Why is it that Hongkongers seem incapable of queuing properly for the tram?
Late on a Saturday afternoon, I arrive with my wife and two boys at our usual stop to catch a ride home to Happy Valley. The streets are bustling, we’re loaded down with shopping and rain is in the air. We are first at the stop but that, I know, will make no difference; it will take military precision, and a large slice of luck, to get us on the next tram. Fortunately, I have a plan.
Affecting an air of nonchalance, I wander over to the white line where the tram will nose to a halt and then take 10 paces back along the pavement before flanking myself with a son on either side. As they shuffle sulkily into position, my wife looks on with embarrassed exasperation. We stand toes up to the curb edge as people drift into place, selecting spots seemingly at random but, I know, chosen to offer maximum strategic advantage when the scramble to board begins. We have prime position – what could possibly go wrong?
As we wait, I watch an orderly minibus queue form on the opposite pavement; cabs whisk customers away from the front of a taxi rank; yellow painted markings hem bus passengers in line and hungry shoppers take a number outside the busy Shanghainese restaurant. Why is the tram any different?
With a ding and a clunk our transport skirts a corner and comes into view. It’s standing room only as our carriage shrieks to a standstill but thankfully the doors fold open directly in front of us.
Right then, a little old lady appears out of nowhere and elbows her way in front. The city has thrown us one of its favourite curveballs and as she slowly lifts herself onto the step, the other turnstile clickety-clacks with boarding passengers pointedly avoiding our gaze. As our nemesis squeezes inside there’s no space for four more and one last young man hops through the gap between the closing doors.
But the tram is stranded in traffic and a second rolls up behind. As the doors open to a huddle of passengers 10 or so paces to our right, I hold my hand in the air half in protest and keep it raised to hail a passing cab.