Saturday, December 24, 2011

Oh What A Night!

This blog has been rather noticeable for its silence, not that nothing's been happening or that life is dull although in Singapore it's been a case of more of the same old, same old stuff. So rather than irritating myself I decided it wasn't worth mentioning.

In recent months the only few high spots have been a wedding (in Singapore) and a trip to India. Until tonight in Hong Kong.

Lin and I set out for dinner from Hong Kong Parkview (which almost every taxi driver in HK seems to know the way to) with our family at the venerable Hong Kong Club. In my haste to get out of the taxi and grappling with a puffy jacket and a bag of clean laundry for my brother, I left my handbag on the seat in the taxi which sped off as Hong Kong taxis are won't to do.

I realized this as soon as I had deposited the puffy jacket and laundry bag at the reception desk. Sheer panic set in and I told Lin about it. He dashed off into the cold night and dense traffic to peer into every passing taxi in case one of them held the errant handbag.

I mentioned this to one of the receptionists who did not have any bright ideas and so while I got on the house phone to call our helper and my brother went of in search of Lin, all I could do was fret and worry - and try to think of friends with a computer, preferably an Apple.

Of course, without my iPhone I could only remember a handful of numbers. Still I managed to get hold of a friend to go to 'Find My Phone' and there we got a bit of false hope because they discerned the phone to be at Parkview. So we patiently waited for our helper to get on to Security at Parkview for their list of taxi registration numbers which had passed through their gates between 7:00p and 8:00p.

Lin, by that time, had come back into the Club and spoken to the other receptionist, a very clued up lady. He gave her the Parkview number which was printed on the back of his bus schedule card and she called and asked for assistance in checking their list of taxi registrations with their cctv cameras.

More important she called the centralized hotline for the taxi companies' Lost and Found and put me on so that I could provide the details they needed.

Even then, hope seemed to be very distant and abstract.

While waiting for my sister and her family to arrive I was on the phone to home and again to friends. There was also a melee of people in the foyer of the Club.

But all of a sudden I saw the taxi driver come through the main doors and thrust my handbag at Lin. I jumped up and thanked him in my deficient Cantonese. Instead of acknowledging my thanks and Lin's too, he asked if I would like to check if anything was missing!

All I could think of and did was to get hold of my wallet and fish out some notes to hand to him, so relieved was I to be reunited with my handbag again. He thanked us and rushed off again into the cold night.

It was all so improbable that I am still stunned. I had almost resigned myself to canceling my credit cards, re-applying for my bank card, driving license and HK ID. It wasn't the money (there wasn't much in there) but the hassle and the cellphone that bothered me.

Even though in Hong Kong it is easier to obtain replacement documents such as our car registration book, driving license, HK ID and cards than in Singapore.

A few months ago I had to get a duplicate of the car registration document because it was nowhere to be found at home or anywhere else and we had been away most of the time between road tax renewals. I checked the internet and noted that I had to make a police report and tend that to the Road Transport Department.

The Happy Valley police station was very smart and the policemen were friendly and helpful and we had a little chat about Singapore since the one who assisted me had visited some years ago.

The Road Transport department were quick and efficient too.

I compare that with my two previous experiences at the Lavender Street head office of the ICA in Singapore - both times when I had to apply for replacement NRIC's (National Registration Identity Card, I presume, is what that acronym stands for).

First I had to get a queue number and when you lose documents or in some way are perceived to be causing them an inconvenience or being a "bad child" you wait longer than those in the queue for the straightforward, routine stuff. It's quite apparent when you sit and wait and watch the numbers being posted on the displays.

Anyway, in the case of a lost NRIC it costs Sin$100 (about HKD$600) for the first time you lose your IC and $300 for the next time. It takes a month when you lose your IC for the first time and then three months if you did not learn your lesson the first time around!

Since we used to bounce around between Florida, HK and Singapore I was bound to leave some documents behind somewhere. But mindful of the need for my IC for voting in the Presidential Elections, I decided not to risk being without my IC for more than 14 days and waiting until I got back to HK to check in my cupboards before applying for a replacement.

So I got the 'bad child' treatment of waiting lover and paying more (only to find out later it was safe and sound in HK - the same case as with my first 'lost' NRIC).

I don't know how long it takes to get a replacement in Hong Kong but I expect less than 3 months and it is much less expensive - HKD$335 each time (less than SIN$60). It's no wonder people say that in Singapore we Pay and Pay.

What happened tonight might never happen to me in Singapore because it is so hard to hail taxis, I am not laden with jackets and stuff because our weather is never cold and I suspect I would not get the cooperation of the staff at any of our clubs to contact various parties. Also the bureaucracy of public transport Lost and Found, if anything like my past experiences with Lost Luggage at Changi Airport, would make it a long and arduous chore (try calling them on the phone) to locate my bag.

Last but not least, I must be one of the luckiest people in the world to have met a honest and kind taxi driver. I cannot say that a Singapore taxi driver would not have taken the trouble to try and find the owner of the handbag, but I have a gut feel that all my sentiments about Hong Kong public transport and especially its taxi service are justified - even if it is only in my case. And when compared to Singapore's.

If in HK and you need the centralized taxi Lost and Found do call: 1872920.

And if you have an iPhone (even one set on silent, use Find My Phone - only after I got home did I find out that with access to a computer you can get your silenced iPhone to ring loudly).

But my wish for all of you for 2012 and beyond is that you won't need either.

Merry Christmas and a Happy, Fulfilling and Healthy New Year!