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Our Vaccication, Maui 2021

Mark Heckey is a retired city planner with a passion for writing.

The first part of an epic vacation.

Not a Driver's License

"Ladies and Gentlemen, we are approaching Kahului. We will begin our descent. Should have you on the ground in about fifteen minutes. Thank you for flying Hawaiian. Mahalo." The pilot's voice had that calm tone that would never reveal any hint of trouble. Or was that really the pilot? Maybe they have a robotic voice that automatically plays for the landings.

My wife, Jan, squeezed my hand. Nearly five hours in a face mask, squeezed into coach seats that seemed like they had been shrunk by the pandemic, our brave party of pod mates would soon land on Maui for a long overdue vacation in the newly vaccine-purchased freedom of April, 2021. Our pod of vaccinated travelers was six: Jan, Malcolm and Terri, our neighbors and good friends, and their twenty-something daughter, Chelsea, accompanied by beau Nate. In California, we had all become eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, had received them, and were now CDC card caring vaccinates.

Like circus dogs, our group and fellow passengers had jumped through hoops and rings of fire to make this trip. We had signed up for the arduous process of vetting through the Hawaiian State public health website, registered for COVID tests that would be performed 72 hours prior to lift off, mastered the non-millennial skill of QR scanning, learned how to download vital documents and photos to the government site, and received our rapid test from a sanctioned lab.

We received our negative test result in time to obtain our boarding passes. The possession of CDC card meant nothing to the Hawaiian authorities—all passengers must test prior to flight. So much for the over-65-year-old magic vaccine passport for the mature segment of our pod.

After we deplaned, my buddy Malcolm became a man on a mission. "Baggage claims down here to the right. Follow me!" He led the charge.

We all felt the weight of the tropic air. The hot air enveloped us. The merciful trade breeze followed. "I love that tropical heat. Makes you know you are really on Maui." Chelsea always brings a positive reaction. She broke into a joyful smile. When all the bags were gathered, we started looking for ground transport.

"We gotta get on the shuttle to the rental cars. It's over there, across the street," Malcolm directed the troops who were becoming strung out with an array of rolling luggage.

The Kahului airport recently added a new airport shuttle. It looks like an old trolley car but glides silently around the airport. We boarded and were smoothly in route to the rental car center.

One of the attractions of a "vaccication" is the relatively low airline ticket costs. Most people were obtaining flights at 50% of non-pandemic costs. The rental car situation on Maui is not as good. Our first sticker shock in planning our trip had been the rising costs of rental cars. As travel demand begins to rise post pandemic, so do prices of limited rental car supplies. It seems that the year-long shut down of most of air travel also severely impacted the rental car companies. Most of the rental car companies chose to sell off their fleets.

Now as they build the fleets back up, there is a severe shortage of cars. We found that prices had nearly tripled. We all agreed to split the costs of a large van. We all had to swallow a $600 per couple weekly expense to have the luxury of ground transportation.


We heard stories of people renting moving vans and tour company jeeps. Even economy-sized cars were overpriced. It was now time to get our land yacht.

We were all pretty tired now as we approached our rental car office. As usual, Malcolm went in first to register for the van.

"Mark, do you want to be a driver? You probably need to check in on that," said Terri, who is a professional travel planner and knows the ins and outs of these things. "Tell Mal that you can be a co-driver."

I joined Malcolm at the counter. "May I see your driver's license" said the service representative.

"Yes, I have it right here. My new Real ID," I said proudly.

"Sir, that is not a valid driver's license. That is your senior i.d." The rep seemed a little dismissive of my ignorance.

"No, it is a driver's license, see that number, same as my driver's license. In California that's good for a licensee. It looks just like a driver's license." My voice got louder.

"I cannot accept that. It is only a i.d. card. We can not allow you to go on the contract."

Stunned, I walked out to the pod mates. "They say this card is not a driver's license. I can't believe it. I showed the card to the group.

Nate, an electrical engineer with a calm, analytical approach to most things took a look. "You know, this says senior I.D. Nothing here says driver's license. Let me look at Jan's. Yeah, it is a little different. It has driver license across the top."

I became pretty embarrassed. I would be lampooned for this error the rest of the trip.

"Well, Mark, I guess they know your old to be trusted on the road," Malcolm said with a laugh. "No worries, we can take care of the old man."

As we headed for the van, I started to think about my conversations at the DMV. When they asked if I wanted Senior I.D. instead of regular license, I thought they meant it did both. I was looking forward to all the senior discounts that would come my way. Little did I know that I allowed a government take-over of my driving privileges. Hmmm.

We all climbed into a white Chrysler Town and Country van. A large display and back-up camera shimmered on the dash. There were more controls than the space shuttle. It took a chorus of back seat drivers to guide Malcolm through the AC controls.

Finally, the temperature of the car and its occupants calmed down. We were on our way to vacation adventure. Kaanapali Beach Club resort got dialed into the navigation. We blasted off. Six days of fun lay ahead.

We got settled in just in time to catch one of many gorgeous sunsets. Looking out to Molokai, visible to the west, a burning orange sun melted into silky white clouds and teal skies floated above the darkening ocean water.

~ Mark Heckey




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