Motor City

To Macau, because it will be a bad place to be next weekend as they finalize the street-side seating and barriers for the Grand Prix, and it will be intolerable the weekend after when the full tediousness of the exciting car-racing event is in full swing.

It is not just the city-wide, wasp-like buzzing of the cars (which don’t even look like real race cars at all – just souped-up roadsters of the sort favoured by inadequate teenagers). Nor is it the inconvenience of crossing the Pearl River Estuary when all the ferries are packed out. It is the peculiar people who are drawn to the thing.

Zombies clad in nylon jackets and caps emblazoned in motor-related logos sit around, fingering oversized passes dangling from their necks and waiting for something to happen. Then, after what must be a half-hour wait, they get a brief flash of vehicles whizzing past, too fast and blurred to let them appreciate whatever it is they are supposed to be enjoying. (Maybe the effect is magnified by the usual slowness of anything moving along Macau’s roads during the rest of the year, but they do go at an incredible speed. Stroll by Star World on Avenida de Amizade when they test the track – next weekend, presumably – and it’s like a jet fighter getting from the ferry terminal to the Hotel Lisboa in 10 seconds.)

Even this weekend, automotive issues prove troubling in the picturesque former Portuguese enclave, thanks to the silver Mitsubishi Lancer (licence plate MJ 71-98) parked across the street of a normally quiet neighbourhood. You can’t tell by looking, but I happen to know that this car has an automatic alarm that starts off with a few seconds’ emergency-vehicle-style yelping, followed by a two-tone horn effect, followed by a repetitive and rapid, whining descending-siren sound, followed by what I can best describe as an electronic natterjack toad noise (as used by Hong Kong’s police vans when they drive through red lights). Over and over. After a period of time – equivalent, interestingly, to the amount of sleep the average human requires – the barrage is reduced to just the yelping, at three second intervals, perhaps as a battery-saving measure.

Could it be that no-one called the cops because they assumed someone else would? (Guilty.) Or that Macau law enforcement don’t care? Perhaps no-one cares. Even at 10.30 in the morning, 12 hours after the racket began, the intermittent yelping continued and people walked by oblivious, at least until a sinister Westerner started photographing the metal menace in detail, and checking the interior in hopes (dashed) of evidence of Hello Kitty or other infractions.

I thought that car alarm systems had become smarter over the years and the night-long blaring keeping everyone awake was now a thing of the past. But obviously not in Macau. Hence, presumably, the city’s tag of sleepy, as opposed to ordinary, backwater.

What is the purpose of such a detection system if it is triggered so easily whenever, say, a passerby gets too close?  What is the point if the vehicle’s owner doesn’t respond?  Obviously, I am looking at the picture the wrong way round. These devices’ raison d’etre is to make money for the manufacturers, who have identified a market among a certain type of cretinous, Neanderthal vehicle owner.

The good news for this particular one is that his car is secure – from me, at any rate – for the next couple of weekends. Looking forward, however, all I can say is that this is what a silver Mitsubishi Lancer can look like after it meets with a mishap…

Click to hear ‘Operation Coup de Poing’!

The irony is that people who buy these alarms think their car will be safer.

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2 Responses to Motor City

  1. Maugrim says:

    I’ve seen parts of the 3rd world with better kept buildings and alleyways than in Macau. Yuck, what a dingy, rat-infested place. The food is however good. I was in one reasonable resturant on the weekend, amazed at seeing a HK family enter and then leave, saying it was too expensive. They could have always had a ‘chu-pa bau’ for a few dollars I spose in a squalid alleyway. But then again, they would have won HK’s national sport, a morose pre-occupation with saving money when travelling.

  2. Dr. Lozenge says:

    “Morose” is a good word.

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