Today I was chastised by an elderly fellow who thought I'd jumped the queue at the Kowloon Tong train station.
Most Hong Kongers know that the MTR's East Rail line (formerly the KCR) and the main rail lines use different queueing systems: East Rail stations have three distinct lanes painted in yellow on the platform, while regular MTR stations have an open center lane with an outward facing arrow (for exiting passengers) flanked by a set of dual lanes where people are supposed to queue (though many folks ignore this concept).
When I approached the First Class queue I saw the center lane was unoccupied, save one man at the head of the line. Behind him stood six people split three deep in the left and right lanes. Because I was in no particular hurry and didn't want to jump ahead of the others, I left the gap as is, but queued in the center lane abreast of the last people waiting.
But for some reason the old boy next to me had a snit fit.
"Follow the queue."
"I am; I'm in the middle lane."
He raised his voice: "There is no middle lane; you must follow the queue," as he pointed toward the people who'd fallen in behind us. It was clear he wanted me to move right to the end.
"I've been here for years, I know how it works: there are three lanes."
But the situation wasn't worth getting worked up about, so I swept out my right hand and offered the space in front.
"Please go ahead of me."
But he would have none of it. In his mind, the center lane didn't exist.
"Follow the queue," he demanded.
Knowing I'd done nothing wrong, I stood fast, while everyone else looked about in uncomfortable silence. Finally a man in the right lane just ahead turned to me and said: "Yes, you are right, there are three lanes."
Again I offered the opportunity to move ahead of me, but that cut no ice with Mr. Grumpy. He'd decided that he was right and that everyone else was wrong, and he wouldn't be moved by my conciliatory gesture.
When the train arrived and everyone began to move forward, he just couldn't let it go; he turned to scold me once more.
"Your standards are not very high."
Which was his way of saying I had no morals. By then I'd had enough.
"Coming from you, that's not an insult."
He then slid half a step to the right (into the center lane!) to block me, which I was only too happy to allow, because while he was beaking off I'd noticed the carriage was full; all the seats had been taken. I wasn't keen on being in the same car with the sourpuss, not to mention having to stand all the way home, so I stopped at the head of the queue and let those who wanted to board go first.
He must have thought he'd been victorious over the young barbarian, but as the train pulled out I saw that he was standing; no one had given up a seat.
The little disagreement meant that I had to wait an additional four minutes under the hot sun for the next train, but I had a feeling justice would be on my side.
And it was.
The car was practically empty.
July 18, 2008
Next Tale: Hard Pressed