Sometimes I'm embarrassed to be a Big White Guy in Hong Kong.
I had the pleasure of having dim sum with a new friend, Michelle. We enjoyed a lengthy and lively discussion, including her life as a Eurasian woman, web page design, how I acted like her grandmother by rinsing the dishes before we ate, execution and death-row, societal stereotypes, writing, night-life, fifty-year-old deviants pestering her on ICQ because of her web cam, and other assorted topics.
It was superb. I watched her shovel a whole cuttlefish into her mouth as she was having trouble chewing through its rubber-like texture. She was mortified with her barbaric display (her words, not mine), but I've seen worse. Hell, I've done worse (there was that incident involving an entire watermelon, but I won't go into that).
After our meal, we parted company and I headed to the Mong Kok KCR station.
I was waiting for the next train when my delicate ears were accosted by the verbal violence of a British fellow using his mobile phone behind me. The low-forehead had a vocabulary of about 100 words and every sentence was punctuated by the F-word.
He began swearing in earnest when the network dropped his call in the middle of his conversation (calls are often interrupted around Mong Kok station). Everyone on the platform was treated to a single, loud epithet beginning with the letter F. It was said in an I-can't-believe-this-is-happening-to-me tone of disgust.
He re-dialed, resumed his conversation and complained about his crappy phone, cussing every few seconds.
His call was cut off a second time, and followed it with another curse. He re-dialed, picked up where he left off, cussed some more, raised his voice and grumbled about his job.
I caught a glimpse of him out of the corner of my eye: tall, spiky haircut, with an almost-Cockney-but-not-quite accent. The others within earshot looked uncomfortable being close to him.
Then it hit me: This guy is probably a football hooligan. He had the temperament, exactly the sort to start a riot during a soccer match. If a dropped call was enough to set him off, imagine how he'd vent his disapproval of a controversial call against his favourite team.
After a third dropped call and much louder oath, everyone was squirming. This is what happens when a Neanderthal uses technology.
All this happened in the space of four minutes. The train arrived, and when we boarded, the hooligan went left while I went right. I was spared being further embarrassed by pea-brain for the remainder of my journey.
Am I perfect? Do I never swear? Hardly. In fact, I wish I did it far less than I do, but I have enough class not to poison the air with vulgarity when others are within earshot, especially the Chinese.
That's not to say the Chinese are saints; many a young man has sworn in my presence, albeit in Cantonese. Don't ask how I know what he was saying, that's not the point. But these are kids with a lack of discrimination or triad members; most Chinese I know don't swear much if at all.
Gwai los like that pinhead leave a bad impression amongst the populace. I'm looked upon with a jaundiced eye until I reveal I'm Canadian; we Canucks have a reputation for being polite. That's a truism and I'm glad for it. A Canadian is the only person in the world who apologises when you step on his foot.
In less than 30 minutes, I went from enjoying an intelligent conversation with an articulate young woman, to hearing unwanted verbal garbage of another (I'm sad to say) big white guy with an atrocious lack of social graces.
Hey fella, if you happen to read this — assuming you can read — take my advice. Go back to England, get drunk, and head straight to a football match. Make certain you sit in the hooligan section; you'll be surrounded by other pointy-headed cretins who'll find you witty and charming.
The rest of us don't.
October 6, 1999
Next Tale: The Taxi Driver