I’ve been lucky enough to go to Hawaii a couple times. On the first trip, I spent some time in Oahu. If you’ve never been to Hawaii, I can warn you, Oahu can seem like any other big city with one extra feature: miles of beach. Having lived in or around a number of cities with beaches attached, I didn’t swoon over Oahu, and I was starting to wish we hadn’t booked time there. The locals scowled, and we were solicited at every opportunity. I wanted to move on, get to the big island and see a real, breathing volcano. I wanted to go to Kauai so I could hike the Nepali coast, I wanted more than the tourist trap in a beautiful land. I’d already done that.
But being stuck in a city, we made the most of it. We walked the streets, poked our heads in the shops, and, of course, we found ourselves walking along a street where people were selling their wares from carts. One stall was a pick-a-pearl shop. If you’ve never encountered one of these, let me warn you, they are interesting, addictive, and anyone working such a stall will try to upsell you. They make their money selling jewelry for pearls that are really fake pearls shoved into a real oyster long enough to get a real pearl layer. Sometimes the pearls are nice, sometimes… not so much.
By accident, we’d stopped right in front of this stall while we tried to figure out where we were headed. Of course, the cute Hawaiian (and this is a guess, but he really looked Polynesian, so I’m going with native Hawaiian here) saw us, and called out to us. “Come on, pick an oyster, take a chance. There’s a pearl here with your name on it.”
Jokingly, I leaned away from the group and said, “Oh no, I couldn’t. I wouldn’t want to ruin you like that.” I’d been barked at a lot by people trying to sell me something. I wanted to turn the tables.
“How would you ruin me?” he asked. Clearly, I wasn’t playing by the script.
“If I pick out an oyster, it’ll have two perfectly matched, black pearls, and you’ll never be able to convince anyone it was true.” Now my group was interested. I didn’t normally engage the vendors in chit chat, and I never made predictions about what would happen. Who does? What was more, I knew it down to my bones. I knew I would. It was like the world had opened and I could see into the future just a short distance. It was a strange thing to know, but I had no doubt. None.
Complete madness. But I was completely willing to walk away, never having cashed in on it. Well, the vendor had other plans. I’d somehow presented him with a challenge, so he egged me on some more. I gave him one last warning. “I’m not kidding, you’ll never convince anyone this was real.”
Undaunted, he passed me the little tongs to pick an oyster out of the bucket. “This I’ve got to see.”
Now I had an audience, and everyone in my group was going to play. We all picked out our oysters, but the vendor kept a careful watch on me to see the trick. There wasn’t one. If we’d been bad people, we would have used that opportunity to maybe steal something, but we were all those goody-two-shoes types. When everyone had picked their silly oyster (at this point ensuring a pretty lucrative sale in the very near future), we all did the silly aloha welcoming for the pearl.
He took my oyster first. Can you blame him? I was a bit anxious myself. It was all bravado fuelled by a gut feeling, but my gut has led me astray before, would it this time?
He cut it open and out popped a black pearl. Then he hunted around in the oyster with his knife, and out popped a second black pearl, perfectly matching the first.
He jumped and yelled “Oh my god! How did you do that?” He shook his head in disbelief. He had watched every step of it. He’d initiated it. He’d called out to me, so how could he have been taken for a ride?
I had the pearls set into earrings.