I admit, the sociological experiment (for those who do not know what I’m talking about, read HERE) is proceeding slowly. It’s my fault. I am becoming a horrible Hongkonger who looks at the phone and does not talk to anyone.
In my defense I can say that people are not very helpful, the few times I have been brave and I started talking to someone, I did not get great results.
Here is a list of my failed attempts and those that have almost been successful:
- Asian girl in her 20s at the Vietnamese restaurant: “Hi, can I sit next to you? You know I do not like eating alone.” Moment of silence. “I love eating alone”. Moment of silence. I-phone.
- Russian woman in her 30s: I smile and sit in front of her. She looks down. I re-smile. She looks disgusted in my plate and starts making a video call that lasts all lunch, about 30 minutes. I read on my Kindle.
- Caucasian man of undefined provenance in a suit and tie, 30 years-old at the common table: “Hello, can I join you?”… “Of course, with my pleasure!” Hurray! This is going to be a beautiful lunch. “Where are you from?” I said “I’m sorry, you know, but I really have to answer this e-mail.” For 40 minutes … Kindle, again.
In my personal attempt to understand people, how to approach them, why they are so bitchy and closed in themselves, I did a generational research to clarify why it is so difficult to get in touch and talk, even for 20 minutes. I am quite reluctant to cataloging, to define someone for personal tastes or for the job they do instead of focusing on all the nuances of colors that a person is always seems to me to be very limiting. Anyway, here’s who we are according to various Italian and international web sites selected randomly on Google:
Generation X: born between the 60s and 80s. Defined as the invisible generation because of the decline of births, has experienced its moment of splendor with the fall of the Berlin Wall, then it has sunk on itself, crushed between the previous generation (the aggressive and careerists Baby boomers) and that of the super technological Millennials, has been lost among Nirvana, MTV, the soccer players, the Top models and Billy Idol. To quote Wikipedia: Once young adults, Generation X collected media attention in the late eighties and early nineties, gaining the stereotypical reputation of apathetic, cynical, without values or affections.
Generation Y: the first of the Millennials that fits between the end of the 80s and early 2000. This generation was marked by a technological educational approach. They cut off the puffy shoulders and all along with internet, lopsided haircut, hammer pants and Google. No sports, no television, zero sex and apparently a lot of PlayStation.
Generation Z: always Millennials but more evolved. They pass from the PC to the Tablet, from the PlayStation to the social networks. Web wholesalers are born, the Haters, those who think to stop global warming by posting photos of dying polar bears or eating avocado instead of chicken.
I would say they do not save anyone. But you know me, I’m the optimistic one! I like people and I trust humanity. Because in the end there is one thing that unites us all: we want to be “seen”, we want to be accepted, we want to be loved. Nobody wants to pass into the world as an invisible being, like a number of a generation X, Y or Z.
So before throwing myself back into “lunches” with strangers I decided to try to be kind, to get people out of invisibility, to make it clear that if you raise your head from the phone you see the world, people, life. And life sees you.
8:30 am, I’m already in Central and walk at the speed of light towards the Yoga studio. In front of me there is an Asian girl who is probably going to the office. She seems to have fallen into the closet and came out of it dressed randomly. I take a deeper look and in its jumble of colors and fabrics, I find out she was really caring with her choices. Laces, pastel pink, pearl and beige patterns. Shiny fabrics mixed with opaque ones, little flowers patterns that I would not even use for house curtains, figure like dress. She is very well makeup and combed, her eyes are dull and sad, she walks slowly. Probably because the heeled shoes that I actually find wonderful. They are beige and light pink completely covered with pink, fuchsia and red hearts. A desperate scream of needed love. A stain of color in an unlit person. I find them enchanting. The more I look at them, the more they make me happy. So while I pass over her (the Nike allows a faster and comfy walk) I tell her:
“Sorry, I love your shoes, they are really beautiful!”
She looks at me and completely changes her expression. Looks like a spotlight has been switch on over her.
“Aren’t they?” She replies hesitantly smiling “Thank you!”
I pass over very fast with my Milanese/Hongkonger gait and she screams at me “Have a nice day!”
“You too!” I shout back.
I turn around and watch her go away, much higher, smiling and self-confident, she walks faster too. A ghost out of anonymity. I see you, you’re alive, you’re beautiful, be happy.
8 am on a Saturday morning. I don’t need to tell you, I’m going to do yoga. The city is asleep back from a Friday night of fire, I presume from the amount of beer bottles that I have to jump and the pools of vomit that I have to circumnavigate. I’m going up Wellington Street, one of the typical uphill streets of Hong Kong, where the sidewalks are an endless stairway from the bottom to the top of the hill. Then I see him. A boy sitting on the stairs with his head resting on his knees. He must have been having a lot of fun last night to be able to sleep like this. All those people who pass by look at him disgusted and step back a bit. Just two or three steps sideward towards the windows shopping, so as not to risk the infection. I overcome him and see that he is not sleeping, he cries. I go forward like everyone else imagining possible scenarios, judging with the eyes without using the heart. I puff. Now that I’ve seen him I cannot look the other way. I go back, I overtake him again and I take a deeper look. He’s got all the crumpled clothes, his shirt off his pants, his shoes unlaced and muddy, his red hair tangled, a bit of beard on a pale face. I turn again, go up the stairs and stop. I crouch down:
“Hey, are you okay? Do you need help?”
He raises his chin. He’s a kid. He will be twenty-three, generation Y or Z, super-technological Caucasian boy, his face streaked with tears, his eyes desperate. He is also quite surprised and confused by my presence.
“Id o not feel well”
“Yes I can see it. Are you sick? Are you hurt?”
Here we are, no car accident, no homeless drunk, no Chinese beggar. A broken heart. The pain from loneliness. The rejection. The same suffering, the same torment, the same reaction regardless of nationality and generation.
“Yeah … Can I do something for you?”
“I do not think so, I’ll call a taxi and go home now.”
He takes the phone but does not call a taxi, he continues to watch Whatsapp, looking for who knows what answer to who knows how many embarrassing messages without pride he sent through the night.
“Listen, if you get up and come with me, I’ll pay you a coffee. I cannot do anything to help you get better but I can listen to you. Whatever it is, trust me, it will pass.”
“I, I … no thanks, I’m fine now, really.”
“Sure? I have time for you.” Silence. I am sure he is thinking over it.
“I know that. I wish I didn’t, but I know.”
“It really goes away?”
“Yeah, eventually. It takes time, but it will go away.”
“I’m going home now.”
“Good idea, have a nice shower and a good sleep.”
I rise up, he puts his head back on his knees and do not get up.
I set off for the Yoga studio. Then I hear him scream:
“Hey!!” I turn around looking at him, he seems so fragile, “Thanks, I mean, really, thank you.”
You’re welcome, I think. Thanks to you.
I see you, you’re alive, you’re beautiful, be happy.