See how it runs

“Many customers frantically queued up out of curiosity,” the South China Morning Post reports from Guangzhou, where people were panic-buying salt in the belief it would protect them from the giant spume of deadly radiation that isn’t floating their way from Japan’s damaged nuclear power station. You have to admire the spirit of someone who does anything frantically out of curiosity; a kitten wildly transfixed by a bouncing ball of wool might come close, or maybe Sir Isaac Newton running trouser-less to his study in the morning in his inquisitive haste to poke things into his eyes and sort out how light works.

You also have to take your hat off to people who can contrive a way, at very short notice, to produce fake salt. Did they grind up refined sugar to make suitably smaller granules, or were prices so high that it paid to decant MSG into empty salt packs?

This run on the only non-organic substance we eat spread to Hong Kong. The picture in the Standard from Fanling suggests that Mainlanders were at the fore here, and if they were buying it by the sack they must have been planning to re-sell it across the border. In other words, these were the same small-time arbitrageurs who in what we might boldly call normal times would be carrying off the Big Lychee’s supply of babies’ milk formula.

Their condiment-buying zeal would have encouraged local passers-by to join in, as the old kiasu refugee mentality kicked in, as in the days of McDonalds limited-edition Snoopy dolls. Then all that remained was for the wreaker of panic that is our government to announce ‘salt mania unnecessary’ and all bets were off. Health Secretary York Chow and his sidekick Gabriel Leung are, to a far greater extent than most of our senior officials, noticeably capable of making sense when they speak*, but our leaders are held in the lowest esteem these days, and it would be instinctive even for molecular biologists, nuclear physicists, lateral thinkers and Mensa members to rush out and grab as much sodium chloride as they could lay their hands on. If only frantically out of curiosity.

* To quote York Chow: “Three-quarters of the Earth’s surface is made up of seawater.” When was the last time anyone can recall Sir Bow-Tie, Financial Secretary John Tsang, or any of the rest saying anything so irrefutable and intellectually robust?

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19 Responses to See how it runs

  1. Darwin Says says:

    I’m all for the salt mania, when the herd starts consuming NaCl by the pound we will be able to see natural selection in action… Always a good thing.

  2. Tiu Fu Fong says:

    2.5kgs for one day’s dose of iodine. Maybe the colon cleasing quacks can get in on this racket with offers of saline suppositories.

  3. Maugrim says:

    Kiasu meets See Lai, a combination that becomes wearisome after a while in HK. I hate to think how we in HK would cope and behave if similar catastrophe occurred here.

  4. Smedley Tangbottom III says:

    Most HKers lead pretty dull lives, and it is two and a bit weeks until the next public holiday (Ching Ming Festival, 5 April) when families can reunite for a good old trough. The Great Salt Rush will pep things up until then. For me, the only downside is not having shares in Cerebos’s parent company, Rank Hovis McDougall.

  5. Injunear says:

    I witnessed first hand yestreday old ladies taking milk powder to Shenzhen on the train and a HK Wellcome store bereft of salt (athough one small pot of garlic salt was still left – obviously too much garlic and not enough iodine).
    How about using this mania to our advantage by starting a rumour that dogs, Toyota Alphards and skin whitening products attract radioactive fallout? Any other ideas for using certain individuals stupidity to good effect?

  6. Big Al says:

    This situation is obviously one of the hallmarks of a World City. I’m sure residents of London and New York are also panic buying salt, although can’t say I’ve seen that particular news item … What next for Hong Kongers? A rush on Hello Kitty (and Desparate Daniel) before Radioactive Hello Kitty appears with two heads? Asia’s World City? Asia’s World Village, more like. Bloody peasants!

  7. Mike Hunt says:

    Back to Sheffield then, Big Al.

  8. Maugrim says:

    Injunear,
    1. having a car with a HK/Mainland number plate and/or a ‘baby on board’ sticker attached to the back window.
    2. hoarding toilet paper, tissues etc
    3. driving slowly in the outer lane (worse if you drive a Mercedes, worse still if you are an older lady)
    4. pushing into a lift before the occupants have left it
    5. possessing any Sanrio or Disney soft toy, especially Pingu.

  9. expat says:

    Rude, ignorant, superstitious, credulous, boorish – now we can add ‘hypertensive’ to the list.

  10. gongtaulo says:

    Bland and tastless remarks from expat

  11. Sir Crispin says:

    Who knew salt would be such an effective agent to thin the herd. Expat may have made tasteless remarks, but sometimes the truth hurts.

  12. Mike Hunt says:

    New York, world city; when there is (yet another) major blackout, the whole neighborhood gets looted.

    London, world city: homo’s get knifed in the street for no reason at all, and nobody bats an eye, because, you know, they are just homo’s.

    Hong Kong: 30 years in HK and never experienced a blackout. And there are no homo’s in HK.

  13. Bun Bun says:

    But unfortunately there are still illiterates who spell ‘homos’ with the grocer’s apostrophe

  14. Benton D Struckcheon says:

    Why is the masthead so faint? Is this place going to fade away? Is the motto being taken a bit too seriously?
    Just wondering…

  15. brier says:

    Yeah, but is the salt even supplemented with potassium iodine? Wouldn’t that be funny.

  16. Sir Crispin says:

    If there are no homosexuals in HK, who is that guy prancing around my gym like Richard Simmon’s stunt double?

  17. dan day says:

    That is Steve Vines

  18. Probably the Injunear says:

    And if there is still a salt shortage I can always personally offer a imited supply of a salty white fluid – but only to the right types of course!

  19. Injunear says:

    If there is still a shortage of salt, I can always personally offer to donate a limited amount of salty white fluid – to the right person of course!

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