17 February, 2012

The HongKong Experience - Part II

(Image Courtesy : winterhouseworldtour.com via Google)

Idiosyncrasies !! HK is full of it. I mean, the local populace in HK is full of it. When I say “full of it” I don’t mean what that phrase normally means. That does in no way mean to say that the local population in HK is not full of it but it’s just that I’m too polite to put it like that in as many words. So yeah – the local HongKongese are full of it – full of idiosyncrasies, I mean.

Ever had one of those moments when Mr.Murphy decided not to pay you a visit ? Who Mr. Murphy, you ask ?? That very same Mr.Murphy who makes buttered toasts fall on the floor buttered side down. That very same Mr.Murphy who makes your cell phone ring when your hands are laden with all those goodies that you flippantly shopped for just a few minutes ago. That very same Mr.Murphy who insists on all the lifts being on the ground level as you tap your feet impatiently against the tiles in the corridor of the top floor, acutely aware that you are late and that the lifts seem to be moving up extra slowly.

That very same Mr.Murphy.

If and when you are in HK, fear not. You don’t need a virtual Mr.Murphy. We have live ones here. In fact, we have a plentiful supply of both Mr and Mrs. Murphys. Ever wondered why the lift buttons appear so polished out here in HK ? If you are about to compliment the janitors on a job well done, I’d say hang on a bit. Those highly polished buttons are not because of the janitors. They are with compliments from those very HongKong flavoured Mr and Mrs. Murphys I was talking about earlier on.

The HongKongese believe (rather fervently, methinks) that pressing the call button for the lift multiple number of times makes the lift reach them faster. Now we all know this is like saying that running inside the train could help you reach your intended destination faster. But try getting that across to a HongKongese !! That explains the buttons in the lift lobbies. How about the buttons inside the lift ? Those appear so shiny and new because of itchy fingers !! Fingers that just itch to hit the “door close” button in the lift. Yeah ! That’s what they do. And this is where the Murphy’s law comes into effect. At the sight of other people approaching the lift, instead of holding the lift doors open (as otherwise normal people would tend to do), the HongKongese trip all over themselves in a bid to hit the “Door Close” button. Yet again, that finger would be firmly pressed against the button and would remain that way until the lift doors obliged them and closed. More the number of people heading towards the lift, more the desperation to get the door closed before those people can get in. More of a rush people seem to be in, the more desperate those fingers get on the “Door Close”button.

Riding an escalator in HK is fun in more ways that one. Now the unspoken escalator rules says that if you are going to be stationary on the escalator instead of walking up or down, you simply need to stand on the right side of the escalator steps. Now I presume that when the unspoken rule says “stand on the right”, it also applies to what one might be carrying around e.g a pram with or without a baby in it, shopping bags, boxes, cartons. If you intend to be a stationary object during your sojourn on the escalator, that includes stuff with you – not just your two feet. Try explaining that to the HongKongese.

Crowded streets are where the Mr and Mrs. Murphys spring back into action. While walking on streets (more crowded they are the more hazardous it gets) one has got to be really careful. Just when you think that the person right ahead of you has gained momentum, you do so too. That’s about when the person in front of you will decide to come to a sudden, screeching halt. If you are not 200% alert and 300% agile, nothing on this planet can stop you from thudding into the person ahead of you and if that happens, then God help you !! I’ve also noticed how the HongKongese tend to walk together, especially on narrow paths and sidewalks, thus effectively blocking the said sidewalk or path. Sad truth is that they live in that little bubble of theirs and are so blissfully unaware of the fact that there actually are other people walking (or in this case, trying to) behind them, desperately trying to get ahead of this “human Great Wall of China” walking ahead of them. You will try your level best to work your way around them, pretty much like little hamsters dodging the tree trunks in front of them, but to no avail. While the hamsters might work their way around the tree trunks, it is guaranteed that you sure as hell won’t. Such is the power of the human Great Wall !! There are times when my patience has been so sorely tested that I’ve been itching to ask them “Why don’t you get two or three more people and block the entire road instead of just the sidewalk ?” The only thing that prevents me from doing so is the fact that they simply would not understand.

If you are one of those that live in HK or intend to do so shortly, do the “walk test” first. The “walk test” is nothing other than walking up or down a street /path in a straight line, irrespective of whether there is anyone walking towards you from the opposite direction. You don’t move, you don’t swerve, you don’t give an inch – you just keep walking with a deadpan, zombie expression on your face and simply let your shoulders collide against the other person who is walking towards you. The harder your shoulder collides, the more of an HongKongese you are. Most importantly, don’t even think of apologizing.

Eighteen years of living in HK have not managed to anaesthetize me completely to the many idiosyncrasies that one sees amongst a majority of the HongKongese. I doubt if the years to come will, either !!

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