Tuesday, September 18th:

How low can you go?

Yesterday our gang went shopping in Kowloon on the famous Nathan Road. While the ladies were fawning over slippers and the guy who drank too much on the flight over here (oops!) was getting fitted for a custom-made suit, I stopped into a shop to check out prices on the latest mobile gadgetry. I had heard that bartering was a necessary component of any major purchase in Hong Kong, but I certainly didn’t expect my innocent queries to result in the tense round of negotiations that followed. It did. I wasn’t even sure if the phone I was bartering for would even work in Canada, so I stood steadfast in an unreasonably low offer, which, to my surprise, was eventually accepted. I barely escaped with my credit card balance intact.

I continued down a row of similar shops; every single one of them seemed to have the same phone in the window, enticing me to touch, to press, to call. When I finally gave in and made another price check, I was a goner… A victim of consumerism, Hong Kong style!

Buoyed by my newly-discovered skill at haggling, I spent the next half hour making cellular shopkeeps miserable. One of them visibly hung his head as I walked away from his final offer; I later found out that such displays were quite successful with Westerners, but had zero effect on indigenous folk. There was certainly some loyalty in my return to the site of what started all this, and I walked out shortly thereafter with a new phone and wireless headset — so much for keeping microwaves away from my head! After a night of tinkering I still can’t get the damn WAP browser to connect, and the Indonesian-only manual doesn’t offer much in the way of help. I nonetheless feel justified by my bartering expertise and the complete absence of sales tax.

The evening was spent incognito, watching alumni of the original version of WHOSE LINE do some make ’em ups at a local bar. For folks who portent to be so erudite, Brits sure do like their poo-poo tinkle jokes. I’ve done my share of bar improv and I know the drill: Give the people what they want. Still, I thought there might be at least a small nod to local culture, at the very least in a suggestion from the audience. But the poo-poo tinkle people have so far proven to be a close-minded, arrogant lot.

This morning Melody Johnson and I did a radio interview for RTHK. Apparently the DJ was too important to be in the same building as us; he was in Kowloon, we were on the island. During the interview he made the unfortunate choice of asking us about last week’s terrorist attacks, a deliberate test in my opinion, to see if we’d make complete asses of ourselves. Of course we didn’t.

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