At the brink of the busiest intersection in Central district, across Queen’s Road Central, a line of Hong Kongers face me. Every two seconds, the traffic light wails danger to any pedestrian tempted to slip through the narrowest of gaps in the torrent of cars. In the heart of the most mercurial part of the most mercurial city in East Asia, red lights cost us dearly. A sense of camaraderie develops implicitly among gatherers at these lonesome waters. About that time these now ‘dear friends’ around me get fidgety. A man in a suit taps his black leather shoes in harmony with the tick of his Rolex. Cell phones begin to light up as people seek outlets for their suspended attention. Every vehicle that flashes by creates a flickering effect. The picture is reminiscent of a sepia-toned cinema clip from antiquity.
The number of pedestrians at the other end proliferates, and gradually renders me miniscule. A thousand feet above, the Bank of China grimaces at our delay. Gucci, Armani, Coach—these well-established names cast on titanic signs, nudge each other cheekily as if amused at our stirred frustration. They never seem to tire witnessing this thirty-second drama hundreds of times a day.
My companions today seem particularly impatient. A bold pedestrian challenges the cars and deftly evades a double decker bus, a risky maneuver that earns him multiple honks of irritation and possibly seven seconds. Well deserved. Inspired, several try to follow, quickly leaping back as a van shrieks by. The heads of the crowd turn rightward in anticipation for the tide to stop.
A flock of teenagers breaks formation and strides across to the Promised Land. Another man chips in his ounce of chutzpah. And another. The crowd starts to dissipate. These remaining seconds are dilated to absolute limits.
The gatherers on the other side are galvanized to action with the approval of Green. I sense the crowd surge from behind. Liberation! The confluence of gatherers on both sides, like it was a still from Hollywood’s golden era.
See you tomorrow, Armani.