Well, that was fun. Compared to Yutu and Soudelor, this little banana typhoon was a cakewalk.

The anxiety during waits between military position reports as we urged it to keep going fast and please stay to the north made for some jocular moments, as if we could really influence the weather pattern by merely wishing it.

True to the military’s original projections of five days before it passed, it came close aboard Anatahan some 70 miles north of us, huffing and chuffing and, thankfully, missing us by a good margin.

I was surprised to see that we reached out to get federal emergency assistance from FEMA and elsewhere before we even knew if we needed it. Obviously, we didn’t and don’t need it. I hope that calling wolf doesn’t get held against us.

When I was a boy, before a flood, that nervous time before a storm struck was often occupied by a hurricane party. Adults gathered prodigious quantities of food, cases of beer, a couple bushels of raw oysters, plenty of Coca Cola and its bedmate, rum. The children played, the adults played, and everyone’s mind was off the impending storm. Once you have made your preparations, there is not much else you can do, especially once the storm begins, so why not celebrate instead of fret? Gathering together to share camaraderie helps dispel the fear if a big one is bearing down on you, or already on top of you, tearing the trees out of the ground.

In Tagalog, my wife tells me, Hagibis means fast, or lightning fast or rapid velocity. Like the whizzing sound of quickly passing vehicles. So let’s hope our playful friend, Hagibis the storm, quickly dissipates and becomes less violent before it hits our friends in Japan. Sorry, Japan, it looks like we have sent you another one.

One last thought; our new buzzword is “resilient,” we are “Marianas Strong.” The theme runs through news stories, coffee shop chatter and has become ubiquitous around the picnic table as a point of pride. But are we really resilient, or just obstinate? Staying here voluntarily, knowing full well that another big storm and another after that one is inevitable. Sitting here and knowing it will happen again sounds more like the latter than the former to me. Here I am. Here you are. Are we nuts, or do we just love Saipan?

Traffic in paradise

The power is out across the northern part of the island, no lines down but no sign of repair crews and no word from the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. about when or if something might be done about it. No apparent damage from the banana typhoon, thank goodness, then why no power and water? I guess you could say better safe than sorry, or you could say better light than dark.

Whatever the reason, no power means no traffic signals, which means hassle-free driving, no waits and basically smooth no-wait driving. Traffic signals don’t speed traffic, they slow traffic to a crawl. In fact, traffic lights cause traffic. Have you noticed the same thing? Drivers give way to each other and traffic just flows along if no signal is present. Can you imagine a world where we don’t sit at traffic lights behind lines of other cars staring at blinking lights in the sky as if they are gods that we must obey? The bliss of no traffic lights and smooth flowing traffic lasted far too short a time.

Let me quickly air pet peeve 26B. The traffic light on Pale Arnold at Saipan Ice and Water is not properly set up. It used to work fine but was broken during Yutu and remained off for a while even after the power came back on. Once up and running, it did not get reset to a workable traffic timing system but reverted to a factory setting where it remains today, a year later. That light should cause a stoppage of southbound traffic on Pale Arnold only if triggered by a vehicle turning left from the little side road. Instead, it constantly stops traffic on the main thoroughfare, Pale Arnold, when no car has triggered the light. So the traffic stacks up waiting for nothing. Lines of cars just sit there and wait like a bunch of robots for no traffic, no cars, nothing. DPW, please come and fix it.

Tony Piailug: master navigator

Imagine being able to drag your hand in the water as your oceangoing canoe speeds along and get reliable information about drift current rates, wave motion, and other factors that affect navigation. Imagine memorizing chants that unerringly take you from island to far-flung island hundreds of miles apart using stars and clouds and wind and other natural factors instead of a compass, sextant or GPS to get you there. Tony Piailug now joins that select group of people who can do these amazing things and more. Congratulations! Following in your father’s footsteps. He would be proud.

It takes years of effort, thousands of hours of memorization and a spiritual connection to the sea and nature to be able to navigate long distances over open water without navigational devices, just some coconuts for water and food. Think of what the consequences of an error are. The Pacific Ocean is huge and the islands are small.

Thank you, grand master navigators Sesario Sewralur and Ali Haleyalur for coming to Saipan and honoring us with the Pwo initiation rites held here.

We are all sorry that Super Typhoon Hagibis winds damaged the DCCA Seafaring Traditions Canoe House supposed to be used for the ceremonies and hope your stay at the Man’amko Center was a pleasant one.

Thanks for reading Sour Grapes!

Remove all the traffic lights, yellow lines, one-way systems and road markings, and let blissful anarchy prevail. I imagine it would produce a kind of harmony.
—Sadie Jones

The little reed, bending to the force of the wind, soon stood upright again when the storm had passed over.

If you are caught on a golf course during a storm and are afraid of lightning, hold up a 1-iron. Not even God can hit a 1-iron.
—Lee Trevino

Bruce Bateman | Author
Bruce A. Bateman ( resides on Saipan with a wife, a son, and an unknown number of boonie dogs. He has owned and operated a number of unusual businesses and most recently worked as the marketing manager for MVA. Bruce likes to read, travel, tinker with bicycles, hike, swim, and play a bit of golf. He is opinionated and writes when the moon is full and the mood strikes.

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