Coconut Willee: Four Magical Tourism Words

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BY J. ARTHUR RATH III – While watching ocean foam spread over the sand I heard Coconut Willee’s excited voice behind me:

“Pretty girls being tossed into the air, come on, let‚s go over there.”


About 50 teenagers with „Cheer‰ painted in big letters on the back of their shorts, were joyfully chanting and doing acrobatics near
the entrance to the Kapiolani Park Zoo.  “Where are you from,” I asked a lady who appeared to be their coach.

“Aus-treye-li‚yah” is what I heard. “Here to compete against cheerleaders from elsewhere.”

“Thank you for coming,” I said.

Oh my, you’re welcome. “Tis a dee-light indeed to be here,” she said with a grin.

We walked further into the park and Will remarked: “That was a nice thing to say.”

“I’ve begun using it when talking with tourists.  Assuming I’m local‚ tourists sometimes exchange a few words with me.  A gentleman at the other end of a park bench said he was a scientist from Poland here for a convention.  I said:

“Thank you for coming.”

The man smiled and replied: “I have traveled almost everywhere in the world, but have never heard an average citizen say “thanks for being here.”  What a nice memory from Hawaii.

Willee says, “Staff in the ABC stores on virtually every corner in Waikiki are trained to say ‘Aloha’ and ‘Mahalo’ every time they
have a customer transaction.”

“Yes, Willee, the manager at the store over there says they have upwards of 650 customers a day– so that’s a lot of Mahalo coming
across the counter from behind the cash register.  It’s all part of every commercial transaction.”

“For an average citizen to say, “Thank you for coming‚ seems genuine and spontaneous” it’s  a friendly acknowledgement that tourists are considered important here.

During World War II locals often thanked soldiers and sailors for serving our country.  It was the attitude here, especially among
older Hawaiians.

“Not everyone likes us, Willee.”

I shared ugly words published in Hawaii Public Radio’s member newsletter, they read:

“I resent the use of Hawaiian language as in Hawaiian Word of the Day‚ and the news on our station.  I consider the Hawaiians and Part-Hawaiians to be racist and arrogant towards other races here and they have no place on Hawaii Public Radio’s airwaves.  We
should cater to a higher class of people.”

Shaking his head mournfully, Willee said, “Maybe you shouldn’t thank everybody for coming to Hawaii.”

Willee perked up:

“Hey, Attah, let’s listen to your opera CD collection.  It was tenors last week, how about making this Ladies‚ Night˜grand divas Tebaldi, Horne, Ponselle, and Australia‚s Joan Sutherland?”

I nodded, “Where I live echos Leonard Bernstein’s song ‘Somewhere There Is A Place for Us.’  I have a bottle of Beaujolais nouveau,
and we’ll taste this year’s offering on our unrefined palates. That’s a wine for us; even though vintners cater to higher class of people with their vintage wines.”