Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Transporting a heavy load

There has been much talk in the HK press about a recent survey that hailed London as having a better public transport system than HK. As one who has experienced both, I am siding with the people of HK. Despite London's undeniable range of coverage (unless you live in South London), HK public transport is a beauty to behold. It is frequent, safe and very clean thanks to a ban on eating and drinking on any mode of transport - what a brilliant idea. In addition to all of the usual public transport options, taxis are also dirt cheap and plentiful. Red Ken would be green with envy.

However, one London tradition has not come to HK, that of politeness on transport. It is a lot of fun watching tourists on the MTR (metro in HK) as they go to the doors to get off only to find a wall of people pushing and shoving past to get on. It is especially amusing if the tourists have rucksacks as they become stuck between a door and a rabid old granny intent on getting her exact spot inside the train. When I go home Mum has to physically restrain me on the Tube as people start to mutter and tut at my HK-born habit of failing to let people off first.

Absent too from HK is the tradition of giving up ones seat on a bus or train to a pregnant woman. I know from my London mummy friends that this is by no means a universal habit in London, but that at least one can shove your bump into the face of a seated businessman and most will give up their seat. Not true in HK. I travel quite freqently on buses and trains and, while people are happy to gawp at the bump stuck in their face, not one has felt compelled to give up their seat.

Until that is, the weekend. On our way from one traumatic shopping experience to another, we got the MTR. I was moaning to the Boy about how I've never been offered a seat (I think he was nodding and ignoring yet another hard-done-by story from his wife) as we boarded. I surveyed the carriage and not only were there no seats but someone had pushed past me to get the one remaining one. I was about to start another moan (the Boy was rapidly struggling to find his ipod to fend off the inevitable onslaught) when a lady poked the man next to her in the ribs, nodded in my direction, and with a sigh he got up and gave me his seat. I was profusely over-energetic in my thanks in two languages, and utterly shocked at the turn of events.

It was only when the couple got up to get off that I saw she had a good sized pregnancy bump too.

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