January 22nd – gambling my time away

A crisp, winter’s day in Cheung Sha Wan.

Earlier this month I had to go to the dentist – my teeth having made an unfortunate habit of falling out without warning – but was determined to find a new one. My previous dentist had been trying to push ultra-expensive, screwable, titanium teeth implants on me. The one before that had been disturbingly keen to perform an unscheduled and extremely hasty extraction.

I had a new clinic recommended to me up the road in Cheung Sha Wan, an area which I had never really explored before. So one Wednesday morning I had a wander around, took the picture above, and enjoyed the thought that you can live in a city for years and have whole, unexplored neighbourhoods almost on your doorstep. Best of all my new dentist was nice and young, happily filled the ruins of my tooth in, and made no mention of yanking any out.

But… Without wishing it to seem like I only turn to this space when urgently requiring an outlet from which to vent steam… I do have another Hong Kong-based gripe. As with the ‘incongruously loud music as an accompaniment to hiking’ theme of my last post, this latest bugbear isn’t something I’ve just noticed. More something that has niggled at me on a daily basis, like a child mimicking everything I say in a stupid voice, until last week I turned round and shouted: “Hey. No! Why?”

It’s this… When you go to an ATM in this city you are basically forced to gamble; to enter a game of roulette. To lump all your chips on one horse with no clue as to the form or the going.

In other, less silly words: you have to guess at and choose which ATM queue will see you served first. Every machine has its own queue and you must commit to one and only one the second you arrive. I’ve noticed that in places less manic than Hong Kong, no matter how many ATMs there may be, people form one queue and subscribe to a first come first served deal: the person first in line moves to the next free machine.

Here, however, you have to choose your queue and stick with it. And I think it’s a gambling thing. Hong Kong’s national sport is, after all, horse racing. It’s ingrained on people here. ATM-roulette brings a frisson of risk to people’s otherwise monotonously overworked days. And I could accept it on these terms, almost, if it weren’t for the fact that I never pick the right queue.

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