As the Occupation phase of the Umbrella Movement winds to a dignified close – a credit, by the way, to both sets of players – I have been reflecting on how my own mood and the behaviour of other members of the public not directly involved swung back and forth over the last two and a half months.
During the first week – two of whose days were Public Holidays if you remember – it all seemed rather exciting. Like many other mid-levels residents I was forced to go home every night on the escalator as vehicular access in the evening was extremely time-consuming if not impossible. So MTR to Central, walk to Central Market and up we went.
The second week was a full working one, so the novelty was beginning to wear off a bit, but with Queensway still closed there was no option but to continue. And memories of the tear gas were still quite strong so the need to show solidarity with the students by suffering stoically in one's own middle class way overcame any feelings of irritation.
I noticed during the same two week period that most drivers, though all thoroughly inconvenienced by delay and enforced re-routing, were rather more cooperative than usual. They gracefully allowed other vehicles into their lane, and generally refrained from tooting their horn at the slightest provocation.
By the third week, I was beginning to get annoyed. True, Queensway had reopened and it was now possible to use Garden Road again. But the long tail back on Queensway itself meant the bus took an age to queue for the Pacific Place stop, and then to move on towards Garden Road itself. On the rare occasion I was able to get a taxi, the much longer travelling time meant at least an extra $10 on the meter. "It's time those damned kids pulled back. Don't they have an exit strategy?"
The broad mass of motorists had by now lost patience too. "Let you into my lane? You can go to hell!" Moving forward into the yellow box when the lights were about to change and you would block the other traffic – so what! Going through on red became all too common. Crossing double white lines, let alone the single solid one when it was on your side, became an everyday event.
'If the kids can misbehave, so can we' seemed to be the general attitude.
The TV news and the newspapers became a blur. Every day it was pretty much the same people saying pretty much the same thing over and over and over again. The phrase "bored out of one's skull" began to come to mind.
Well we all need to join hands to snap out of it. Once the police have had a week's rest I want to see them back out there issuing tickets: for running red lights, for blocking yellow boxes at intersections, for illegal parking and double and triple parking and – my special bugbear – refuse lorries that fail to cover the load properly and spew waste paper and goodness knows what else all along the highway. Lock 'em up and throw away the key!
Come on Hong Kong, let's get back to work.