Hong Kong Sevens

Let the Sevens madness begin! Sound advice for taxi passengers

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 March, 2013, 3:14pm
UPDATED : Friday, 22 March, 2013, 10:44pm

The wheels have been spinning all week to the Sevens. I got in a taxi, admiring the azaleas and the harbour front near the cab rank. We drove around the corner and suddenly it hit me. Or the cab rather, as a mini-van smacked into the back of it. Whiplashed out of my spring reverie, it occurred to me: You never know what’s around the corner.

The weekend we all live for is not around the corner anymore, it’s here, now. It’s you, me and 39,998 others vying for taxis to and from the stadium for the next three days. Life is a wonderful noodle bowl of contradictions in Hong Kong, a microcosm of which is experienced in taxi rides.

Here are some:

  • Some cabbies strap several phones to their dashboard and some seem to know as much about the Hang Seng Index as the bankers they’re driving around. Even without this distraction some cabbies put their foot on and off the accelerator as though they’re tapping out their own version of Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport. If you’re prone to carsickness, your stomach may feel like Rolf Harris’ wobble board. Despite this driving quirk, taxis here seem to have fewer dingles than in other cities.
  • They’re cabs, not Meals on Wheels. Why do some have giant noodle bowls or crustaceans affixed randomly to the roof? Although these accoutrement would make a great Sevens costume, it’s not a wise idea to steal them.
  • You can’t fit six Scooby Doos in a taxi to Tai Kau Cheung (Cantonese for the stadium), no matter how hard you try. A costume enlarges your persona and your size.
  • The more hours in a day you wear a costume, the more likely you are to forget this fact. Don’t nut yourself getting in and out of cabs. Try to keep your head around the fact yours will be bigger in a costume; whether you’re a Teletubbie, a purple dinosaur, a Gumby or a Lego head.
  • When your taxi driver rolls down his window and yells at other drivers, he’s not arguing, it’s just everyday conversation. He’s probably saying: “It’s a lovely day, even if we have to drive these crazy people to the stadium when they could be shopping or eating.” Ditto in a market or crowded restaurant. People here have to shout to be heard because everyone else is. It’s a vicious cycle.
  • “Vicious” is not a word that describes the Sevens crowd. Sevens fans, players and entourage are wonderfully devoid of ill-feeling and violence, but watch your back. Go home with your mates, don’t leave them alone in the bars late at night and never leave your drink. Only take drinks from people you know.
  • This is a big city, and it’s a small one. If you behave badly it will be noticed. You fart in Wan Chai, they know about it North Point before you do. In the Venn diagram of life, everyone in Hong Kong and in the world’s rugby community is somehow connected. It’s two degrees of separation, not six at the Sevens.
  • On the subject of gas….the bleachers on Sunday. Whooa. Three days of beer, hot dogs and pies does not a fart-free diet make. Try to eat some fibre and consider your fellow fans. An apple a day (and other green foods) keeps the methane at bay. Go for fat-free and fart-free. Your body – and those around you – will thank you.
  • If you leave valuables in taxis – credit cards, mobile phones, sunglasses, wallets – somehow they can magically find their way back to you in Hong Kong. Having said this, never tip your cabbie with your Sevens ticket. You will wake up to regret it.

Consider life for the cabbies in Sevens week. Imagine walking in their shoes – or driving in their seat, despite the comfort of the bamboo seat mat. Which hotel sir? “My hotel. The big one! You know, the thingy hotel. On the street with bright lights.”

They’ve got to deal with loud rugby fans wailing Hey Baby for the entire journey, with accompanying primeval grunts (“oh, ah’’) – even if they’re not wearing a gorilla suit. And someone’s got to clean up the back-seat faux pas, including faux fur, feathers, flippers and facemasks.

To maximise your days in the stadium, minimise the pain you feel “the morning after”. A friend was dared to get her head shaved on a big night out. When she woke up in the morning and glanced over at the dressing table mirror, she screamed because she thought she’d dragged some bald bloke home. Then she realised what she’d done, and screamed again.

Tattoos, texting and tweeting are also best done when your brain is not addled.