October 20, 2008

Relax -- Please Don't Rush!

This, apparently, is the motto of Hong Kong.

It's posted in the MTR and the people here have clearly taken it to heart. There are lots of signs in the subway, and most seem to have little effect. There are the constant admonishments to hold the handrail on the very steep escalators. There are signs encouraging people to take the steps for "good health." But mostly, people pay attention to the request not to be in a rush.

I have a few city traits, like walking quickly to get to where I want to be. For some people, it's because they are late. But I only walk quickly in comparison to others here. People here mosey. They meander. It doesn't help that I tend to go out about 2 p.m., when everyone is finishing up their lunch hour so the streets are crowded. But they clearly are in no hurry to get back to work.

It's rather maddening. The streets are crowded and it's not easy to maneuver around people -- especially because they have this uncanny ability to sense when you are about to go around them, and then they move in that same direction.

There is a theory that things here are slow-moving, contrary to most great and cosmopolitan cities, because of the weather. I haven't tested it in jam-packed Central, home of bankers and expats and movers and shakers. But I am not optimistic.

It's just unexpected. I know that Mexico and the Middle East have "manana" cultures. But I'm not living there and trying to get something done. And, it seems to me, Acapulco and Hong Kong and Marrakech are worlds apart in more ways than one.

OK. I feel like I'm not explaining this well. Imagine you are in Paris or in New York. You are going about your daily business, trying to get to work or run errands and the city is filled with tourists who are gawking. They stop to look up at the skyscrapers, they stop in the middle of the street to look at their maps, to find the metro, to marvel at a window display. This is daily life in Hong Kong. The residents behave like this. It's crazy!

Even if I learn to slow down, which is probably healthy, there will still be people in my way. The security guard in the MTR who decides to stop right in front of the escalator. The old woman who zig-zags down the sidewalk. The hordes of people going nowhere in particular.

I'm not relaxed, and I'm not in a rush.

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