The gaffe-prone wife of Tung Chee-hwa, our first chief executive, famously said that Hongkongers knew only how to 'complain, complain, complain'. For making one of the greatest faux pas of the past decade, Betty Tung Chiu Hung-ping was castigated by the public and advised by her PR minders to avoid opening her mouth in public.
But she was right. For what are gaffes but truths that cannot be spoken?
We have just endured the strongest typhoon to hit the city in more than a decade. Trees fell and debris flew far and wide as the storm raged. But the city emerged in fine shape. There were injuries but only one was serious.
Reading the news, however, one would think Hong Kong's response was the greater disaster.
Sure, about 400 flights were disrupted. Thousands were stranded at the airport. Nothing unusual in a huge storm, but many passengers complained about the lack of service from the airlines and airport staff. Heavy storms and cancelled flights tend to make things unpleasant, but it doesn't mean someone has to take the blame. Meanwhile, hundreds of commuters on East Rail were also stranded after trees fell on its power lines, disrupting train services. Many refused to get off trains or leave the stations. They might not have been comfortable but they were safe. Still, many complained the MTR did not offer them amenities. The government, the MTR Corp's largest shareholder, has demanded a full review. I commend the MTR workers who risked their lives to repair the power lines and restore services so quickly.
At the same time, road damage was quickly repaired, and felled trees cleared away. These workers rarely get the recognition they deserve. We whinge about the slightest disruption or inconvenience because most of the time, the public services perform admirably, even in an emergency. So problems are often exaggerated and magnified as big news. My guess is that, compared with other major cities, Hong Kong does not fare badly.
Storms happen; Mother Nature throws a wobbler now and then. We haven't had a signal No 10 for 13 years. Sometimes we just have to man up.