Like a lot of people in Hong Kong, I live in a decrepit old building full of decrepit, lifeless feet-shufflers. The elevator is broken every other week and the rubbishy stench that wafts up from the building’s central cavity stings the nostrils and makes you swoon.
Hey everyone, for the love of god…stop tossing your trash out the window! If you enjoy the hobo lifestyle and feel comforted by surrounding yourself in refuse and filth, then by all means hit the streets. There’s plenty of nooks and crannies on Nathan Road that you can crawl into and call home. But until then, there are other people living here. Don’t you get that?
The used tissues, greasy plastic bags, old band-aids, bloody dental floss and toe nails falling like rain past my window remind me of my slum days in the shanty towns outside Mumbai. I thought Hong Kong was Asia’s finest city…isn’t it supposed to be the Pearl of the Orient or something? More like the Turd of the Orient, am I right??
Anyhoo, owing to yet another elevator SNAFU in my building over the past few weeks, I’ve had to use the second elevator and reach home by getting off at the floor below mine and then taking the stairs up a flight. Not a hardship by any means. But the extra legwork has meant that more wafts of putrid stink reach my nose because I’m forced to walk past several windows that look down into the disgusting building cavity . I’m pretty sure that the woman below me throws her used earhole cleaners out into the cavity every morning because a number of them that didn’t quite make it are congealed and stuck on the window sill. Nice!
Using the stairs to get to my floor is where the WD-40 comes in to the story, because to get to the stairs you have to push open a swinging door. All of these swinging stairwell doors grind open like the gates of hell. They squeal…they creak…they moan…they wail like tortured animals…they scream like murder victims. The rusty hinges cry with such high-pitched grief you almost expect the whole building to implode in on itself in an ecstasy of horrific sympathetic resonance. It’s a sound filled only with torment and hate.
It boggles my mind that no-one seems to have ever thought it might be a good idea to oil the hinges to quieten the doors…to rescue their ears from this fingernails on blackboard horror. It’s a simple fix. Fuck. How can people live like this for any length of time without going out of their minds?
The offending stairwell doors are only a couple of feet from the doors to people’s homes and putting rubbish out means opening the stairwell door. So it’s a daily thing at least…and with broken elevators the doors open and close more than usual. I can’t be sure what happens on every floor, but here’s how things go down on mine:
1. Neighbour exits house door (which is a foot and a half from my own door) in a flail of keys and clicking and doorknob turning. TV from inside blares some ridiculous HK game show.
2. Neighbour stands in doorway furrowing brow and yells something back to someone inside at the top of her lungs. She yells it again. Then again.
3. Neighbour opens outer iron gate, smashing it against concrete wall
4. Neighbour reaches the gates of hell – the stairwell door…pushing it open and unleashing twisted, blood curdling rusty hinge screams
5. Neighbour drops rubbish in the stairwell area
6. Neighbour comes back through the gates of hell, letting the swinging door screech and then smash violently closed with a HUGE THUD
7. Neighbour slams closed the outer iron gate and viciously locks it
8. Neighbour reenters house slamming the door with enough force to rattle saucepans on my kitchen bench.
This is totally normal. She’s not angry or having a bad day. She’s just slamming doors because she’s a garden variety Hong Kong moron. All this happens between about 11-12 at night…every night. But that’s not all. 99 out of 100 times, and this is no joke, this stupid old mole repeats the entire process because she forgot to put some piece of rubbish out. So in the end she’ll do it all twice. Her subnormal, box headed minibus driver son is even worse than she is. These are the types of people you’re dealing with in Hong Kong: The Pearl of the Orient. Stupid oblivious morons.
When I first moved in here it took me about 3 weeks before I’d finally had enough and literally ran down to my favourite shop, Japan Home Centre, and bought some WD-40. I came back and doused the shit out of the stairwell door on my floor and instantly felt relief wash over me in an awesome wave. The only sound it makes now is the HUGE THUD every time my fuckface neighbours let it slam…which is every fucking time they use it…which is multiple times a day. But fuck me if I didn’t silence the moaning…the tortured cries…the screaming of those hinges. For me, banishing those screams back to hell where they belong has been a slice of heaven.
So the elevator has been broken for some time now and I have been walking down one floor. The stairwell door below was truly diabolical before I tactically struck with WD-40. Earlier, when I went to work each morning, the screaming hinges really set a grim tone. It’s bad enough leaving your private piece of sanctuary and heading out into public areas of the Turd of the Orient at the best of times, but to do so heralded by the obnoxious screaming of a door that not a soul bothered to, or even considered fixing, is beyond a joke.
When your neighbours treat your general living environment like a sewer and when they show absolutely zero regard for the idea of noise pollution or the concept of ‘other people’, sometimes living in the Turd of the Orient can feel like you’re watching a snail crawl along the edge of a straight razor…crawling, slithering along the edge of a straight razor…and surviving. It can be a nightmare…can make you lose your mind. Quite simply, that’s when you may need large doses of this:
Now when I leave for work it is almost like a dream. It’s not nightmarish like it was before – opening the gates of hell and deploying out into the Turd of the Orient like a condemned man. The door opens silently and peacefully now. It’s beautiful. Sometimes I wonder if my neighbours or anyone at all actually notices that the obscene screeching has stopped. I like to think they do…but I know they don’t. I can’t worry about that though. I just slip out the door quietly and wait for the elevator, breathing in not the filthy refuse building up like an urban landfill in the building cavity outside…but the luscious, rich, fresh scent of sweet, sweet WD-40. And I don’t let the door slam shut behind me. But why would I? I’m not a stupid ignorant oblivious cunt, after all.