Sunday, November 13, 2011


One of the reasons that I like public transit is the opportunity to people-watch. You folks are fascinating!
If I were a space-alien temporarily posted to this planet to observe the local intelligent life, the bus would be the perfect place to collect data.

Prior to plundering earth’s precious resources of course, and hauling off the intelligent young females for breeding purposes.
Mars needs women!
Plus water and Icelandic bee-honey, among other things.
But mostly women.


The California Street bus is particularly good in that regard, as once past Van Ness it picks up a large number of Cantonese on the way to Chinatown. Totally unconsciously they demonstrate levels of conditioning quite unusual nowadays among white people.
There’s a drang to concede seniority and superiority, almost always matched by a strong tendency to acknowledge the gesture but refuse the favour. Sit, sit! And unless the elderly person is truly several years older than the person getting up to offer their seat, they will vehemently refuse.
No no, you sit, you sit – ney tzoh, ney tzoh!

Young women with children will either themselves rise – usually an unsuccessful attempt at manners, as the grey-haired ones will not hear of it unless truly needful – or tell their offspring to stand up. Which provides an object lesson and an example that will subconsciously influence the youngster, and inform his or her conduct throughout their life.

I doubt that many white people have any such conditioning anymore – quite often some perfectly healthy young adult will be too preoccupied with their cell-phone or scratching their testicles to even notice that some tiny old lady is trembling while desperately holding on. Just like they fail to understand that when there is a ton of room in the back of the bus, it might be a good idea to move there, so that the dozen or so folks waiting at the bus stop can also ride.


I know I seem a bit puritanical about this, but I really do think that yielding your place to a lady or an old person is the right thing to do. Same goes for holding doors open for others, and saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’.
It really isn’t that hard to be smooth to the people around you.
Pointing out an available seat to the auntie next to you made her life easier, and gave the rest of us a bit more space to stand.
The young fellow planted in front of the empty seat could’ve done the same, but he was far too busy with his i-pod to notice anything, so I can understand the oversight; electronic devices require one’s complete attention.

And it’s reassuring to know that he isn’t an outerspace alien observing us.
If his kind were interplanetary explorers, we’d be in real trouble.
They would NEVER understand that Mars needs women!
Instead, they’d steal our hip hop music.
And open up the Red Planet.
For Starbucks.

OKAY THEN, WE'RE HERE 到了, 大家落車嘅喎

Chinatown is also perfect for people-watching, especially at eating places. Precisely like young white adults with their cell-phones and other electrical toys, Cantonese people are totally pre-occupied when involved with food.
But with one crucial difference: they do not tune out the rest of the world. Instead they regard the passing throngs as a version of dinner theatre, keenly observing everything around them from behind a plate of something really tasty.

I arrived at the dim sum place when the ladies behind the counter where having their own lunch. Which was while the place was jumping, every table occupied. But that's not strange, as seeing other people cheerfully stuffing themselves stimulates the appetite - it's hard work!
Took my tray and sat down at a table where an elderly woman was savouring every silken spoonful of her 皮蛋瘦肉粥 (pei dan sau yiuk jook - century egg and pork curls rice porridge) with slow ecstasy. A friendly nod served as a bon appétit.

By the time I had finished munching, most tables were empty again, so I ordered some of the fresh steamed cilantro sheet noodle (yuen sai cheung fan 芫茜腸粉) which had just come out of the kitchen.
Oh happy opportunism! I got it first!

[Dim sum place: 金華點心快餐 Yummy Dim Sum & Fast Food, 930 Stockton Street, San Francisco, CA 94108.]

Strolled down Washington Street smoking an after-lunch pipe, past the young fellows from the kungfu school catching a ciggy out of sight of their sifu, past the ladies handing out menus for nearby restaurants on the corner of Grant Avenue. Caught the eye of a little girl whose mouth dropped open when she saw the pipe, as well as an elderly gentleman who stared in fascination at the object.
Totally understandable!
It's a handsome pipe, of very high quality - not at all surprising that they recognized that!

Calm and contemplative air-pollution. It's one of the joys of life.

Got to the office shortly before three. The day had started well.
Everyone should have something nice to eat on weekends, it makes the world fresh and bright again.
Don't you agree?


I should mention, by the way, that the San Sun Restaurant (三陽咖啡餐屋), which had to move because of the metro line that will be built along Stockton Street, has relocated to where Sun Wah Kue (新華僑餐廳) used to be on the corner of Ross Alley and Washington (between Stockton and Grant).

Many people fondly remember Sun Wah Kue, especially their delicious pies, and diner-style dishes with a Chinatown touch - oxtail cooked with star anise, fried chicken with the best coating ever - and were unhappy when it closed down years ago. It had been a place where generations of Chinatown folks had enjoyed the food.
They'll be pleased to know that the old location now has a bright sunny new tenant with a positive attitude.
It is clean and fresh and inviting, and I anticipate going there for lunch tomorrow.
I will let you know how it is.

[San Sun Restaurant: 848 Washington Street, San Francisco, CA 94108.]

Fine tobacco, nice people, yummy dimsum.
And tomorrow, noodles!

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