Tuesday, January 05, 2010

You know, it's like when ...

I'm desperately hunting for hackneyed remarks about language today, so I can build a joke out of at least two other hackneyed phrases, plus a (quite possibly hackneyed) example of overblown intellectualism. Either I'll be spinning comedic gold out of straw, or ... I'll be being hackneyed.

Perhaps I'm just so incredibly original, because I can't think of two hackneyed remarks at the moment. The best I can do is the worrying question of why it should be that a bird can fly, but a fly cannot bird (something to do with pie, isn't it?). This hardly justified mentioning Aristotlean heliocentrism.

But, I have every faith that I'll come up with something eventually. If not, I can just spout off something about the contradiction between Hong Kong people being too scared of germs to touch door handles, but being pathologically obsessed with pressing the door-close button in lifts.

Actually, that is something that is noteworthy. Hong Kong is the only place I've ever been where the door-close buttons actually work. Well, they work everywhere else, in the sense that they supply a placebo to occupy you while you wait for the lift doors to close. But it appears that it's only in Hong Kong that they actually perform the function they're ostensibly there for. Press a door close button in Hong Kong and the doors will close swiftly in response. Press a door open button in Hong Kong and something will start beeping at you after half a second, demonstrating the rage that people have at the delay you may otherwise be forcing upon them.

When I was in Taipei, home of the world's fastest lifts (in Taipei 101, although perhaps by now this crown has been stolen by Dubai) people didn't seem as secure with lifts as in Hong Kong. (In Hong Kong, nobody minds cramming themselves into a lift with twenty other people, at least one of whom is guaranteed not to have washed. And to be standing on my foot. OK, this is a terrible stereotype, and only ever happens when I go to Times Square in Causeway Bay.) In Taipei on the last day of 2009, we were at Zhongshan MRT, looking for a way up to ground level to get to the Museum of Contemporary Art. Both of us were exhausted from a week of walking around looking at things, so we were happy to find a lift.

Unfortunately, the woman standing in front of the doors of the lift kept pushing the lift down button, rather than the up one. The lift itself seemed quite non-plussed, and didn't move, until finally she pressed the up button, at which point the doors opened. We were on the lowest level of the MRT station, which raises the question of why there would be a down button installed there, but never mind. She looked surprised, and we all got into the lift, and then I waited for the doors to close. And after at least two seconds, they had not closed, so I went to press the door close button. At which point the woman waved her hand frantically in front of mine, as if the sign for door close ( >|< ) was in fact the Traditional Chinese for 'make this transportation device self-destruct'. Eventually, the lift doors did close, and we made our way to the surface, but I will always worry now that the good people of Taiwan do not value the speedy closure of elevator doors. What will become of them in this brutal twenty-first century? I also saw in the paper today that a truck driver in Hong Kong, who got to have sex with 19 year-old models by telling them it was part of a Taoist good-luck ritual, has been found guilty by the court of unlawful sex under false pretences. While for a moment I hoped this implied you could have sex with people if you were a genuine Taoist priest-cum-truck driver, the judge'd decision appears to be otherwise. Is there anything one could say to possibly add to the hilarity of the situation? (Insofar as getting somebody pregnant by lying to them about your good luck ritual can be hilarious? Hmm. On reflection, am I just sullying myself writing about this?)

So anyway, the english language is really strange, isn't it? Have you ever wondered why it is that a bird can fly but a fly can't bird ... Have you? Eh? Eh? Eh?


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