We've all read the news stories. Mentally handicapped boy dumped on wrong side of border by heartless Hong Kong immigration officers. Physically handicapped woman passenger cursed by heartless Hong Kong taxi driver. Heartless Hong Kong residents protest against the opening of a home for the mentally ill, fearing it will affect their property values. The message is clear. When it comes to helping the handicapped, SAR citizens are just plain mean. Or are they? Lai See was determined to find out. So determined, in fact, that she was willing to tear her own calf muscle and hobble around on crutches for weeks to do it. Oh all right. That wasn't quite how it happened. We might as well be honest about it. Actually, Lai See tore that muscle while extreme skiing down the vertical slope of a glacier. Well. That may be a slight exaggeration. Actually, the muscle ripped when she jumped up from her chair at work. But it was much like a skiing accident in that the carpet was slippery and the air-con was definitely on high. At any rate, Lai See found herself suddenly exiled from the two legged world - a cripple in heartless Hong Kong. Naturally, the prospect filled us with dread. So the first time the security guard at work actually GOT OUT OF HIS CHAIR to open the door for us, we assumed this to be some sort of freakish aberration. But the surprises continued. On the second day of her 10-week crutch sentence, Lai See arrived in the building to find that the escalator had been switched off for some invisible form of weekend maintenance. Little barriers blocked either end. Spotting uniformed types patrolling the floor above, Lai See shook one crutch in the air and yelled out some form of reasonable request ('Turn this thing back on or this crutch goes through that plate-glass window!'). In seconds, the barriers were whisked away, the escalator was switched on, and Lai See and her crutches were borne upward. As soon as she reached the top, back went the barriers and off went the machine. Amazing. Three weeks later, and the usually surly city seems suddenly charged with sympathy. Doors whisk open at our approach, chairs become suddenly available and the voices of strangers ask 'Don't you think you should go easy on the wine if you're going to make it up your stairs without falling over backwards?' Wait, no, sorry. That was the voice of our favourite bartender. The strangers are the ones who ask 'Can I help?'. On Tuesday night, the local nutter even took time out from his hectic shouting-at-invisible-people schedule to offer us some paternal advice. 'You really shouldn't wear those,' he said, frowning at one of Lai See's more McBeal-ian mini skirts. 'It's . . . dangerous. Don't you have trousers?' Startled by this unexpected display of English language proficiency, we explained that trousers would inhibit the application of anti-inflammatory cream to the offending muscle. 'Then you should wear something like this,' the multi-lingual street sleeper pronounced, indicating his filth-encrusted shorts. Lai See accepted that this was probably a sensible idea. The good samaritan then returned to his usual perch on the pavement and resumed his heated debate with empty space. Amazing. In defiance of all predictions, Hong Kong has made Lai See feel positively warm and fuzzy. Human beings are a lot more caring and thoughtful than we'd given them credit for. Of course, there are exceptions. Since Lai See can't carry her own coffee, she asked all her colleagues to let her know whenever they dashed out for java. Yeah, no prob, said they. Two weeks passed. Either the entire office had renounced caffeine, or our own co-workers had become the only people in Hong Kong to ignore our crippled cry for help. Still, we stand by our glowing reassessment of human beings. A lot of people don't think journalists count, anyway.