While courtesy in global terms dictates that passengers waiting to board are to allow exiting passengers the right of way first before forcing their way into the train, in HK, it's free-for-all. Once I even missed my stop because passengers getting on the train swarmed me as I was getting off and I got pushed to the closed side of the train. I learned my lesson then. Today, I wasn't about to throw away what I had learned from that experience.
The chimes started to sound off, signalling that the train doors were about to open. I held on to my sling bag and put on my earphones as I impatiently watched the glass doors slide sideways and the first few people to come out. With my 15-kg luggage as my armor, I squeezed myself into the crowd and anybody who tried to get in my way had his feet gravely punished by my armor's wheels. Some people got hurt. I could see them giving me piercing stares and I could see their mouths open, as if trying to tell me something. I didn't care. I couldn't hear them. My ipod, which was then playing Barbra's Don't Rain On My Parade, served as my shield. Ok, so I was among the first ones to actually get on the train. But it doesn't end there. That was winning only half of the battle. The next challenge was to be seated.
HK people (locals and expats alike) and Filipinos getting a seating space on the train are quite alike in such a way that the elders would send kids running and have the innocent accomplices reserve a spance for them. They differ in such a way that when, say there are 5 of you finding a seat on a public utility vehicle and you are behind all four of them, you could easily predict where all four of them would sit. Filipinos, even those who never had the chance to school and study physics, know the principle of trajectory. HK people don't. Sometimes, you'd be ready to sit and all of sudden, somebody appears from nowhere like a genie and beats you to your seat. Other times, there'd be somebody in front of you who, as a Filipino, you would read the trajectory and predict that would sit four spaces away from you, and he's suddenly where you're supposed to sit, cross-legged. Sometimes also, you'd be caught in a group competing against each other for one slot, and then as soon as you give up, everybody else would too and then there's no one there. Then the old woman occupying the space beside the most-coveted-space-2-secs-ago-but-is-now-empty desides to hoard it by resting her bag of groceries there, while a host of other passengers of various shapes, sizes and odors are pressed against each other, in front of her.
So today, as soon as I got on the train, I quickly found myself a space that was to be my goal. My base. My homerun. The teenage girl in front of me was on the phone, walking ever-so-slowly. And although I don't understand Cantonese, I could tell she was on the phone with her puppy love. I could swear I wanted to grab her phone and hit her head with it and yell, "If I don't get that fucking seat because of you, I swear to God you will curse the day that you were born." Of course I couldn't really do that. I'm not that evil to be capable of doing that. Instead, with the help of my armor, I poked her leg a little bit. Just a little bit. Just to let her feel that there was someone behind her who wasn't in a walk-in-the-park mood like she was. She gave me a defensive look and I said, in a very offensive manner, "Excuse ME!" She moved sideways to the left, still looking at me. I stared back and tilted my head to the right, silently commanding her to move the other way. She didn't understand it quickly enough so I positioned my luggage to her left, which displaced her. AND displeased her, too.
I was about to sit when a man, maybe in his late 30's appeared right next to me, as if ready to take my seat. I looked at him from underneath, reached into my sling bag and sat. When I was already sure I had the seat for myself, I took out the reason for my being feisty today. The reward for being such an asshole to the people of Hong Kong ---
Wednesday night, I was in Relay, a bookshop in the Central MTR Station that just opened days ago, wanting to get for myself my second Murakami book. I thought they were too pricey. So I sms'ed Kiks: "Which books by Murakami do you have?"
He promptly replied: "One lang. Norwegian Wood."
Me: "I have South of the Border, West of the Sun. Trade? One week?"
Last night, as soon as he and Aaron arrived at Law's for our little get-together, he handed me a crisp, fresh copy of Norwegian Wood. I gave him my South of the Border. Then I said, "Here's another book. And you can have it." It was Paulo Coelho: Confessions Of A Pilgrim.
I found it on my shelf as I was getting South and I decided he was the best person to give it to. Hello! He's the only person I personally know who has a picture with the Coelho.