Update from Hemlock

The mood on the Mid-Levels Escalator this morning is one of unbounded optimism, after Chief Executive CY Leung pledges at a Foreign Correspondents Club talk to deliver cheaper housing, bigger homes and clean air – the latter within a year. In his second term, he will arrange for us all to have eternal life.

There comes a point, however, where promises get too ambitious, and skepticism is called for. Gliding towards Central alongside me, Mr Chan the regional distribution manager has spotted it.

“The environment people are proposing to go ahead and charge Hong Kong families roughly HK$40 a month to dispose of household waste in compulsory, pre-paid, plastic bags,” he reads out from the paper. “It won’t work.”

Mrs Lee the private banker begs to differ. “The bags are a lovely Hello Kitty pink,” she gushes. “They will look beautiful piled up on the streets waiting for the truck to come.”

Mr Chan corrects her. “People here will use them, but what about other neighbourhoods?” He nods in the direction of Kowloon. “Old people there stand in a line for hours for a free sample, and the young will go a mile out of their way to save one dollar on a lunchbox.”

I tell them I’m with Mr Chan. Compulsive penny-pinchers will spare no effort in hiding their garbage in dark corners of Wellcome – or maybe using counterfeit pink bags – to save their HK$40 a month.

“It’s almost pathological,” I add, which reminds me of exciting news.

“I’m very proud – and I think all of Hong Kong should be proud – that I’ve managed to convince the American Psychiatric Association to put a famous local disease into the next edition of its famous diagnostic manual, DSM-5.” My two fellow commuters listen with interest. “Yes – they’re finally going to include Irritable Gwailo Syndrome. For some reason, the bores have seen fit to rename it Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder. But it’s the same thing: severe recurrent temper tantrums.”

I go on to explain that ideally the Association would recognize another mental health problem that afflicts certain Westerners in Hong Kong, namely Taxi Rip-off Panic Paranoia. Closely linked to formication, the feeling that ants are crawling beneath the skin, it happens when said innocent abroad becomes overwhelmed with the illusion that a commercial service provider – such as a cab driver – is somehow cheating him, usually over trifling sums of money. When an attack happens, it often triggers IGS/DMDD.

“Sadly,” I inform my companions, “the American psychiatrists say they won’t include it in their manual because it’s not treatable.”

As with the Kowloon poor stuffing illicit bags of trash after dark behind trees and beneath parked vehicles, irate and confused expats will be freaking out over perceived fraud long after 2,000-square-foot ‘CY Homes’ are available for HK$1,000 a month, and the nitrous oxide and suspended particulates are history.

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12 Responses to Update from Hemlock

  1. Failed Alchemist says:

    I had to read the third last paragraph over – it must be my double vision. I read “formication” as fornication. But its just as effective, fornicating with our minds. For CY & gang, better let this pink bag go like the rest of useless D Duck’s suggestive overtures to lure the innocent in.

    People quote Taiwan as a good example of recycling but nobody talks about their purist efforts. Yes, those guys are Puritans when it comes to recycling. In HK, what happens to the tons of bottles since Tang the wine sommelier or rather wine waiter who graciously removed taxes on this. LKF, WC, TST seems a mess after each night of binge drinking let alone house holds.

    Should we also start on renovations each time a new owner buys a 2nd hand home? Construction waste? The new incinerators mooted by platinum mileage collector Edward Yau and quickly supported by Mr. Heung Yee Kuk Jr using several shell companies for it final resting place is a joke.

    The approach must be at all levels of the chain and comprehensive. Listen folks we are only 7 million people unlike Taiwan and we need to discuss about penny pinchers taking a dump under the guise of night!! No short cuts, cut & paste stuff or vested interest please!!

  2. Lois Beluga says:

    There will be rolls of counterfeit plastic bags available in multipack from hawkers in Mong Kok for sure. Hong Kong people prefer to save a dollar rather than save themselves. Such a scheme only works in places like Switzerland, where every citizen is a policeman, or in Singapore, where they are too terrified to cheat.

    Paranoia is averted by assuming you will be ripped off, a reasonable supposition when in Hong Kong. The favourite taxi driver trick at present is to drive another fifty or so yards when they have been told to stop and then slam on the brakes when the meter ticks over another notch.. A dollar fifty here, a dollar fifty there, and so precious because it has been gotten by cheap petty deception.

