There's nothing like a hurricane or two to put you in your place.
They're historic events. Even when they don't happen.
It's been 22 years since Iniki slammed into Kauai. Last week, the state was looking into not one eye of a hurricane, but two - Iselle and Julio, sounding like a pair of aging ballroom tango partners as they approached the state.
It might have been the first time two hurricanes had been so close together. It was definitely the first time a Hawaiian storm like that played out in social media.
Iselle and Julio first showed up on our radar, literally, almost two weeks ago. In blazing reds and yellows, the twin storm centers were like the fiery eyes of an avenging deity, catching us in its gaze. The map of the state on the radar map was puny in the face of the swirling storms.
Now, despite packing winds that might top 100 miles per hour, hurricanes themselves travel REAL SLOWLY. Tracking them leaves plenty of time for meteorologists to speculate, TV newsrooms to create terrifying logos and ominous music, and the rest of us to head for Costco.
The agonizingly slow pace leaves plenty of time to ponder what-ifs? Or, if you prefer, to have a field day with your fears.
Facebook was the early-warning system. Scott Sherley reported customers almost coming to blows over last items on box-store shelves. Tony Novak-Clifford and Marnie Masuda alerted us to gridlock and/or NASCAR-style driving along Dairy Road and in adjacent parking lots.
But it was Shannon Wianecki's post - "Isn't there an old Hawaiian proverb: shopping for a hurricane may be more dangerous than riding out the storm?" - that got me into gear.
By last Wednesday, the hurricanes heading for Hawaii were hitting national newscasts. Under normal circumstances Facebook may be the domain of narcissism, voyeurism and never-ending selfies, but in an emergency it seemed a great way to let family and friends on the Mainland know we were OK, for at least as long as we actually were OK.
I addressed "Friends and family on the Mainland," posting the first radar map. After taking down canopies and deck umbrellas, staking fragile garden stalks, stems and trees, securing lawn furniture and anything that could become airborne, I still had plenty of time on my hands.
Did I mention that hurricanes approach SLOWLY?
I refilled water jugs. I topped off the gas tanks in the car and truck, even though there was nowhere to go. So I got down to serious Facebooking, like a cyber Ernest Hemingway, reporting from the front.
It beat worrying. Especially when Thursday morning - potentially the first day of the storm - dawned with a rainbow over our deck. I posted the photo, "This is the way a hurricane begins, 7:59 a.m., Thursday."
The little "Like" icon started lighting up. Curiously, although the posts were intended for Mainlanders, friends on Maui were responding too. Gail Nagasako, Barry Sultanoff, Bobby VanBatenberg and Teresa Skinner were among those reposting to their Mainland ohana. Hey, we're OK out here . . .
When I posted a photo of a shelf full of candles, lighters and other emergency-preparedness items, I also included some Eastern philosophy saying that believing that we control nature is an illusion. We don't. Get used to it. Things go smoother if you do.
The "Like" button started going off again. Like a Christmas tree.
By the time I posted the all-clear Friday morning, the cyber sigh of relief stretched all the way to the East Coast, and had been translated into at least one foreign language, all thanks to Facebook.
It wasn't all clear for everyone, unfortunately. In Ulupalakua, stately eucalyptus trees had snapped like toothpicks and fallen by the thousands in the storm. I posted a photo of one tree, torn from the ground like a weed, whose tangle of roots was bigger than I was.
I reposted time-lapse radar images of Iselle dissipating as it hit the Big Island's volcanoes. The heading was, "Iselle no match for Madame Pele's might." That hadn't been Iselle at all, but Pele's jealous, sea goddess sister Namakaokaha'i who was banished by Pele's might, corrected UH Hawaiian Studies student Amanda Candens.
In about a week, social media had taken us from Costco alerts and traffic advisories to updating Hawaiian mythology.
Journalism has been called the rough draft of history. Now social media is the rough draft of the rough draft. Putting too much faith in technology is something we do at our peril. But we need our stories as much as ever. Maybe more.
When last seen, Julio was scampering away, heading north.
* Rick Chatenever, former entertainment and features editor of The Maui News, is a freelance journalist, instructor at UH-Maui College and Emmy-nominated scriptwriter. Contact him at email@example.com or 344-9535.