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Aquatic Mac

The Different World of Hong Kong

Andrew W. Hill

I write this from Hong Kong International Airport. I've been sitting around here for about sixteen hours waiting for my flight to Australia. This is the first time I've been close to Hong Kong since I was eight or nine, and this airport is brand spanking new.

The first thing I noticed after getting off the Cathay Pacific flight from San Francisco was the people. The people here seemed more elegant, more graceful. You could tell the difference between the Americans (or American-style, or Western if you prefer. "American" was used merely because of the origin of the flight) and the locals.

The locals walked smoothly and deliberately, seeming to almost lead their steps with their toe instead of their heel. I tried this a few times - until I almost fell flat on my face in a very ungraceful manner. It feels akin to accelerating into a corner while driving; it's a very active movement.

The Americans, on the other hand, either walked in an unwieldy, heavy, yet timid way, or in a self-assured cocky swagger. I found myself in the first category. Walking down the hall, I was acutely aware of every time my foot landed just a little too low, producing a quiet squeak. Nobody else made a sound with their feet, unless they were wearing heels. It seems fashionable to make as loud and steady of a clop as one can in high heels.

I also felt out of place in my denim jeans. I know they're going out of style even in the USA, but I cannot see a single person around me wearing anything like them. Okay, two people just walked past in jeans just to spite me. Regardless, the trouser selection of most of the people around me seems to be a thin vestige of cloth, lighter than the numerous electronic devices they hold.

The industrial design inside this airport is also elegant and functional. In front of the glass balcony rails there is a stainless steel pipe to presumably prevent stray carts from breaking the barrier. Lexmark Cart?It is amazing the elegance a steel pipe can be given, similar to that of Griffin's iMate, a $50 aluminum knob that's beauty exceeds any USB input device I have ever seen.

The only design that I questioned were the carts to move carryon baggage with. They reminded me suspiciously of Lexmark laser printers.

Inside the terminal, signs to and from things are confusing at first. At one point I was in a long hallway, with arrows pointing both directions to the same transfer lounge. After about a half-hour of careful investigation, I found there was an underground people-mover traversing the hallway underground so you could indeed go either direction. So complex, yet somehow simple. I felt like a Midwest farmer thrust into the New York Stock Exchange.

I went to a nice lounge that, for about US$35, offered food, drinks, showers, and, most importantly, Internet access - either from Compaq terminals or your own laptop across a LAN. I seem to have lost the ethernet card for my 2400, so I used the Compaq.

What amazed me the most was the service. I arrived around eight in the morning, and left at 9 p.m. I ate two meals, in addition to several snacks and many beverages. The food was simple but delicious, served buffet style. As I finished a plate of food, a "housekeeper" would walk past and take my used dish. They continually vacuumed around me and wiped down the tables around me as I worked. The efficiency amazed me. It all added to the extremely elegant ambiance of the lounge. Clean beauty.

Looking at the laptops plugged into the network, it was interesting the differences between them and what I usually see on domestic airline flights. All were Sonys or Toshibas - small and silver. One man had a huge, clunky Dell of awkward black plastic. It was three times the size of anyone else's and made a well-to-do businessman in an expensive-looking suit look a little like a college student.

In contrast, the young man in the raver pants, spiked hair, and huge earphones with a 3 lb. Toshiba seemed like a professional audio producer. As a Mac person, I would have been afraid to pull out most Mac laptops. Titanium, 2400, or perhaps a Duo would have been okay, but I wouldn't have dared pull out a toilet-seat iBook or an 8 lb. G3 laptop. It seems the people here agree with my idea of a laptop more than the people I discussed in my last article. A laptop, in my opinion, is for portability, not to replace a desktop system.

It's funny. When traveling last week, I felt out of place (yet self-righteous) only for having a small laptop. Today, my laptop is the only part of me that fits. At 5'11" and 200 lbs., I'm not a particularly large guy by my standards, but over here I feel like a fifteen year old trying to figure out how to walk properly.

At least my PowerBook 2400c looks cool.

<This article is available in a printer friendly format.>

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Andrew W. Hill (a.k.a. Aqua) has been using Macintosh computers since 1987 and maintains that the Mac SE is the perfect Macintosh, superior to all - including the Color Classic. He is on the verge of being evicted from the family home due to its infestation of Macs (last count: about 50). Andrew is attempting to pay his way through college at UC Santa Cruz with freelance Web design and Mac tech support.

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