The mood on the Mid-Levels Escalator this morning might best be described as ‘borderline personality disorder’, as Hong Kong’s hard-toiling, clean-living, disfranchised middle class struggle to make sense of a world gone mad.
No fewer than four of us gliding gently down the hill towards Central – Mr Chan the banker, my neighbour Mrs Ng the marketing manager, Brian the British stock analyst and myself – have all found something called Google Buzz installed on our Gmail accounts. We are mystified.
“Apparently,” Mrs Ng says, “it’s a new way to share updates, photos, videos, and more.”
I remind them that there is something special about this new…thing: “You can follow people to see their buzz.”
“Well, that’s what it says.”
“I don’t want to see anyone’s buzz!” Mr Chan says. “What would my wife say if she caught me?”
A schoolgirl just in front of us can’t help overhearing and turns round to explain it all. “It’s like Facebook.” In other words, she goes on – for we have no clue what Facebook is for either, even though we have had accounts full of ‘friends’ thrust upon us – you can find out what people you know are doing, and they can find out what you are doing. “You stay connected!” she concludes. We all look at each other doubtfully. It sounds like hell.
It gets worse. On the walkway over Hollywood Road we take a random sample of 10 of our fellow commuters and discover that 40% of them are wanted in Dubai for the killing of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh after apparently having their identities stolen by Mossad.
It’s the last straw. We’ve got to get out of this place.
“Let’s all emigrate to Yoho Midtown!” someone shouts.
Thus it is that barely an hour later a small fleet of taxis passes through the Western New Territories’ sprawl of colourful container storage yards, ranks of gray housing blocks and elevated roads, and arrives at a large construction site just a stone’s throw from the Yuen Long Highway. We all get out and admire the two rows each of four towers. Come September, they will be sparkling palaces in the sky, according to the artist’s impression. Today’s Standard notes with approval that prices at the development will reach up to HK$9,000 a square foot.
There is even a rumour that some of the apartments come with a view of Shenzhen.
Two smiling young ladies in Sun Hung Kai sales personnel uniforms greet us and escort us into the MeWe Delight Express to learn more.
“Yoho Midtown,” the shorter of the pair announces with an extravagant wave of the arm, “is the embodiment of the MeWe concept – the spreading of happiness from oneself (‘me’) to family, friends and the community (‘we’).” She beams at us while we take this in. “The constant joy in this harmonious environment,” she goes on, “motivates Yoho people to share happiness with others.”
The taller sales girl, suddenly glaring, swiftly approaches and, to our horror, delivers a vicious slap across Mrs Ng’s face, leaving the petite marketing manager sprawling across the laminated pine-effect floor surrounded by glossy brochures.
“No!” the brutish sales agent shouts. “Not like beehive! Beehive has lots of bees flapping their wings at the entrance for air-conditioning! Not here! Every apartment comes with Toshiba multisplit condensing units! Beehive made of waxy material with natural anti-fungal properties! Not here! Yoho – pure concrete! Beehive residents all have millions of eyes and make honey! Not Yoho people!”
The first Sun Hung Kai girl claps her hands to regain our attention. “Sorry about the misunderstanding. As I was saying, Yoho Midtown is where ‘individual’, ‘connectivity’ and ‘space’ are unified. Expand your horizons, yet…” a shudder of déjà vu ripples down my spine “…stay connected.” She hands out mortgage applications and adds, “A progressive community, a unique world without limits!”
As Mrs Ng dusts herself off, Mr Chan turns to us. “I don’t want a world without limits.” Back to the Mid-Levels.