Tempo of the City
Early in my attachment to Yaumati, Chinese New Year came around. This was my first experience with this festival. Crime dropped to zero. An arrest over Chinese New Year meant terrible luck for the whole year. Most of my unit disappeared on leave, leaving a skeleton crew and me.
We maintained the least of coverage. The night shift was weird. With little traffic on Nathan Road, and only a few pedestrians strolling about. It was akin to a disaster movie, with all the people gone and a few survivors wandering around.
I loved patrolling at night. Cutting through the alleyways, climbing onto rooftops; observing, watching, catching the pulse of the place. In the vicinity of Kings Park, a small wooded area, the odd car sheltering in the darkness under a tree.
Away from street lights, windows all steamed up and rocking on its springs. It could be ignored, or for a laugh a quick knock on the bonnet caused coitus-interruptus.
After midnight, the public toilets on Public Square Street needed a quick visit. Home to a particular section of our gay community, some of the boys overstepped the mark. Hanging about hoping for some action, they'd give unwelcome attention to unsuspecting men.
Chaps needing a pee would respond by beating up the boys, or the boys gave as much back. Ganging up on some half-drunk punter they'd give him a good kicking. This was all far removed from the high-living gays portrayed by Hollywood. These guys are having sex in a public toilet, stinking of piss, with used condoms thrown on the floor.
We needed all our tact and humour to get them out of the toilet block. Going hands-on and physical was the last option. Believe me, there is nothing worse than rolling around on a piss-stained toilet floor. Trying to restrain some hyperventilating man, dodging used condoms is no fun.
I soon recognised there is a definite rhythm to the day in Yaumati. Early morning its street cleaners, a hive of activity as the fruit market opens. Then the drug addicts are out looking for their first score of the day.
The old folks are in the park exercising, yelling at each other with a radio glued to their ears. A few sit in meditation, admiring their caged birds.
The restaurants are opening for the morning crowd. While the die-hard party people are trying to recover. Coffee and some food are needed. The road traffic is light. Then gradually, the tempo picks up as the school kids start to appear, all sullen and tired.
McDonald's is now open, doing a brisk trade in fat kids and office girls. The roar of the traffic is now gathering pace.
Commuters pour into crowded MTRS stations. The shops are opening, and the restaurants are full, as the pavements fill with shoppers. Delivery boys rush back and forward, weaving through the masses. Lost tourists stand gawking at maps. They clutch their bags in fear of pickpockets.
It's mid-morning. Things are now at full pelt. The air is thick with diesel fumes as a crack of thunder heralds the sheets of rain that fly in from the west. Rain is cutting through the humid, dank air.
The accompanying wind whips up the litter, scattering it skyward. People clustered in doorways. Umbrellas duel for space as little old ladies trot pass with plastic bags on their heads. Then, it’s over. The rain is gone.
The heat is back as the afternoon passes to evening. Couples meet at the MTR entrances. The bars are opening, the nightclub signs burst into colour along Jordan Road. Temple Street is alive with strolling shoppers, meandering old folks.
Pimps and triads types shepherd clients up the narrow staircases to brothels. Meanwhile, the kids finish their homework in the cool of McDonald's as 11 pm drunks are staggering home. It’s now late, as the MTR gates are closing the late-comers sprint for the trip home. The hookers are eating in the street cafes, with bored pimps, ever watchful and alert.
And then it's quiet. Now only the hum of air-conditioning is drowning the noise of a domestic fight that tumbles to the pavement. A lone dog searches for scraps, as the street-washing truck sprays the road.