    Not nausea, just observation. It’s the taxi drivers who have the sick disgust with life and no self-esteem. I just sit back, refuse to pay the extra and laugh.

  3. Vile says:

    So, not so much plans as wishful thinking, then. More input from the community? More public “consultations”! How, exactly, is SuperCY planning to clean up the air? In the same way he has stopped mainland mothers giving birth in Hong Kong hospitals, one would hazard to guess.

    On the subject of pink rubbish bags, one would hope that developers will also be required use these to dispose of the perfectly good buildings they knock down in order to build one four times as tall? LCSD will, of course, find them very handy for bagging and dumping all those tonnes of fallen leaves they rake out of flower beds and shrubberies.

  4. Stephen says:

    What is it with me and Taxi’s? I seem to live in a different place to many. Yes you get the occasional jerk but by and large the Taxi’s here are fine and considerably cheaper than a lot of other countries. I don’t need a bright and breezy chatty cabbie and Rolls Royce chauffeured comfort just a half decent Toyota Crown and get me safely from A to B by the quickest route. They do …

    A weekend thought – is it me or are there an awful lot of Frenchies in the Big Lychee at the moment?

  5. Hendrick says:

    Always puzzled by the foot stamping tantrums of many local females. The perfect imitation of any grossly spoiled 4 year old. What factors trigger the disconnection of anger and foot stamping in rational people ?
    It ought to be nurtured as the Chinese version of the Haka. More glory for the Motherland’s Olympic queens.

  6. Maugrim says:

    Even sadder than the eventual reproduction of anything that will save a dollar is an expat refusing to pay a cabbie an extra 50 cents . An irony that seems entirely misplaced .

  7. Big Al says:

    @Lois
    When Taipei first introduced the pay-per-bag waste collection, exactly this happened. Within days, the fake bags were available for a few cents to thwart the waste reduction drive. It will happen here without doubt. The only way round this would be for real bags to have a detatchable barcode, or something similar, to be used in an official weekly “lucky draw” for some Hello Kitty crap or someting equally purile. Nothing will keep Honkies on track more than a chance to get something for nothing. Fake bags won’t provide this opportunity. Thus, problem solved. What’s next?

  8. arm bears says:

    We Honkers breathe air rich in Toyota Alphard-generated nitrogen dioxide, not nitrous oxide. The latter is laughing gas; the former is unfunny.

  9. Spud says:

    HK is a professional recycling hub, you will find people here recycle anything and everything. Copper from cables, old light fittings, chairs, tables etc…great, or is it? Actually what people are doing is smashing to pieces perfectly good items just to break it up into the various parts so they can separate the plastic from the metal.

    Last week I saw a man outside my office demolish 2 seemingly good grand pianos just to get a few metal screws and parts from within. Admittedly he was heroically saving us from some little emperor badly banging out “The Entertainer” at all hours of the day and night, but there must have been someone who could have used that piano. I also saw a job-lot of heavy machinery from a government technical college being smashed to bits as well, all of it was very lightly used and top notch brands from germany and the uk. No doubt somebody made a good packet on supplying the technical college a few years ago through the supplies dept. “tender process”.

    Plastic bag levy??? What a joke. How many 1000’s of plastic bags do you think go into Watsons plastic bottle? Now who owns Watson’s….

  10. Vile says:

    Plastic bag levies were discredited decades ago. The main reason plastic bags end up in landfill is because they are re-used as rubbish bags. The only result of replacing plastic carrier bags with reusable bags is that people now buy rubbish bags-on-a-roll. And they probably contain more plastic.

  11. PropertyDeveloper says:

    And the plastic sheets designed to conceal whatever dubious construction activities are going on behind: the old ones lasted indefinitely but the new ones are biodegradable and break into a myriad pieces after a few weeks in the sun, meaning you get through ten times as many.

  12. Chimp says:

    Paying for plastic bags is intended to divert attention away from the actual pollution problem (air quality) and at the same time prove that “we’re doing something”.

    That goes for the new “hybrid taxis”, too.

    In both cases, the measures are ostensibly positive, but in fact address extremely minor problems.

    The genuine polluters (the two power companies and public bus operators) are too big and influential to be touched. There are also plenty of civil servants looking out for post retirement sinecures and who therefore will not challenge their future employers.

    The green lobby is either dreadfully naive, or complicit, or both.

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