If you have ever had the opportunity to travel in a mini-bus or a taxi in HK, you’ll know what my title is about! Thanks (or no thanks!) to the excellent public transport in HK, we don’t own a car, giving me endless opportunities to travel the city by bus, mini-bus and taxi. What I was not prepared for, and even after a year in HK, am still getting used to, is the speed at which the drivers drive, and their not-so-polite manners! Be it a highway, main road or narrow residential lane, drivers hurtle at full speed regardless of the speed limit, always in a massive hurry to get to the destination.
OK, so let me talk about mini buses first – the second you step into (note I did not say ‘sit down on’!) a mini bus they zoom off. While you are struggling to get the family into their seats, you also have to beep your Octopus cards, and take care that your handbag, shopping bags and various school bags don’t whack someone in the face! What’s more, passengers sitting on the outside seats always seem very reluctant to shift in to make space, expecting you to be able to slide in and sit down, all while the bus is moving at speed. Thankfully my boys are grown up now and manage to find their own seats quickly, but when I was pregnant or worse still, carrying a stroller in one hand and a baby in the other, this attitude was infuriating!
From the moment I board the bus, I am constantly chanting, “Hurry up! Get in quick! Sit down quick! Hold on tight!” to my kids, as the bus races away. Since there are no designated bus stops for these mini-buses, you have to shout out to the driver (who is probably chatting on his mobile) that you would like to get off the bus. If you are lucky enough that he hears you, the bus screeches to a halt, lifting you out of your seat and halfway down the aisle. (Incidentally, the bus could have stopped anywhere – near a signal, in the middle of a main road, halfway across a junction.) At that point, I have to run out of the bus, all the while yelling, “Hurry up! Hurry up! Get down!” at my kids, in case the bus driver suddenly decides to take off. Despite my best efforts, I have – on two separate occasions – alighted the bus grasping one child, while the doors have slammed behind me leaving the other child behind! On both occasion, my protests and exclamations were met with a “So what?” deadpan stare from the driver before very reluctantly releasing the door and freeing my child.
Needless to say, my kids have great fun being thrown left and right at white-knuckle Formula 1 speed, whereas I am always on tenterhooks pleading with them to stop enjoying themselves quite so much and concentrate on holding on tight!
It’s amazing how such small irritants can make our day-to-day life so stressful. I know that Hong Kong is a fast-paced city; and like the public transport, the supermarkets, and the MTR (underground trains), operates at jet speed, leaving no room for slow movers. But in the middle of this mad rush, I am sure one can make some time to just pause for a second and SMILE!
Having said all of the above, we have come across some very well-mannered and cheerful mini-bus drivers, and although we may not speak the same language, their positive attitude goes a long way in keeping our spirits high! Even my youngest son will comment, “He was a nice driver”, and while we wait patiently for the rest of Hong Kong’s driving population to follow suit, I keep this positive outlook in mind:
There’s no need to visit Ocean Park for a roller coaster ride, when a mind boggling, nerve-tingling, thrilling ride is waiting for us right at our doorstep!