Monday, January 18, 2010

The oldest living shop alive

As I got down from the tram this evening, I noticed for only the second time in almost two years that there was a sign inside the Seven-Eleven by the tram stop, declaring that it was the first Seven-Eleven in Hong Kong, established in 1981. I'd first seen this sign last week, which is again evidence of being very unobservant, but perhaps the second time I saw it was a sign, divine provenance, a vision on the road to Damascus. Well, Wong Nai Chung anyway.

I wonder at the bravery of the pioneers, opening the first Seven-Eleven in Hong Kong, carving out a name for themselves 29 years ago. Who at that point would have had the courage, no, the very temerity to stand up to the powers-that-were and say

"Hong Kong deserves shops that stay open twenty-four hours every day"

? Who could it have been? The plaque says nothing about whether it was Mr Seven and Mr Eleven, or if it was Charles Francis Seven-Eleven, or some other person who gave his name to the shop. It may very well remain a mystery, just as it has always been mysterious to me, if the shop isn't the eponymous product of its founders, why it would have such an inappropriate name. I mean, Seven-Eleven? Twenty-four Seven I could understand. All Day Open Shop? But Seven-Eleven? Are they trying to trick us? To confuse us? To hide their light under a bushel, so that we're always surprised in those eight hours between 11pm and 7am, when they're still miraculously open? Is that why it's called Seven-Eleven? To return childish glee to us when we find a shop is open outside of its advertised hours?

If that is the case, then we are all very, very silly, immature folk. There should be more important things to us than the opening hours of a shop. Or whether its name accurately depicts the range of those hours. (And what if you thought it was only open between 7 and 11 in the morning? That goes beyond bad, even misleading advertising, into the realm of advertising that is unhelpful even for the advertiser. Who would bother shopping at an institution where the business model was to be shut for five-sixths of each diurnal cycle? It. Makes. No. Sense.

But I should not decry Seven-Eleven too much. After all, they provide a certain revenge by proxy for me. I can hang out there at six in the morning on a Sunday, just before I go for a run, and see revellers leave the techno-karaoke joint beneath me, and then watch as a man, and a woman, will go into the shop, and the man, with the woman, will buy a packet of condoms, and then the man, and the woman, will walk out of Seven-Eleven, and then the man, and the woman, will embrace. And then the woman will laugh and walk off, and leave the man, and the three prophylactics with nothing to do. And I will laugh, and then practice running away down the street, ready in the knowledge that if in a marathon I'm ever having to race a sex-deprived karaoke/gabba enthusiast, I've been training.

But still, if it's open 24 hours of the day, 365 days of the year, why are there locks on the doors? Why? Why? Ha ha ha ha. I'm a comic genius, aren't I? I bet you're wondering why nobody has ever pointed that out before. I'm an absolute paragon of observationism, and I SUCKERED YOU INTO IT by talking down my ignorance of the Seven-Eleven plaque just a few minutes ago.

Yes, it's curious, isn't it, it is a strange mystery, isn't it? It's absurd, the perfect target for comedy. It surely couldn't be down to a rational explanation like most shop fronts having standardised entrances and therefore it being more expensive to refit them to remove the locks than to leave them on there. Pah. That would be ridiculous. That would be something that the kind of idiot who doesn't think Seven-Eleven leases shop space in perpetuity would think. Yes, that's you, isn't it? I could tell you'd be the sort of person who'd think "Hmm, Seven-Eleven doesn't lease shops for an eternal tenancy. It may not make economic sense for the landlord to spend money removing the lock mechanism, when a future tenant might very well require it." You are a fool. A FOOL!

And I am a comic genius. You do not have to apologise. Just submit to the majesty of my intellect, and despair.


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