planned to write about political roadside signs. I may be in the minority, but I like them. Now that the campaign season is in full swing, with the primary election just a month away, the colorful emblems are bustin' out all over. Blooming like giant urban flowers on fences, new ones popping up each week. That's how I've seen them, ever since the year that former Mayor James "Kimo" Apana's supporters placed dozens of his campaign signs on the hillside adjacent to the Wailuku bridge. They seemed to sprout and multiply daily, bright pink-and-black placards on short stakes, until there was a field full of them. Whenever I passed by, I couldn't help but giggle. "So that's where all those Apana signs come from! They grow 'em there!"
I think that was the only time that I was amused rather than annoyed at seeing multiple identical signs in one place. I've never understood the logic behind that. Does anyone really believe that KlutzKlutzKlutz is more persuasive than Klutz? That voters would say, "Gee, I wasn't going to vote for Klutz, but now that I see that wall of Klutzes . . .?"
Seems to me that in sign placement, as with most things in life and in politics, quality is preferable to quantity. Unless we're talking about votes, of course.
Looking around, I see that some candidates do share my signage philosophy. There are several creatively designed, attractive signs on display this year, and a few candidates even have full color banners featuring their bigger-than-life-size portraits. I'm not sure I care for those slick photo banners. They look like The Maui News ads for Realtors and insurance agents. They do get your attention, though, and they're probably as effective as television ads in promoting face/name recognition.
So far, no one has taken my suggestion, printed here a few months ago, to dress their candidates like human billboards. Tea Party supporters in colonial garb don't count. I want to see the candidates themselves, declaring their platforms and philosophies through thoughtful costuming. They could dress up as skyscrapers and prance around to represent runaway growth, for example.
I know, lots of people think political sign waving should be banned because it might be distracting to drivers. But I think it's a charming feature of our local election season, certainly preferable to the nasty attack ads that Mainland candidates seem to find necessary. I've done a little sign waving myself, so I know what a lonely and thankless existence it can be. When I see sign wavers out on the streets, especially when their numbers are few, my heart goes out to them and I wave back. Whether or not I support the candidate, I appreciate and respect the dedicated efforts of those who do.
It brings to mind an incident that occurred many years ago, when my father was active in local politics as a campaign manager. One of the candidates he backed was new to politics and so were her friends, but what they lacked in experience, they made up for in enthusiasm and sincerity. On this particular day, Daddy's best friend and fellow campaign worker was pleased to see a couple of our sign wavers along Lower Beach Road. They smiled and waved at him and he waved back as he drove by. But then he looked in his rearview mirror and was mortified to see the pair making a rather unfriendly and completely inappropriate gesture to the driver behind him. Uncle made a U-turn, pulled over and jumped out of his car to admonish them. "Hey, that's not nice! You're out here representing our candidate! Why did you do that?"
"They no wave back" was the stoic and sincere reply.
I love local politics. By the way, Thursday is the deadline to register to vote in the Aug. 11 primary. See you at the polls!
* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose "Sharing Mana'o" column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.