CC Issue 28 / Comedy

Hold Tight! Stand Firm!

In a bout of supreme laziness, I have decided to re-publish a piece I wrote when I was a relative Hong Kong newbie in the heady days of 2006.  At the time, I was tickled by a special public awareness campaign about elevator safety (see picture).  I’m not sure how much things have changed since then.

Escalator safety is more than a public safety issue. It’s a way of life.

I received some fantastic advice today. This advice was not given to me by a friend, colleague, parent or mentor – it was given by a big old sign, which read, ‘Husband and wife should talk to each other and be understanding’. No argument here, but why is this kind of advice plastered on signs all over Honkers? The government (or whoever commissioned these pearls of wisdom) obviously don’t give the people here much credit, do they? I wonder how many alcoholic wife beaters have been on their way home, ready to down a bottle of JD and give the missus a knuckle sandwich, only to be stopped in their tracks by that particular sign.

“My God! What was I thinking? I’m going to go home now, make Bobo a cup of tea and ask her about her day.”

There are many other examples, which usually take the form of street signs and public service announcements.

– ‘To prevent Avian Flu, always wash your hands after eating meat’ (that’ll work)
– ‘Please take care of your personal belongings’
– ‘Never swim directly after eating’

and the Grand Daddy of them all….

‘Always hold the handrail while travelling on the escalator’.

Not sometimes… always! You have no idea about how seriously they take escalator safety in Hong Kong. There is a team of people called the ‘Escalator Safety Crew’ or something like that, who travel from station to station, dressed in yellow and armed with a megaphone, and yell in commuters’ ears about holding onto the handrail. As I see it, there are two major flaws with this (and a few minor ones too).

Flaw the first:
The picture they use to emphasise their point is of a person holding BOTH handrails. While this may be safe, it’s also slightly annoying for the dozens of people trying to get past.

Flaw II:
Come on. We’re clearly not 3 years old, and those of us who are shouldn’t be travelling on those bad boys without Mummy and Daddy. Plus, they can’t reach the handrail so through no fault of their own they’re flying in the face of public safety.

“We understand that some passengers may be in a hurry and choose to walk on escalators rather than standing still on one step. However, our advice to all passengers is to stand firm and hold the handrails to avoid hurting themselves in the event that they lose balance while walking on the escalators,” said Mr Wilfred Lau, Head of Operations of MTR Corporation.

Every time I see the Escalator Safety Crew (picture them in walking together in slow motion with rock music blaring in the background, credit sequence style) I am overwhelmed with the temptation to let go of the handrail, arms flailing and say, “Look at me, no hands!” Although if I tried that, chances are I’d take a tumble, knock 10 people over and get my fingers sucked under, causing one of the biggest escalator catastrophes Hong Kong has ever seen.

Copping an “I told you so” from the Escalator Safety Crew would be one of the most degrading and humiliating things that could ever happen, so for now I’m a good citizen who holds the handrail, looks straight ahead and waits to be told what to do next.

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