Monday, September 30, 2013

Hobbling Around Town

I like my job, but sometimes it’s nice to take a break. The problem is that I couldn’t really take advantage of the days off I had. I wasn’t as mobile as I like to be and Hong Kong isn’t a great place to get around if you’re on crutches. It was an interesting experience, but I got a little tired of how much people here have absolutely no consideration for anyone with any handicap. Trying to go anywhere on crutches was a challenge, but I’m sure it would be a million times harder in a wheelchair.

There aren’t as many elevators in Hong Kong as there should be. This is not a level place where all the streets are flat. There are hills and sometimes you have to go up a flight of stairs to get to the next street. People in wheelchairs might know all the ways to get around – which probably include going very far out of their way to find some kind of ramp – but I’m used to just walking in as straight a line as possible.

The MTR definitely needs more elevators. The biggest stations have one or two and they always seem to be full of people who could easily take the stairs and escalators. The smallest stations don’t have any elevators at all. Some don’t even have escalators. I asked a Chinese person how handicapped people get around and he said they can take a taxi. His cavalier attitude really disappointed me.

There are a lot of great things about Chinese people, but compassion for their fellow man doesn’t seem to be one of them. I’ve been here a while and I think I’ve gotten used to the blatant racism. Hong Kong is 95% Chinese, so anyone who looks different is going to be treated differently. The price gouging is easier to deal with if you can haggle in Chinese.

What I’m still having trouble adjusting to is how selfish so many people are. Where I come from you hold the door open for other people when you’re going through. It has nothing to do with gender or age. It’s just common courtesy. I would be amazed if I ever saw anyone hold the door open for anyone else in Hong Kong.

I see smokers blowing their filth in people’s faces all the time. I realize smokers all over the world are a special group who are allowed to poison whoever they want, but they’re even more inconsiderate here than they are in Europe.

The worst thing for me has always been the MTR. It’s the best way to get around, but it’s full of the most selfish people I’ve ever seen in my entire life. Some of these people would run over their own grandmothers to be the first on the train. For some reason, everyone has to be first. There’s plenty of time to get on and the doors don’t close on people and cut them in half – if you’re in the doorway, it automatically opens – but every day I see a million people who all have to be first at all costs.

I don’t know how many times I’ve seen healthy young people just sit there while an old person or a pregnant woman stands next to them. There are special seats designated for pregnant women, handicapped and the elderly, but I’ve never seen anyone ever give up any of those seats for someone else. The MTR is usually pretty crowded. Rush hour is between 6am and 2am. Actually sitting down on a train is rare, so I guess the people who have a seat would rather die than give it to someone who needs it more.

It doesn’t really bother me that no one ever gave up a seat for me while I was on crutches. I was otherwise healthy and only mildly incapacitated. It really bothers me when I see an old lady who can barely stand up having to stand on the train just because the healthy people around her don’t care about anyone but themselves.

The Chinese have a reputation for being polite. In some ways they are. They’ll never say bad things about you to your face. In other ways, they’re not even close.

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