Maui as a home is a paradise. Island views never fail to enchant. The ocean is inviting and connects us with them. Most importantly, most people are honest friends and neighbors. A paradise, indeed. A recent event proves it may be a fool's paradise when it comes to keys in vehicles.
Ahead was a regular Sunday treat - three hours of listening to a jazz session over upper Haiku way. Days of rain had encouraged too many trips in the truck. So, escape the cage and ride Baby Dancer, a sweet, attractive motorcycle. Nevermind the gray clouds over Pukalani. Recent rains had been light and brief. Besides, haole skin no leak.
Across Kula, a few drops splatter against a pair of French-made goggles. The drops are fat enough to make a noise when they hit a rare and expensive leather-lined English helmet. Along about Kulamalu, the rain becomes persistent, but is light. There's little or no danger of soaking through a tank bag holding three music books, a bandana, some sterile wipes, Band-Aids and a small altimeter.
At Five Trees the rain is serious enough to bounce off the asphalt. Head for the Minit Stop for cigarettes, a sandwich and to wait out the squall. Instead of the usual parking spot in front of the convenience store, slide Baby Dancer up on the sidewalk along one side of the building where the eaves would supply a little cover.
Quickly doff the helmet and goggles, setting them down over the key still in the ignition, as had been done hundreds of times. The Minit Stop was one of a couple of places Upcountry where taking the key didn't seem necessary.
Eat the sandwich inside. The rain backs off just enough to allow a smoke out front. Snuff the butt. Walk around the corner. At first, eyes don't believe what they don't see. Baby Dancer was gone. Walk around back, foolishly thinking maybe someone had moved her. No such luck.
Decades ago, before McDonalds and the convenience store had been built, a hard-to-start motorcycle had been taken from a parking spot out of sight from inside a small, old-fashioned grocery. The bike was quickly found around in back. The would-be thief didn't have enough kicking power to get her started. It made for a slightly amusing Maui anecdote.
The Minit Stop clerks allow a phone call to 911. The outside pay phones had been forgotten. Patrol Officer J. Burkett shows up in minutes. He's simpatico, mentioning he had ridden his motorcycle to work. He says this was the second Upcountry motorcycle theft he'd investigated in the last week. A thief had taken a bike parked in a Haiku driveway.
Details are taken down in a small notebook. Burkett is thorough, asking about accessories and other details necessary to identify Baby Dancer. "I'll get dispatch to issue an all-points so patrols can be on the lookout." Outside, he looks for surveillance cameras and found one at McDonalds that covered the right area. He went inside to see what he could see.
Wait, kicking self for having left the key in the ignition. Strangely, the disappearance of the helmet, goggles and bag is more upsetting than losing the bike. In due time, Burkett returns.
"Couldn't see the perp take the bike but did see him come around from the back and ride off. He looked like a kid, wearing a grey hoodie, shorts and skateboard shoes."
The thief had come from a side street during the heaviest part of the rain. Burkett says he'd take a look on the off chance he'd see the motorcycle. Nope.
Ten hours later, around 11 p.m., another patrol officer rolls up to the house. Baby Dancer had been found in the upper part of Pukalani Terrace. After getting permission from his supervisor, he drives me over to where two other officers are keeping watch on Baby Dancer.
Relief turns to dismay and then anger. Baby Dancer had been disfigured. The thief had begun repainting her before having a change of heart and parking her next to a 5-foot-high concrete wall where an officer spotted her. About half of her glossy, black surface had been sanded. A spare key didn't work. No sign of the helmet and tank bag. The officers hang around until a transporter truck designed to carry up to four cars shows up. Baby is loaded and driven home.
Why, oh why had the key been left in the ignition? The answer was a bad habit and trust born of years on a Maui that had definitely changed. It was embarrassing not to have noticed.
* Ron Youngblood is a retired editor and staff writer for The Maui News. His email address is email@example.com.