Backpacker taxes generosity of soft travellers

BAD news for tourists. Not only do they have to stump up $150 departure tax and $20 security surcharge on air tickets, but now they have to deal with the Phantom Backpacker.

We were told about him by Dick Shriver, a Hongkong-based consultant accountant who travels a lot.

The Phantom Backpacker, a young Englishman about 6 ft tall, approached him with a sad story in the departure hall at Kai Tak. He did not have enough money to pay the departure tax, he lamented.

Soft-hearted Dick gave him the cash, and the grateful young man made off, his eyes full of gratitude.

On impulse, Dick decided to follow him. The backpacker ran up to a second tourist and did the same act. Then a third. Then a fourth. Then a fifth. Dick intervened after more than half a dozen victims, and the villain ran off.

However, Dick has been back to Kai Tak several times, and seen the Phantom Backpacker doing the same trick. He clearly lives in Hongkong and does this as a job.

It is the perfect crime. All the victims are about to board planes. Within hours of the offence, they are spread right around the world. It is impossible to collect evidence against him.

This is a case for instant justice. We need to get a lynch mob together, to bundle him into a crate and buy him a one-way ticket (CAAC third-class cargo) to that infamous bus stop in Nigeria.

Or bust PUBLIC relations specialist Wendy Hughes received a letter from a client asking her to provide ''chest florals'' for a gathering.

What could it mean? Is interlacing flowers in one's chest hairs the new thing at cocktail parties? Cold comfort HOW did the Beijing authorities make the smog disappear during the visit of the Olympic committee? ''They turned off all the heating for five days before the arrival of the committee,'' said a student friend of ours who lives in state accommodation in China's capital city. ''The heating was restarted when the Olympic people left.'' Banners were put on every building within sight of where the committee were staying. The most ominous one was the one saying: ''Beijing is Waiting For You.'' She said: ''Some of the students wanted to climb up there and change it to: 'Beijing is Waiting For You, Chris'.'' Stirring wok KAY Dangaard of Academy One Films, Shau Kei Wan, has just returned from the American Film Market in Los Angeles.

While she was there, there was an unusual court case between a company run by a Chinese family and MCA Inc, the entertainment company, over a promotion.

MCA's new attraction is called Universal CityWalk. Chinese restaurant company Hu-Yu Inc objected to the name.

They said customers would confuse ''CityWalk'' with their restaurants which are called City Wok.

Hu-Yu kidding? Anyway, the case was settled in private, apparently after money changed hands.

Didn't Lou Reed write a song about that restaurant, called Wok on the Wild Side? Buffaloed MIKE Killingsworth of Sai Kung corrected our statement that ''Dine the drine'' is Australian for ''Down the drain''.

The correct pronunciation was ''Dairn the drine'', he said.

Mike added that many people didn't know what a ''bison'' was.

''It's what an Australian washes his face in,'' he said.

Lost for words GISELA Cheung of Hong Lok Yuen, Taipo, bought a bottle of Lee Kum Kee XO Sauce, and received a recipe booklet for stir-fried I-fu noodles.

''Procedure: 1. Scold noodles in boiling water,'' it says.

Scold noodles? This sounds like an excerpt from the Sunday Morning Post magazine's ''Three Wacky Things to Do'' column.

''I just don't know what to say to the noodles,'' said Gisela.

Just talk to them like you would a dog. Bad noodles. Naughty. Baaad noodles.

Having a shot A NEW repercussion of the recession has been found: killing sprees by disgruntled employees are on the rise in the workplace.

''A lot of them are actually trying to kill the company because they think the whole stinking place is against them,'' says James Alan Fox, dean of the college of criminal justice at Northeastern University in the US.

''The message is: 'Look who's doing the firing now'.'' Many LAMs (Latent Axe Murderers) use only verbal violence, you'll be pleased to hear.

The number of these stress-affected people in Hongkong is expected to grow as 1997 approaches.

How to spot your LAM: don't look for tough, noisy, complaining types. LAMs are quiet, intense people who bottle things up for months or years and have a volcanic temper.