What color car would you like?

The island of Maui, Hawaii, is paradise on earth as far as my wife Rita and I are concerned. We've been vacationing in the Kihei area of Maui for almost three decades.

The Sugar Beach Resort sits on the longest stretch of sandy beach and provides an area for exercise similar to Green Lake in Seattle. We enjoy this resort for its simplicity, price and comfort. The mix of residents, old and young - plus families with children - provide constant entertainment and conversations. When we arrived last time we had a interesting experience.

Perhaps as a vacationing couple fresh off the airplane in Maui, we looked forlorn and dejected to the youthful-looking attendant behind the Budget Car Rental counter at the Kahului Airport. Maybe he looked at my wife and me and decided we were illiterate and hard of hearing.

Or - and this is my conjecture - the fellow had been on duty for too many hours and his Pavlovian response system simply went into overdrive.

As our turn in line brought us face-to-face with the agent, he looked at us with a bland expression and asked automatically and matter-of-factly, "What can I do for you?"

I replied with a level voice, "We're the Sadowskis, and we reserved a car. May we have one, please?"

"Oh, yes, sure, let me check." The agent started to shuffle many sheets of important-looking documents. Many were typed, some only partially completed; a few were badly mistreated, with bent and folded corners.

"Here it is!" he exclaimed at last, almost as if he discovered King Kamehameha's lost throne. He thrust the sheets onto the counter, using his large hands to rub out the tiny wrinkles.

"Excellent," I said, trying to sound a bit congratulatory. A weak smile played across Rita's face. She was pressed tightly against me, watching and listening as our agent conducted his business.

The crowd in line seemed over-anxious and people were pushing each other, causing a slinky-like effect. From certain angles, the human conga line resembled a millipede in motion. We were forced closer than expected to the counter. This caused a spike in our arthritis tolerances for sure.

The agent brushed back his hair with a swift hand motion while grabbing for a pen with his other. The man was definitely in need of a break because, as he looked back up at Rita and me, he spoke with a lift in is voice, "What color car would you like?"

I countered his question with a question. "What colors do you have available?" I asked.

To which the agent answered, straight-faced, "We have red or white cars."

I lowered my head to seek my wife's input. "Rita, we have two choices, red or white - what color should we get?"

I knew what she would say.

"White," Rita said. Rita does not like red cars.

I turned toward the agent and spoke with conviction, "We'll take a white car, please."

Without blinking an eyelash, the agent shot back, "We don't have any white cars!"

He had no idea what he had just said. Why'd he give us two choices if they were no choices? Pavlov knew the answer.

Rita and I looked at each other in astonishment and broke into quiet laughter. We shifted our glances toward the counter to see what the agent was going to say next. To our surprise, he was stoic, his face blank; he had no idea why we chuckled.

He never realized the humor in how he had replied to us. We hoped the exchange had nothing to do with our senior citizen status.

We rented a red car, by the way.

Bernie Sadowski is a freelance writer living in Magnolia. Write him at mageditor@nwlink.com.[[In-content Ad]]