Friday, March 6, 2015

The Ghost on the Bus

HK Livin’

Overcast looms for a third straight day accompanied by a drizzle of rain.  The humidity is enough to make you feel like you’re on a hike, huffing in mouthfuls of air.  People stand in their customary places single file lurching forward with blank expressions, doing so in routine not even taking in their surroundings anymore.  Occasionally someone will glance behind them down the ever-busy street, hoping with the slightest chance they’ll see their deliverer yet again.  There are those who have shoved their face into glowing rectangular stones but that same blank expression still occupies their face.  It’s yet another day awaiting street side in Hong Kong for a bus to take them on their way.

        Ghosts exist, they move as freely as the dominant people of Hong Kong although but a fraction in number.  It’s quite possible to go days without ever seeing one in person.  They’re not as portrayed in those vial horror films or even a grotesque scary story, no they go about their existence much the same as anyone else.  Having said this it’s not uncommon to see them sitting alone on a bus, with but one empty seat remaining and yet no taker.  That is the solitude a ghost in Hong Kong faces on a daily basis, the struggle to blend in is never ending and most likely not plausible.  The locals call these ghosts, who have not always been a part of life in Hong Kong but have been accepted despite past digressions, gweilo.  It can mean a few different words in the English language but in this passage ghost will serve.

        There is a ghost that frequents a particular bus stop in Choi Hung but the fact is, even being a familiar figure to those around him remains spooky enough to not share a two-space seat.  Chances are the four single seats get occupied first upon people cramming into the sardine can on wheels, unless the ghost is one of the first four to six passengers squeezing in he’ll be delegated elsewhere.  Many times has he watched the ensuing people step into view on the narrow aisle way only to avoid the space open to his left.  There have been bus rides where he gains the entire seat to himself even with others waiting in line outside.  He doesn’t complain of extra space but the wonder of why someone would rather wait for the next bus is puzzling.  It’s not that he is saddened by lack of want to have someone so readily sit next to him but rather curious as to why it is the way it is.  The fear does not show on the faces or actions of the people but is there something hidden within them that cowers at his mere presence.  Perhaps there is a dreadful feeling that death comes to those who spend too much time in close quarters with a gweilo.  

        In the reverse spectrum, that is to say when he is filing in last onto the bus that he must choose where to sit, he often notices the despair on the faces of those who have an open space next to them.  The way they tightly grasp the safety handle on the sit directly in front of them, the fidgety way they play with a purse strap or pull out their seeing stone tablet and quickly slide a finger this way and that.  It’s also been seen that one will turn away to look out the window at the falling rain, passing traffic or nothing in particular at all but just to not look into the ghost’s eyes by miss glance.  When he does sit its common that the person will try to force their way over although plenty of room remains between them.  Does the spectral force of the ghost do things he knows not to the living?  It’s an interesting study to be sure.

        A few occurrences that warrant a couple words are the chance cases when the final two seats together house ghosts.  As the ghost steps into the bus and sees the other ghost there is no hesitation, true it’s the only place to sit but fellow ghosts seem to have similar acceptance of one another as the other people do to one another.  The other is in regard to how well a ghost can see or possibly its overall awareness when compared to local populace.  A ghost frantically hop’s into the bus dings a card that transfers money to the preservation of octopi* everywhere, and quickly steps halfway down the aisle, spins and discovers there are no remaining seats.  Flabbergasted the ghost disappears out the door ignoring the chatter from the driver.  It is either lack of vision caused by the paleness of their body or an act of charity, donating 3.4 HKD for a ride not to be taken, as before it is a study worth undertaking.

        In conclusion, as a ghost among you, rattle the cage and make the choice to look for a gweilo to share a two-seater with.  It’s true their hair isn’t as consistent a color as everyone else.  They’re often too tall which causes unnecessary ‘mind your head’ signs to be posted and they’ll never be in the same class of ping-pong as the locals but they’re mostly harmless.
*Octopus card is a multipurpose card used to speed up transactions of several purposes throughout Hong Kong, including the bus as read here