The local cafe
Low funds have prematurely ended my ‘torture’ at the Chinese Chiropractor’s. No better excuse to avoid having neck clicks, leg bends and being airborne on God of Health’s plump back. Most of all, no smelly herbal medicine packs plastered on my sore bits and being unceremoniously dispatched into the world mummified. An escapee from the British Museum.
The wise old lady at the cosmetics shop/beauty parlour, yes the one positioned permanently behind the till. advised me to eat out and cut out the middle man. No putting extra strain on my already decrepit body impersonating an ass. No sweating over a hot stove and best of all no dirty dishes! Wise indeed. I love her. First for saying I look only 38 and now this.
To be honest one yummy meal including nutritious soup, a beef and pepper hot pot and a bowl of rice is $60 (£5) in the local. It is better than eating alone with just the four walls for company. During Happy Hour from 2-6pm it’s $36 (£3) with less choice. In comparison a trip to Park and Shop International next door sets me back several hundred dollars which only lasts two to three days top. I wouldn’t be surprised if the former turned out more economical. The portions are large and the leftovers serve as lunch for tomorrow. Must have inherited these money saving genes from Mum, the champion of champions. She would save a piece of string in case it’d come in handy one day. Yes, she is an incorrigible hoarder.
But that isn’t what I really want to talk about. I can spend hours watching the staff at work in the local situated next to Tai Wo MTR (tube). Team work and morale are excellent here. The bell rings and food is collected from the side hatch and delivered to the table. Dirty dishes full in the large orange buckets, no problem, a pair of hands is seen pulling the rope attached to the kitchen. Plastic bags full of polystyrene boxes complete with disposable chopsticks and spoon miraculously delivered to the waiting hungry mouths. Everybody pulls their weight from the dishwasher to the boss.
Moreover they can up several gears to cope with the rush hour. If multi-tasking was included in the Olympics they would take home the Gold for HK! One lad was literally running to get the bowls of noodles and take away waiting on the back counter. Immediately without pausing for breath he was dodging tables to the hutch for dishes fresh from the kitchen. I was exhausted watching him suffeing flashbacks to my life as a stresed teacher trying to contain the tsunami of energy from the hyperactive kids under my care.
Whilst commitment to work is applaudable I worry about his mental health. I caught the manager in full flow who informed me that this is what is known as ‘motivation’! Is he challenging himself to beat the Guiness Book of Records for the shortest time of delivering a dish from kitchen to table? I’ll suggest next time. Roller skates or a skateboard may improve his peformance. Yet, he has a long way to go to catch up with the manager. He is a Master.
I became friendly with one of the waitresses after noticing her rubbing her arms every few minutes. She had strained them cleaning the ceiling to floor glass panes which require strength. Why not let the men do the heavy work. She responded with a wry smile. Ah, she is at the bottom of the food chain. I advise deep heat cream.
I put on my journalist hat and attempt to uncover her background. She is married with two sons. One in Form 4, a teenager living with them in Tai Shui Wai ( a ghetto for the poor) and the other aged 6 is being looked after by grandparents across the border. Why? So she could work full time. Her husband is a coolie. I am guessing there isn’t much left for pampering on her day off.
Does the teenager need English tuition? Yes but … What if I only charged you $50 an hour? A look of interest but still hesitation. At $12 to the sterling I am literally giving it away. No, she’d have to talk to her son first. When I found out where she lived I thought better of teaching him at home. It is a dodgy area with a concentration of desperate people and not somewhere I should venture alone without a black belt in karate or crash course in self-defence. I am not painting all the poor as potential criminals but a hungry stomach does funny things to you.
Could the son come to me as I don’t know my way round. Yes, that is possible. From a pragmatic point of view, I would have to take two buses and if I am not careful will end up with a deficit. Travelling from one end of the New Territories to the other would entail a round trip of 3 hours if the traffic allowed.
$50 wouldn’t even pay for my hot pot. Hell, I’ do it for free if she can’t afford even that. My motivation is to help narrow the gap between the rich and poor. This is a drop in the ocean but we have to start somewhere. The trouble is the wealthy can pour money and resources on their offspring to give them a headstart. The poor, on the other hand, will remain destitute, trapped in minimum wage dead end jobs. Certainly there are the likes of Alan Sugar back home and Li Ka Shing here, the rare success stories. This poor lady with her aching arms and exhausted feet represent the masses. Most local women look younger than their age; she is the exception to the rule. I put her at between late 30’s and 40. Bless her, she looks more like in her mid to late 40’s. It is the haggard look and the walk with the world on her shoulders which let her down. She’s constantly encouraging her lad to work hard at school as that is his only escape from the drudgery. Like all good parents she wants a better life for him.
You know, I look at her with her hard life and no realistic hope of better days and I think, that could have been me. If Dad hadn’t emigrated to London in ’68 we would never have ended up with Masters Degrees. I in education and my sister in Economics. No luxury of a whole floor to myself whilst a family of three squashes into a bedsit 10 metres away. I won’t ever whinge that I have it bad.
Do you know the story of the man who complained he had no shoes until he met one with no feet?