No, there is no Welcome To Hong Kong letter from Chief Executive John Lee awaiting me, but there IS a Big Book Of Rules at the room in the mandatory quarantine hotel that will be my home away from home for the next week and which gives Bill’s Big Book a run for its money.
Reading this book of rules and trying to absorb everything- “It’s advised not to drink too much alcohol”-gives you a migraine. You feel dazed and confused- not like a Led Zeppelin track, but still extremely heavy. There’s absolutely no room to manoeuvre. You’re stuck in limbo like a Jimmy Cliff song with only your thoughts for company. It’s scary and you forget that you’re a Hong Kong Belonger and taxpayer who’s tested negative to Covid-19 at the airport circus a few minutes earlier. In this new hell hole that’s the unknown Penta, and the only quarantine hotel available at the dates needed, there’s more self-testing every day. There are also guest visits from health office inspectors for more testing, and the thought that you might suddenly have a fever and be taken away to some outlying island. This has not only created a paranoiac and chronic society of alarmists in Hong Kong, but several people I thought I knew have lost all sense of humour. They’re angry, they’re twitchy, they’ve been “leaving” Hong Kong for the last few years, but they’re still here, because they’re now in their golden years and have no options. Hong Kong Hypocrisy is alive and well.
*There’s complete fear when walking alone-Front Desk are not allowed to accompany you in the elevator which is locked off to everyone except guests being forced into quarantine- down the dark corridor to the 28th floor and what will be your quarantine hotel room for the next week... It’s spookily eerie and not unlike a scene from “The Shining”.
*There’s 24/7 fear that you’ve done something wrong somewhere and that you will be punished by the government! This is immediately made clear when someone from Front Office mentions how I MUST NOT LEAVE my room as there are closed circuit televisions on every floor watching everything.
What happens if there’s an emergency? Who the hell came up with this madness?
*There’s IMMEDIATE panic when finding out that there’s no charger for your mobile phone in the room of your quarantine hotel. You freak out at the thought of being immobile for a week! Personal Assistant drops off the type of charger needed. My mobile phone becomes my only friend for a week. * There’s joy when given a remote control for the television set in your quarantine hotel that actually works!
*Bitter disappointment when finding that you can only receive mainly baaaaaad news channels that can do your head in. * There’s a new appreciation for BBC Earth.
*You’re not allowed to open a window. With the curtains drawn all the time, my room only has one window. This means NO fresh air for seven days.
Is this healthy? Is this safe? Isn’t being cooped up in a tiny room with no fresh air and an air con turned on high everything your parents told you not to do? Who’s in government is going to pay if you were to get ill?
* Dreams and reality mesh into one and you understand why so many flip out and goes through that Silent Scream. * Why am I being treated like a criminal?
*You meditate without even knowing you’re meditating, which is maybe how it’s supposed to be done. But while sitting on the can?
*Friends who have never quarantined in a Hong Kong hotel tell you that you’ll be out in “no time”. You decide to lose many of these stupid “friends” very quickly. Little wonder why many of us have far more time for animals than dem human beanz.
* I while away more time than necessary on Facebook seeing shameless self promotion- who ARE these people so many fawn over?-jealousy, competition and being what they’re not while there are those who fall for click bait, and others being drawn to wealth and keep pressing the Like button.
*24 hours seem like 72 hours with breakfast, lunch and dinner mysteriously placed daily outside your door by someone you never see. I never have any of these meals after my first meal when I chipped my tooth biting into a pork chop. Friends- the real ones- bother to send meals to the hotel and which are quietly brought up and left outside my door. Others go MIA.
That’s ok. It separates the wheat from the chaff. It feels good to press the Delete button.
*You have now watched the BBC Earth documentary on Iceland six times in two days.
* There’s no need to shave or shower because, well, what the hell for when no one is allowed to see you? *You look forward to those quickie visits by two bubbly full metal jacketed female health inspectors who visit every other day for more testing. They stand outside your door and you sit just inside the door with your mask on, your identity card in hand and with a box of tissues at your side. Yes, tissues. It’s depressing when one of these girls doesn’t show up and a gruff male officer turns up instead.
The night before I check out, I receive a call from someone at the hotel asking if there was anything they could do to make my stay more comfortable.
My sense of wry humour is lost on them.
* FREE AT LAST? Hmmmmm.
Set to check out between midnight and 12.30am on Sunday and already been told two days earlier about this timing and to have all my papers ready.
BUT, when double-checking on Saturday morning on how it all works, I am casually told by a girl in front office that my Checkout time is now 1am as “too many people are checking out between 12-12.30am”.
After dropping a few bombs, I am told that someone will come to my room at 12.30 to escort me out.
Have I turned into a prisoner of war?
All going well, there’s reflexology at home at 9am on Sunday morning and then rushed to get the third mandatory vaccination the next day so I can enter restaurants in Hong Kong.
This then is Hong Kong today. Things can only get better after all this that can be traced back to the mismatch of a city under the weakness of the suddenly invisible hapless housewife.
THE DESOLATION ROW THAT IS HONG KONG
Things are pretty messed up in an ugly way
There’s an invisible fear everywhere
Longtime friends have lost all sense of humour
Am guessing that their cupboards are bare
Empty vessels make the most noise
In especially that game of life
Dodging those emotional bullets
While the smallest things cut like a knife
There must be some way outta here
Those are words that he once wrote
He was on Desolation Row and Ninth Street
Just Like Tom Thumb Blues and more
Don’t ever lose your sense of humour
Silence all negativity and anger
Stay away from all that darkness
And keep well away from life’s wankers
They’re everywhere and nowhere
Of course they’ve always been around
Self righteousness is now more visible
It’s more Facebook schtick to be found
Some of them live amongst us
And take on different kinds of shapes
Everybody seems to be wanting something
Especially those past their Use By dates
This place has gone crazy, he said
Maybe it’s always been kinda nuts
But now it’s mixed up with fruit flies
Shaken up with no Ifs nor Buts
I need to get to The Far Side
Where there are aliens and freaks
This is where weird humour lives
It’s on the new sunny side of the street
Copyright © Hans Ebert August 6, 2022