Last week it was the Kermadec Petrel. This week it was Ed and Bob.
I’ve always said what I love about the northernmost point of the main Hawaiian Islands is there’s always something interesting going on. Usually, I say it in reference to the wildlife. And usually I mean it in a positive way.
Last Saturday, I walked out of the thick, lava rock walls of the head light-keeper’s house that serves as our offices to see my fellow park ranger on the phone. Two men stood beside her. They both carried Big Boy Cameras with super telephoto lenses attached, but that’s nothing unusual at a seabird refuge.
As if I were that Kermadec Petrel eliciting its head-spinning screech, all three turned to look at me as I walked down the sidewalk past the American flag flapping gently at the top of its pole. Amazingly, some synapses in my brain connected, which smack in the middle of menopause cannot always be relied upon.
“Ed,” I said to one. “Bob,” I said to the other. And big smiles spread over both their faces, followed by tight hugs.
I’m just over one month into my 60-day emergency hire as a park ranger at Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, and I’ve met a man who gave me the hat off his head—Go Mizzou! I’ve helped a family find a parking spot for their SUV; when I asked where they were visiting from, they replied the same suburban town of Chicago in which I grew up, and they’d even attended the same grade school, Glen Oak Elementary School, as I did. I’ve chatted with a couple who lives less than a mile from the house my husband and I were building when we honeymooned on Kauai, the same house we sold when we moved to Hawaii 15 years ago.
Strange, then, that I had never met Ed and Bob in real life on this spit of an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, an island that roughly measures 25 miles wide by 33 miles top to bottom, less than half the size of the smallest state in the union, Rhode Island. Adding to the mystery is that we even run in the same circles. I often see their images of places I’ve also photographed pop up on their Facebook feeds.
It was on Facebook that I suggested they come visit during my tenure as a park ranger. Last Saturday, they did—just to say hi. They didn’t stay to photograph the wildlife. We didn’t even remember to snap a few selfies of the three of us. In fact, the only time we raised our cameras to our faces was when a U.S. Coast Guard plane flew behind the Daniel K. Inouye Kilauea Point Lighthouse. Instead, we just chatted.
Saturday was also the day that kicked off a series of strange incidents with humans that, well, left me less than thrilled with parts of my J-O-B and humanity.
Let’s just say if there’s a sign that says “DO NOT ENTER” and another one that says “BIRDS ONLY BEYOND THIS SIGN,” there will be someone who will enter and someone else who will join birds beyond the sign. And if there’s a fence, someone will climb it. Because—I don’t know—these people think they’re special? Exempt? They’ve got a good excuse? I have a story for each of these incidents, incidents that have left me shaking my head and, on one occasion, close to saying something I shouldn’t when I’m wearing the brown uniform. It’s tempting for me to write about these tales, too. God knows I’ve relayed the stories to my husband and friends enough this past week.
But here’s what the visit by Ed and Bob taught me: Why focus on the one or two out of a thousand people who rankle me when there are people like Ed and Bob—humans who surprise you for all the right reasons. People who go out of their way just to say hello in real life. Good people. They’re not as rare as we like to think.
We all have sayings around which we live our lives, right? One of my dad’s was, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” My two brothers and I heard that one often during our childhood. While I like to say there’s always something interesting going on at Kilauea Point, I also like to say that all it takes is for one person to make your day. That lesson came from working as a waitress while in college. If I had children, I’d tell them to focus on the good. It’s a sentiment that echoes my dad’s. But since I don’t have children, I’ll tell you: No matter how hard the image of that annoying person in your life tries to invade your mind and set up camp, don’t let her. Instead, look for an Ed or a Bob in your day and hold the image of their smiles in your mind. I am, right now, and I’m smiling.