Pushing Baskets

Hong Kong Streets

We were walking on a busy Hong Kong street. The road was narrow. Cars were zipping past. People were jostling by, lots of them. At the crosswalk, people were waiting, restrained by the glowing red character, which, although I didn’t know the precise meaning, clearly meant, ‘don’t walk’. The light changed. GREEN. GO. The gates opened. The dam broke. The race began. People rushed across the busy street as if their lives depended on it. As if, to finish last in this race would embarrass their team, let down their nation, disappoint their parents, end their lives. Literally.

The clock was ticking. Seconds remained.

I stepped into the street. A hand seized my arm, held my shoulder.

“WAIT.” My friend, a Hong Kong native, pulled me back onto the sidewalk. “Not enough time,” he said.

We could make it, I thought.

Voooommm. A Black BMW M6 roared past, inches from where my toes had just been.

“THERE’S STILL TIME ON THE CLOCK,” I shouted, thinking that made a difference.

“In Hong Kong, the cars do not stop,” my friend said.  “You must pay attention.”

We turned down a narrow side street. Cars were not allowed. People bustled, shoulder to shoulder, grocery sack to grocery sack, carving out space amidst the shops, the pungent smells, the noise. The crowd was moving, faster in the middle, slower on the sides where the shouts were loudest.

Dried fish. Wet fish. Hanging meat. Cloth. Shoes. T-shirts. DVDs. Electronics. Hand bags–with designer labels–REALLY.

My friend held my camera so I could shop. I selected a present for my wife. My friend did the negotiating–back and forth.  The shopkeeper spoke in loud, harsh tones. He seemed to be angry. Then, he smiled and bowed. They exchanged money–my money–and I was given a beautiful silk scarf. I had no idea how much it cost. Walking away, I checked my currency conversion ap.

“Great deal, ” I said, stepping off the curb. “My wife will love it.”

My friend grabbed my arm and pulled me back onto the sidewalk.  A car zipped past as I looked up from my iPhone.

“Here,” he said, handing me back my camera. “you should take more pictures.”

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