Years from now, people will remember where they were and what they were doing when they didn’t die from the imaginary ballistic missile.
Me? I was in Hilo, Hawai’i, to perform for a flower growers conference. More specifically, an orchid growers conference. It’s actually more specific than that. This was the paphiopedilum guild. A hardcore flower nerd mafia. It certainly wouldn’t rank among the weirdest group for whom I’ve had to perform. But it was up there.
The show would take place while everyone was still eating. Also, they weren’t told they were getting a comedian. It’s a classic recipe for disaster. Could the weekend get any worse?
Cue the Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency!
Obviously, you’ve heard about FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Hawai’i’s local version is HEMA. As in, the beginning of the word “hematoma,” or a pool of blood inside the body as a result of trauma. How appropriate.
Some idiot pushed the wrong button, or clicked on the wrong thing, and the rest is history. The infamous cellphone alert went out, plunging the entire 50th state into 38 minutes of frantic whatthefuckness.
Well, almost the whole state.
I had arrived late the night before, and headed immediately from the Hilo airport directly to Zippy’s, the famous chain of Hawai’i drive-ins. Since moving away from Hawai’i to California, not a day goes by that I don’t miss that gloriously delicious mix of salty fat and carbs from island eateries. I gorged myself on a Surf Pac® (two fried chicken thighs, teriyaki beef and spam on rice, with some tertiary shredded cabbage that you probably shouldn’t eat because ew vegetables) and chili. This is comfort food. And faced with the sure disaster of a show ahead of me, I need comforting.
Did I mention the hotel also gave me free cookies upon check-in? I love that.
The ensuing food coma was sure to keep me down until at least noon. Nope. Missile alert!
But I didn’t get the text message from HEMA. I guess because I have a California address so my phone stayed blissfully silent. This wasn’t the case with the in-room PA system. You didn’t know that there were loudspeakers in hotel rooms? Me neither. But I found out the hard way.
At about 8:20 AM a hotel employee announced through the very loud speaker in my room, “There is a ballistic missile headed to the islands. That is all the information we have. We will let you know when we know more. Stay in your rooms.”
Oh? Fuck that. I have the internet. I’ll let you know when I know more.
So of course I headed straight to Twitter, where I instantly found out that the whole nuclear missile thing was a false alarm.
Then I kept reading tweets, and saw people having their “final moments.” You know, the ones all these other people were having with their families and friends while thinking they have minutes left. Last reckonings, confessions, forgiving.
For a brief moment, despite the fleeting terror of annihilation, some people seemed to be in a better place afterwards with the cathartic commutation of their ephemeral quietus.
As it turns out, the cancelation of the missile threat helped abate the prospect of my own personal bombing later that evening with the orchid mafia. Perhaps all these folks had their own “final moments” that morning and were riding that high into my show? I’m tempted to send out fake apocalypse (fauxpocalypse?) warnings before any future problem gigs.
Or I can just go back to hanging out with these Army guys and their Patriot Missiles. (Shown below at an Undisclosed Location. Please forgive the outdated Spygate caption; that’s how long ago this was.)