Hong Kong missionaries are discouraged from riding in taxis. Though compared to taxi fares in the U.S, Hong Kong cab fares are very reasonable. However, Mormon missionaries are volunteers, and though your father may be a multi-billionaire, the perception of extravagance that riding in a taxi communicated wasn’t one that President Woodley wanted his missionaries to project. It was easy for the President to say, thought Brig. He had a personal car and driver.
But today was a big day, and they were in a hurry. The Buddha told Brig it was his treat, and Brig didn’t argue. He was still a little pissed off about the detour, and that the Buddha had a cell phone he hadn’t bothered telling him about. The Buddha had a reasonable explanation as he always did. According to him, he would start a new job next week as a courier, and his future employer had given him the phone in case of an emergency. Apparently, there was an emergency, hence the phone call.
“Unlike some missionaries I know, I need a job after my mission.”
“All right. I get it. But you know, if you need a job, I can make one phone call and make it happen.”
“Shiiiiittt! That’ll be the day! I’m a proud Chinese man. I will never take money from a bourgeois fascist American dog!”
“I may be an American dog, but I’m a purebred. That’s better than being an overweight communist Chinese rat!”
The driver of the taxi was getting nervous, his eyes darting between the road and his rear-view mirror. Two Mormon missionaries appeared to be close to fisticuffs in the back of his taxi.
“Oh! You went there?! Not only are you bourgeois! Not only are you fascist, but you’re mean to fat people! You’re a fatist! You’re a fascist fatist!”
Brig started playfully throwing punches at Buddha. The taxi driver didn’t realize they were joking around and pulled the vehicle over, yelling at the pair to stop and get out of his taxi.
“Sorry boss,” the Buddha apologized to the driver. “You know how Americans are. Stupid and always starting a fight.” Brig and the Buddha laughed again.
Unsure of what to make of the situation, he tentatively did as the Buddha requested, and drove on. They came to a stop at the northeast corner of the cross-section of Mong Kok and Shanghai Streets. Brig got out as the Buddha paid the driver. Brig was hungry and pointed to a McDonalds across the street, but the Buddha waved him on, “After. After.“
The companions walked to the entrance of a nameless alleyway, and Brig marveled at how dark the alley was even though it was daytime and the sun was out. The Buddha plunged ahead assuming Brig was following. The alley smelled of raw sewage, and Brig was careful where he stepped. A drop of something unknown dripped on his neck and slid down his back. “Gross man.” Brig wiped away the moisture that ran down his neck. He looked at his hand, expecting the liquid to be radioactive yellow, slimy green or an unsanitary brown. It relieved Brig to see that it was clear. Probably just a drop of water, but it still freaked him out.
Buddha could see that Brig was nervous and uncomfortable. “Welcome to the real Hong Kong, Elder.“
An old man sat on a stool dressed in a threadbare pair of shorts that were far too big for him fifty pounds ago, and a wife-beater undershirt. The old man’s mouth hung open, and he wore a vacant stare that reminded Brig of the pictures he saw in history class of the Jews in the German concentration camps. Brig smiled and waved. The old man paid him no regard.