Paul Grenada

I have been here for nigh on month now. It feels new and old at the same time. The new is the living with someone other than my mother, the new climate – I’m not used to 80 degrees in October – , and the whole not having a job thing.

The old, well that would be the fact that no matter where you go, no matter what the locale or how beautiful the sunset is, people are still people. Which more often than not, I am learning, means ignorant and mean spirited.

Now that is not to say that the people of Hawaii are like the folks back in NY. Far from it, they don’t honk horns, speed through intersections, or flip off other motorists. In fact from a distance they are rather nice.

But up close, you see something a bit different.

Well I did anyway.

Looking for a job through a temp agency means walking into any situation and being willing to deal with whatever crap is thrown at you. Be it dis-organized bosses, rude co-workers, or a work environment that is less than satisfactory. I’m used to that, I expect it basically.

But for whatever reason, my experience with a particular moving company left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

Now I’m more or less a fan of manual labor. Dirty Jobs is as close to Hall of Fame television as anyone can get. So having to movie furniture is not an issue to me.

On my first day though, not knowing how things work, I guessed I expected a bit of…leadership when it came to moving stuff. You know like, where are we going, what do you want me to do, and what exactly is a dolly?

You get none of that working with these folks. In fact, I had to wait about half hour before I got a “good morning” everyone looks at me, looks away and keeps to themselves. Again to be expected for the most part. New guy, temp, whatever. Still, when someone says hello to you, don’t turn your face away like I have the plague.

Throughout the rest of the day, after dealing with that nagging feeling someone might get when passing through a small town, the “you are new and as such not to be trusted” feeling. I realized one thing.

The stereotype about Hawaiians and Samoans being strong, is not really a stereotype. Its more like a reality.

Granted, I am not in the best of shape, but strength is the last thing to go. So I figure I could hold my own. And I did, for the first 2 hours. These guys went non-stop for 4, breaking at lunch time and picking the pace back up again as if it was still morning after breakfast. It’s the kind of stamina that you don’t see all the time. Kinda humbling.

But I digress. For all their strength, they were less than welcoming to the new guy, or at least the new black guy. There were two other temps that seemed to get on fine.

After talking to my girlfriend, Sylvia, she let me in on a little social phenomenon.

When a native Hawaiian sees a tall black man walking down the street, they don’t cover their pocket books, or feel the need to protect their children.

They think you’re military.

And while that is a bit…odd…even more so is the fact that some folks don’t like black guys from the military.


Because they actually have marketable skills that get them jobs native Hawaiians don’t. There are a good number of army bases on the island of Oahu. A good number of those soldiers are African American. Once their tour of duty is over, many just stay on the island. Figuring their is nothing back on the mainland calling them back, so why bother. They go and apply for jobs, and seeing as how being trained to work on a team and follow orders are considered skills worth having, they get the jobs. Hawaiians who may have at least a high school diploma but not the extended education, don’t. That leaves them feeling a bit bitter. And with the recent economic downturn, that heightens already tense feelings.

Go figure, I go from being a negative stereotype that would get me arrested for my skin color, to being another stereotype that would get me ostracized for my skin color, since that skin color means I have an education.

A negro just cant win.

That’s just a bit of my experience so far in the Aloha State. I aim to write more and share those stories with all 5 of my fans.

Have a good one.