By Howard Dicus
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Watching the motorcade of Chinese President Hu Jintao pass proved to be more fun than annoying thanks to industrial strength aloha by members of the Honolulu Police Department and Hawaii National Guard.
"How many people are from out of town?" one officer hollered as crowds grew on both sides of a busy intersection, with many people grumbling at not being allowed to cross an empty thoroughfare. "Nobody wants to admit it?"
That led to some laughter, and soon people in the crowd were making jokes to each other. The police kept it up, too. "Just think," one said, using reverse psychology, "when the motorcade passes, you can make any gesture you want!"
A man who had seemed pretty upset until then said, "I would never do that," and he waved at the motorcade when it finally came through. He waved at the three helicopters overhead as well.
"Who's passing by?" a young lady on a bicycle asked.
"The president of China," an officer replied. "President Hu."
"That's what we're asking you," I said, unable to resist.
The scene was the intersection of Kapiolani Boulevard and Kalakaua Avenue, which was already an epicenter of traffic jams with townbound Kapiolani traffic forced to turn right on Kalakaua, while traffic on Kalakaua into Waikiki was reduced to a single lane. Police had been here in force since Monday; the Guard personnel were added Thursday morning.
They worked the crowd, keeping people in a good mood, but I also noticed that they were looking carefully at the crowd, and scanning the street frequently, even the ones clowning around. Aloha and vigilance can work in concert, apparently.
Kalakaua was clear for many minutes before the motorcade arrived. The helicopters made several passes first. When the motorcade came, it was lengthy - dozens of vehicles, from police cars to tinted window limos and SUVs to civilian cars. There was an ambulance and even a Ryder rental van.
"The press corps is in there," the guy next to me said.
I watched many motorcades when I lived in Washington, D.C., but I wasn't sure which vehicle Hu was in. They do it that way on purpose, of course. The motorcade moved fast - at least, faster than I've ever driven on Kalakaua.
When it passed, the police yelled out, "Please be patient a little longer. We have to wait for the all-clear to let you cross."
That turned out to be several minutes. We cheered a little when we were allowed to cross.