Icons of our time

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 May, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 May, 1997, 12:00am

Name: The Conventioneer.

Age: Middle.

Nationality: Virtually anything but Hong Kong.

Occupation: Again, virtually anything. They range from Middle American vacuum cleaner salesmen to dodgy Latin American diamond merchants and even perhaps Russian entrepreneurs with a kilo or two of plutonium for sale.

Favoured locale: Wan Chai North. They can be found roaming the streets, wandering around on the flyovers and generally following a path that takes them from a hotel (the Grand Hyatt, New World Harbour View etc) to the Convention Centre and also into Lockhart Road. Indeed, the series of footbridges that can take a thirsty conventioneer from the waterfront to the watering holes of Wan Chai may one day collapse under the weight of the stampeding salesmen. Should they ever try to escape their kingdom, things tend to go horribly wrong (see Classics of the genre).

Uniform: Ranges from the fusty old suits and tweeds affected by tall, awkward Anglo visitors to the spectacular sports coats and blazers favoured by some of the Middle Eastern or Mediterranean types. These tend to go with flamboyant facial hair. Oh, and a combination of winks and leers for virtually every Chinese woman who walks past.

After-hours activities: Basically a continuation of the wink-and-leer manoeuvre. Like conventioneers the world over who get together in strange cities for sales conferences or whatever, our lapel-badged hero has one thing on his mind when the last sales pitch of the day has been made: it's time to give the collected womanhood of Hong Kong the sales pitch of a lifetime. It's original, unforgettable and it goes something like this: 'Sleep with me.' Their spiritual home: Give it a few weeks and the Conventioneers' mecca will be finished. It is, of course, the new Convention Centre which, according to who you speak to, looks like the Sydney Opera House, an eclair or a cockroach. Whatever its appearance, this monstrous newcomer to the skyline will serve as the ultimate temple in which they can worship at the altar of Greed.

Classics of the genre: The septuagenarian conventioneer from the UK who somehow ended up on a launch which was taking journalists to the new airport for a media briefing. The journos assumed from his lapel sticker that he was somehow official; he assumed from their press badges that they were fellow conventioneers. The only problem was that he had been hoping to get on a ferry to Tsim Sha Tsui where he had a meeting in 20 minutes. Imagine the fun if Conventioneers mistakenly stumbled into other social gatherings: a Hash House Harriers booze-up at The Wanch, a meeting of the Provisional Legislature or even a 14K initiation ceremony.