Now it all makes sense…
Now it all makes sense…
That awkward moment at a coffee shop when someone is sitting right over the power plug and you need to reach under theirs legs to plug in or pull out your cord.
I was at Starbucks doing a bit of writing and internet cruising on my computer, while enjoying my overpriced cappuccino. I had my laptop connected to a nearby plug at ground level and had been comfortably hogging it for more than an hour as I, ever so slowly, sipped my tall size coffee.
I needed to ask her if I could sneak in underneath her legs to get my cord. Only problem was that the lady was right in the middle of a hot coffee date. And the guy who she sitting with had her full attention, enthusiastically chatting her up a storm.
I couldn’t understand more than a word or two of what he was saying, as he was talking fast and furious in Cantonese. I could only assume it was an amazing story though, just by the sheer excitement in how he was telling it, with body language to match.
Whatever story he was telling, I got the feeling he was determined to impress this lady and believe me, he was succeeding. She was completely enraptured by this story, whatever it might have been.
Meanwhile, I was sitting there, waiting for a stopping point of some kind to intercede, but there seemed to be no stopping this guy’s flow. He was firing off words like James Joyce on amphetamines. For those unfamiliar with the works of James Joyce, check out this clip from the classic film Back To School from 0:42 onward for a taste of what I mean.
Being that it would be kind of awkward to interrupt this couple during their moment, I decided to stall my plunge downward to retrieve my cord. I started slowly, but steadily packing up all my things. As I did, I was hoping that, by the time I had finished wrapping up my odds and ends and shoved them into my backpack, I would finally get my chance at making a congenial interruption, with as little awkwardness as possible. Unfortunately, I had no such luck…
I sat there with powercord half wrapped in my hands, looking over at them with this “hey, I don’t mean to interrupt” look on my face, patiently waiting for them to notice my eyes burning into their faces, but nope. They were in another world. A happier world. A world without being trapped from taking their powercord from underneath a pair of legs while the nonstop blossoming of true love was taking place above the table.
Eventually, my patience wore thin and I had to take action.
I tapped on the girl’s shoulder, while the dude was mid-sentence. Surprise registered on them both instantly as she turned to find this random westerner stealing away this girl’s attention. Immediately, I was like “hi, excuse me, sorry, but I need to, down there, my cord, the plug, really sorry about that, thanks!”
Realizing what I was asking, the lady moved her legs just enough in order for me squeeze down underneath her. And so I contorted my body downward to try to take this cord from under her legs as unsuspiciously as possible.
When I rose up, trimphantly, cord in hand, I saw the face of the guy. His facial expression was brief, but definitive. No doubt in my mind, this guy was saying to himself “hey, I was the one that was supposed to get in between her legs.”
So I just give him this look back like “geez guy, what you want from me?” I mean, let’s be real. I gotta do, what I gotta do.
I didn’t say another word. I finished packing up and rushed out like a thief in the night, leaving them to awkwardly continue their date. I could tell that I must have spoiled “the mood”, but I do hope he managed to get back on his game. I mean you had to give him credit. He must have had one hell of a story that he was telling.
Still, let this be a lesson to all coffee daters out there. If you want to make the best impression, before you start telling her the story of the century, or reciting heart melting poetry, be sure to take a second to make sure your girl isn’t sitting on some other guy’s cord first.
Something tells me that “biting your thumb” has a different meaning in Hong Kong culture than the west.
Throughout the MTR system, you’ll see this advertisement for Arnott’s Tim Tam candy bars, both in Chocolate and Cappuccino flavor. The ad is eye catching and pleasant enough to the eye, with lovely models and happy faces while trying out the Tim Tam bars. I have to admit, it put me right in the mood for chocolate.
However, the one thing that stood out the most, for me, in the ad was the model at the bottom biting her thumb. Naturally, I’d imagine she (and the director of the ad campaign) were trying to signal how finger licking good these chocolate bars might be. But I think they might have missed that “biting one’s thumb” also has a much different connotation.
Biting one’s thumb is considered an old British and Sicilian gesture to insult someone, much in the same way one would use the middle finger. Essentially, it’s a gesture to say “fuck you” to someone.
Jaime Kennedy in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet
On one online dictionary, I found this definition:
bite (one’s) thumb at
An archaic insult, often accompanied by the gesture of biting one’s thumb at the person being insulted. How dare you say that to me? I bite my thumb at you, sir!
Some might remember the use of “biting one’s thumb” in this scene from Superman III.
Superman turns bad and straightens the leaning Tower of Pisa. An Italian souvenir salesman, realizing his miniature leaning towers are no longer sellable, bites his thumb at Superman while yelling some Italian expletives.
Of course, the most famous instance of “biting one’s thumb” is in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Where Sampson, one of the Montegues bites his thumb to insult the Capulets.
Here is an excerpt from the thumb biting scene and do keep in mind that this gesture ends up causing a sword fight in the streets.
So when advertising candy bars, be careful of what gestures you use. Otherwise, you might just run a fowl of guys like this…
That awkward moment where I’m trying to squeeze my way off a crowded minibus, I reach for the back of a seat to steady myself, accidentally grab a Chinese Auntie’s head.
For your average westerner, there’s always that slight bit of nervousness that comes when it comes to riding a minibus in Hong Kong. The routes are less likely to be on main streets, you have to ask the driver to stop where you need, and there’s a whole list of ways you can and must use to get to your stop, and you have to say it in Cantonese.
On top of that, getting off the minibus at your stop often becomes a true test of quick thinking, agility, flexibility, and speed. When the minibus is full, stuff in people’s arms are overflowing into the aisles, the bus driver is itching to hustle down the street ASAP, and you’ve got the window seat in the last row, you need to duck, dive, twist and dash your way to the door and off the bus before the people outside start rushing on-board.
Naturally, this sometimes makes for awkward moments, like the other day. I struggled to get out of of my window seat, past the lady with bags on her lap that gave me like two inches to crawl past her. As I stumbled, I reached out to grab a handle or the back of the seat, but I missed judged my reach. Instead, I accidentally grabbed an older, local Hong Kong lady by the head.
It took a split second to realize that I had grabbed something hairy, instead of the shiny metal handle on the back of a seat, but that split second seemed like an eternity of horror. I let go immediately, ran out of the bus in complete embarrassment, and (while I already knew apologies would mean nothing, that lady was most definitely going to curse my whole family in Cantonese) I apologized profusely with a staccato and continuous string of “sorry sorry so sorry” the whole way up the aisle and out the bus.
I couldn’t help, but think that day that, even though completely by accident, I probably completely reinforced all that lady’s negative impression of westerners in Hong Kong. Maybe next time I’ll take a cab. 😉
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