'I refuse to be told what to do by a penguin!' a friend posted angrily on Facebook last year. It was when the MTR thought people would obey a command to 'please hold the handrail' if it was issued by a cartoon penguin.
This friend is not the only person who goes into spasms over the patronising handrail quackings, but at least they only last an escalator trip. Now imagine 30 minutes on that escalator and you have a fair inkling of the aural nightmare that is a ferry trip from Mui Wo to Central.
There are messages about the correct way to wash one's hands, how to use a handkerchief and how to cross the gangplank, and a reminder to take your belongings. There are three announcements, escalating in sternness, reminding us that smoking is forbidden. But still, these are an improvement over last year's ramblings, which featured an impossibly perky teenage voice extolling the joys of not smoking. 'Give up your cigarette today for clean air and a happier journey,' it squeaked.
I wish I hadn't complained to the Transport Department, sarcastically asking for a few more languages to be added. Of course, the ever-obedient officials promptly added Putonghua and a few more messages about wearing seatbelts and not putting bags on seats. We now have 18 announcements leaving the pier, three smoking warnings mid-journey and six squeaks at the end about the gangplank. Finally, we are told: 'You have reached your destination.' We are spoken at for 15 minutes of a 30-minute journey.
Some captains turn the sound down or stop the messages after a few minutes of 'don't use the safety equipment except in an emergency'. But others, with sadistic glee, run through the lot at full volume, turning it up to 11 when they reach 'To be considerate, please keep your voice down.'