So much for Aloha! Lea and I have often commented about how far this island is behind in making it relatively easy for a person in a wheelchair to get around. The Big Island is markedly poor. Few businesses are able to comply with the American Disabilities Act because each little space has been laboriously carved out of lava rock, and there is precious little space to spare, let alone any to dedicate to niceties.

Wheelchair access is of concern to us, because it is important to her mental recovery for her to be able to get out and mix with people and social environments. We try to go to restaurants so she can make meal selections, and we plan meals and shop so she can use those planning skills, and we like to visit with others so she can use her social and people skills. It’s all part of the recommended therapy for her eventual recovery.

I would have to say that the larger facilities such as resorts and theme restaurants that have been constructed in the past several years are largely compliant. However, they are often only minimally compliant. But, when it comes to the older commercial buildings, restaurants and shops, compliance is mostly non-existent. There are many stores, such as those in old Kailua-Kona, on the bay, that we just can’t access. So, we just don’t go into that area at all. We have accepted the condition as “quaint.”

Lea has been feeling much better lately, since her hip healed up, so we’ve been making little forays into some of the areas we have been wanting to visit. One of them I wrote about some time ago, when we went whale watching at Hapuna Beach, north of Kailua-Kona. It is a beautiful beach, and is ideal for boogie boarding and body surfing. During that trip we also noticed that the park had a nice handicapped parking area with a concrete ramp at least part way down to the beach. We thought at that time that we would come back if she recovered sufficiently and get our toes in the sand.

This past Saturday, March 10th, we had some friends, Bob & Billiann, from Indiana come for a visit. One of the things they wanted to do was go to the beach. So, we naturally thought of Hapuna. We parked in the handicapped parking area near the beach, and I wheeled Lea down the ramp and as far into the sand as I could, getting to a nice spot just a few yards from our SUV. The surf was up quite a bit, so boogie boarding was too rough, and the undercurrent was way too strong for body surfing. So, we just lay on the beach watching the waves for about half an hour, and decided to head out for some lunch.

When we returned to the SUV, it was unlocked! Our wallets were stolen, along with cash, credit cards, driver’s licenses, car keys, cell phones — all the items you leave behind that you don’t want to take to the beach. I used the beach lifeguard’s cell phone to call the Hawaii County police, and they arrived at the scene just over an hour later. They were quite thorough in taking our names, addresses, and listing all the items and contents that were taken, giving us a copy of the police report, and driving away without doing any searching or looking or questioning of anyone else.

But, that wasn’t the worst insult of the day. Bob had rented a car from Alamo here on the Big Island, and we stopped by their facility at the Kona Airport to let them know the car keys to their rental unit had been stolen. They charged Bob $400 to cut new keys for the car! We were outraged. It would be one thing, and perhaps justifiable, if he lost the keys, but to charge him like that when they were stolen is reprehensible!

It reminded me of our little episode with Hertz in Hartford CT when Lea got so sick and ultimately ended up in the hospital for 180 days. I was renting a car from them to drive back to Indiana after our friend Joe had a heart attack. After the paperwork was completed, I got in the car and drove to the other side of the parking lot to the truck where Lea was waiting. I found her so ill, doubled up on the back seat of the truck, she didn’t think she could drive, but, rather, needed to go to the hospital. I immediately took the car back to Hertz’s front door and turned it in, and they charged me $100! Hertz lost a long time Gold Club member that day, and I dare say Bob will never use Alamo again.

Meanwhile, we are going through all the motions and emotions of canceling credit cards, working on obtaining photo IDs so we can board an airplane in the next few days, and trying to get necessary things in place without upsetting Lea. She is maintaining a very delicate emotional balance through medication and we are both quite aware that she doesn’t handle stress well at all. In fact, she often naps to escape stressful situations. I think I may have to do a little closer reevaluation of those naps. I may need one myself!

By the way, the police told us that theft is very prevalent at all beaches, and that you should never leave anything in view in your car. These thieves have the professional tools to get in without breaking anything, and have polished their techniques so they can clean out a vehicle in less than 30 seconds, all without drawing attention to themselves. Heed this warning. Don’t be a victim.