The Long Journey Home

It had been a long day. I’d left home at 9:30 that morning, it was now ten minutes to ten in the evening and I was waiting for the 81 bus in a thunderstorm; occasional flashes of lightning leapt across the Tsim Sha Tsui skyline. I was cheered by the sight of the bus approaching and even a young Chinese woman dashing in front of me in the queue didn’t particularly annoy me. I boarded the bus and went to my usual seat at the front on the upper deck.

Settling into my seat, I looked forward to a short trip home in light traffic. I was a little put out when an American Chinese housewife sat next to me with a posse of visitors and insisted on pointing out every possible item of interest along the route. From the look of the visitors I got the impression that they would have been quite happy to just have enjoyed the trip in silence. However, they smiled indulgently when told that they could get the best steaks in Hong Kong at that restaurant and cheap film for their cameras at that shop.

The bus continued along Nathan Road and turned onto Taipo Road, which took us through Sham Shui Po. It was along this road that the excitement started. We stopped, as usual, at a bus stop and passengers started boarding. Although I could see them out of my window I paid no attention until I saw two men approaching. I wasn’t sure what it was about them that caught my eye. Neither was the right age for triad enforcers as they both appeared to be in their 50s. Then I saw that one of them was holding a knife. I think it was the simplicity of the knife that caught my attention more than anything else. It was a simple table knife of the type that you might eat your dinner with. Not a machete or a stiletto or any of the more Hollywoodish weapons you might expect to see used in the course of a crime.

These two men started shouting at someone who was out of my line of sight and then rushed onto the bus. Pandemonium broke loose and I could hear people shouting and cursing downstairs. Then two people emerged up at the top of the staircase, a man and a woman.

On hearing the commotion the woman, who came up last, turned to see the knife-wielding maniac running after her and her companion, who obviously recognized the man and moved to intercept him. The lady however, was quicker and positioned herself between her man and the fellow with the knife. A confrontation started which consisted of the attacker swearing and cursing and trying to get at the man and the lady who was kicking at the man and swatting him with her oversized handbag.

At this time something occurred that could only have happened in Hong Kong. The lady, holding her man at bay with one hand was alternatively punching the attacker with her other arm and kicking him. And she still managed to call 999 on her hands-free mobile to summon help. Her conversation with emergency services went something like this.

“I’m being attacked by a knife-wielding maniac on the number 81 bus,” she seemed to say. “We are on Tai Po Road. No I don’t know where we are, look for a number 81 bus with a lot of people screaming and shouting, that’s us. What? You’re joking, okay wait.”

At this point she actually paused in her struggle so that she could see out of the window. “We’re opposite the Chung Lau Restaurant,” she said.” “Okay?”

Only seconds later we heard the sound of police sirens. At that point the attacker turned and ran. We watched him hightailing it up the road in the company of three fully armed Tactical Unit police officers who lost him.

Things started to settle down. The battling commuter and her husband descended the steps to speak with the police while a plainclothes officer with two mobile phones, a two-way radio and crisply ironed jeans arrived on the upper deck and asked in Cantonese if anyone had seen anything. Of course, despite the fact that we had all been sitting within five feet of the event, no one had seen anything. I actually did see what happened, of course, but unfortunately, as my Cantonese is limited, I let it slide.

The excitement over, we were allowed to go on our way. I sat in my seat at the front of the bus and wished that I had a beer. I also decided once and for all that I would never again ask myself: “What else could possibly happen?”