I am introducing a new driving code to Hong Kong.
Gone are the pushing, shoving and uncompromising practices of the past, replaced by a courteous and happy driving experience. As with the English language, there is always an exception to every rule. In my new driving code, mini-buses are the exempted entity from any display of civility. For those readers not from Hong Kong, the mini-bus is a 25 seat public bus, general menace, and apparently, self exempt from obeying any road rules. Sadly, they are just beyond redemption. I equate them to the driving version of a schoolyard bully and I will always take delight in getting in front of them, especially in heavy traffic, where they think they are invincible.
So notwithstanding this ‘exception’ I decided to change my driving habits the other day when I found myself using school boy geometry to calculate the angle needed to edge marginally in front of a taxi, thereby gaining one vital car length ahead in the traffic jam, but more importantly, getting the psychological advantage known as ‘I got in front of you, sucker’.
It’s the same for queuing. I will no longer stand so close to the person in front that it would be difficult to slide a sheet of paper between us. I will stand a reasonable length back, and might even politely welcome the 108 year old lady that sees the opening and squeezes herself in, except, of course, at the mini-bus stop. There, I will fight for my place. (While I hate mini-busses whilst driving, I hypocritically and happily use them for getting around.)
Both driving and queuing are peculiar idiosyncrasies of Hong Kong. This obsession with not letting traffic merge and trying to join a queue in the middle if there is the slightest gap is quite intriguing. Maybe it’s because Hong Kong is a polite and generally respectful place, it is unlikely you will ever witness road or line rage, certainly not physical violence; so do people take advantage of that?
Many years ago I lived in Johannesburg. At the time, pre 9/11, it was the most dangerous city to live in, outside a war zone. I can tell you, the drivers there were all extremely well mannered, and people merged graciously – drivers even occasionally waved you out at busy T intersections. Then again, the fact the other driver might have a semi-automatic assault rifle on his or her lap does give you plenty of reason not to upset them.
Now I certainly don’t advocate Hong Kong develops a gun culture to make the roads better, but just a wave every now and then would be nice. Let the old person squeeze in front of you as the MTR train pulls in, and stand back to let people out. You will be the only one, and you might even miss it and have to wait 2 minutes for the next one, but you will be the moral victor.
And finally: next time you see a person running for the elevator you’re already in, don’t madly press the close button – hold the doors open for them. If nothing else, you will enjoy the look of shock as they suspiciously get in.