Latter half of the day wasn´t as interesting as the first half. After writing about the market walk I laid down, and the next thing I knew it was four hours later. Wrestled with going out at 9pm on a Friday, but didn´t want to be a wastrel two nights running, so off I went, down Nathan Road, into the belly of the beast.
And a beast it was... foot traffic, I mean. I usually have 360-degree awareness when out in public, and while I accept that most people don´t, it´ś still hard to understand how they manage to survive. I did see lots of people bounce off others tonight and just keep going, not even looking up at who they bumped into. You can´t afford to do that in San Francisco, not with its large proportion of people who have spent time in penal institutions... such lack of respect could get you knifed. Still, if you´ve ever been baffled by foot traffic habits on Stockton Street, hanging out on Chinaś sidewalks can help get you inured to it. More on coping with blind foot traffic later.
Down Nathan, past St. Andrewś, left on Kimberly, then left again up the Knutsford Steps. It was a little more precious than I remembered... beer, sure, but bistro after bistro, like a rack full of identical polyester shirts in different colors. I chalked it up and kept walking, up Observatory Road, back down to Kimberly, around to Austin, crossing Nathan, into lower Jordan, looking for a place to get some food.
I´ve starved in Hong Kong before. That isn´t supposed to happen, but if you´ŕe a solo traveller it´ś a possibility. Many of the restaurants are set up with large tables for large groups. Most of the places which can accept singles tend to be fast-food joints. And the menu, in both the eating and the reading, is another qualifier.
Finally found a Yoshinoya -- a known quantity, with hackable menu. I tend to fall back on Japanese restaurants when under duress in China. The beef bowl hit the spot, even though it was a little sweeter than I remember elsewhere.
I grew up in New York, and so Cantonese food doesn´t bring up the most exciting memories. At its best it´ś supposed to be the best cuisine in China, but I guess I just haven´t witnessed it at its best. I´ve read that Vietnamese and Thai restaurants here have to adjust the menu downwards for the conservative Hong Kong palate, and even though thereś a district of Korean restaurants around the Observatory, I´m sort of skeptical on how far they go for the gusto. Dried fish are accepted, but Hunan cooking isn´t.
But anyway, I et. :)
Back to foot traffic. I´ve got a bunch of coping mechanisms. My goal is to always be polite, friendly, never confrontational, to arrange the situation so that everyone wins, everyone feels good. This works well, until someoneś observational negligence leaves me no outs, and I must assert. Even then, I want them to save face, but safety comes first.
A cane helps, because people will bump into other people, but they tend to avoid bumping into objects. (Perverse, and curmudgeonly, but experientially true.) The cane can move to reshape personal body space. But itś tricky, because the cane can be seen as threatening if pointed at someone, or particularly if raised -- thereś a whole vocabulary of movement which must not be used.
The tactic I use most frequently is to just hold the cane crosswise diagonally across the body, right hand holding the cane at normal hip position, tip just in front of the left shin. They can´t bump into me without hitting the cane first, and thatś usually enough to get them back towards the center of the sidewalk, stop forcing me off the road.
If someoneś´weaving across the sidewalk then a simple CharlieChaplin-style twirl in the hand is enough to break the trance, but only from at least a dozen feet away -- too close, and the sleepy can startle in fear.
I´m usually either curbside or storeside on the sidewalk. The majority of people seem to like to walk right down the physical middle of the sidewalk. If someoneś´coming up behind, at passing speed, and doesnt´show awareness of safe passing distance, then one strange move I´ve used lately is a transfer from right hand to left in front of my body, then a transfer from left to right behind my body -- the cane just circles around. Makes no sense, but it establishes my personal space on both sides. At worst, they think I´m weird.
But when I can, I just step aside and let them pass, with a gracious wave and a smile, and no prolonged eye contact. Sometimes young males will look back and stare, but they´ĺl find their fight with someone else, I don´t need to indulge their drama.
But tonight -- tonight called for drastic measures. The group of five spread parallel across the sidewalkś´width, intergroup spacing more important than extragroup spacing. Or the wall of parallel pedestrians coming across a light. Usually Iĺl find some wide unobservant couple and draft behind them, use them as icebreakers on the oncoming phalanx. But tonight I actually had to hold the cane in both hands, parallel to the ground, as a suggestion that the laws of physics might not actually allow them to walk through me. A few other times I had to resort to ¨the blind manś wobble¨, holding out my left hand gropingly, squinting my eyes, and using the cane to feel ahead for obstacles. People usually react to that before they stop to think that I´m not actually blind. Sad, but somehow the species has survived.
I´m pretty good at snatching the cane out from people about to walk into it, but still I had three people succeed in kicking it today. Oh well.
One other big tactic I use is to sing. Sometimes the sound alone alerts the unobservant that they might look around (although itś amazing how often even this doesn´t help), but the main use is in indicating emotional tone, nothing personal, just happy, having a good time, wish you were too. Todayś tunes included ¨Thunder and Lightning¨ (old circus tune, a march, you´d know it if you heard it), Luiz Gonzagaś ¨Baio¨, ¨Ẅinter Wonderland¨, and ¨The Cow Cow Boogie¨. I´ve usually got a tune going in my head; it only comes out my mouth when it´ś useful.
So I´ve confirmed that going out in the Friday night bar/dinner crowd is not the best thing for me to do. But I got a meal out of it, and stayed bemused through the thing, and didn´t arouse the ire of any young male packs with turf issues. How can that be anything but a win? :)