Monday, March 29, 2010

Public Transport

I discovered today that a small notebook PC and a rattling tram are not the best of friends. I was planning on writing up the start of the Great Hong Kong novel on the way to work, but unlike my blackberry, my notebook just kept sliding all over the shop. It's hard to touch type if you're using both hands to stop your precious possession skimming off to its doom.

Strangely, this was never a problem with my blackberry. I managed to type 1600 words a day, rain or shine, when I was writing the first draft, and most all of that was on the blackberry; small enough to hold and thumbtype at the same time.

However, the output looks horrendous when copied into a word processor, not least because there's no tab key, so all your text looks like horrendous, unindented blocks of verbiage. Either way I'm not productive, whether it's getting ten lines of dialogue or spending my time furiously correcting formatting when I should be working on a plot. Hmmph.

And that's before I'm chastened by the thought that all I've written may just be a pale pastiche of one of my favourite writers. But I think that's unlikely; he usually includes at least a plot and some characterisation. Can you guess who he is?

It's not all negative though. I was sat next to an old Chinese man; the wizened kind that look like they've been using a blend of turpentine and very strong tea on their face for the last millenia. Good, strong, tough face. But it split open with a joyous grin as he watched me try to type on my computer. He kept trying to say something, but our mutual incomprehension got in the way. I'm glad he had a good start to his day, watching an idiot battle with the laws of physics in his quest to write a book.

I got to work and found that one of the rubber feet had come loose and vanished from the base of the laptop. Perhaps that was what the old man had wanted to tell me. Perhaps he hadn't been laughing at all - perhaps he had been driven to hysteria by his despair at my not noticing the fate of my dear little rubber foot.

Or perhaps he just thought a grown man shouldn't have a pink laptop. We may never know.

After almost two years of walking along the alleyway, I was shocked to realise that it's not between the HSBC and Standard Chartered buildings - it's between Standard Chartered and the building next to it with no particularly memorable name. It does have a couple of security cameras half way down, but other than that it's a pretty featureless thoroughfare - a nice place to start.

On the way home I took the MTR, feeling too upset by the tram to want to ride it. Or because it might eat another rubber foot. As I passed through the barrier, I noticed a Chinese woman swiping her whole handbag (about the size of a five year old child) across the Octopus card reader.

Even given the strange predeliction for The Biggest Bags That Man Has Ever Seen, it struck me as a bit odd. Surely it would be easier to get your Octopus card out, rather than swipe, swipe, and swipe again before it registered? But perhaps her bag was so cavernous that it would have taken her forever to rummage through it and find the card.

Besides which, the reader beeped pretty quickly and admitted her through the barrier. But it was a very big bag, which makes me worry that somebody has overcalibrated the readers so they'll work through a thick layer of purple leather and all the assorted shoes, chocolates and small puppies*. If that is the case, we're doubtless having our insides rotted out by the excess radiation belching forth from the Octopus reader, just so some selfish lady doesn't have to remove her card from her egregiously sized baggage.

I don't like the idea of that one bit. If I find myself mutating and growing a bunch of tentacles as a result of this needless irradiation, I am going to write a stern letter to the MTR Corporation.

(Although come to think of it, an unexpected tentacular growth would at least explain the name of the cards. What else does an Octopus have to do with a public transportation system?)

* for that is what all women keep in their handbags, or so I'm told.


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