I started taking public transportation by myself in 1987 when I was 9. Every weekday, I would take the M79 public bus across town to go to school. Occasionally, the bus would be so crowded, a bunch of us would enter through the rear exit. We had bus passes, so it wasn’t like we were avoiding paying the fare. One time, I managed to get onto the stairwell just as the doors were closing. It was reminiscent of Indiana Jones sliding under a door in Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom. What made the moment truly memorable was that I managed to press play on my Walkman, so the opening strains of “Welcome to the Jungle” synced perfectly with the bus pulling out into traffic. Since I lived in New York City or Astoria (the section of Queens just across the East River from the city) for most of my life, I didn’t drive that often. Public transportation was the only mode of travel for me. Usually, it was a pleasant experience. In fact, there are few things in life that get me legitimately angry; one of them is people who try to board a train or elevator without letting passengers disembark first. Unfortunately, this was a daily occurrence in Hong Kong. When I lived there, mornings and evenings, on weekdays, I would take the train from my apartment in the New Territories to the main campus of a Community College to teach English. During the commute, I would frequently listen to Noothgrush’s cover of Crawl (originally by Neanderthal). The lyrics would perfectly encapsulate what it was like trying to board a crowded train while managing obsessive-compulsive disorder; especially in a place where personal space or the decorum for disembarking doesn’t exist. “May I crawl to your throne/Oh master God of swine/ Lick your heals maim your kind/you worship sacrifice.” Since it’s important you know the distinction, Neanderthal was a band in the Powerviolence genre which was known for being an extremely dissonant and fast subgenre of hardcore punk. Sludge metal consists of elements of doom metal with slower tempos and heavily distorted instruments; sometimes, the tempos can be quicker. When I got to the campus, my first stop was always at a cafe in the neighboring building from my office. Since Hong Kong caters to such an international community, almost everyone speaks English. However, I learned a few Cantonese phrases, one of which was “large coffee, please,” or “Yut Ga Fe M’Goi,” and this was the only opportunity to practice that one. Every morning, after I asked for my large coffee, the barista would always ask in English if I wanted sugar? In the film Snatch, when a British gangster named Brick Top is asked if he wants sugar in his tea, he responds by saying “No, thanks; I’m sweet enough.” So, when the barista asked if I wanted sugar; I would reply by saying “no, I’m sweet enough.” The barista would stare at me, repeat the question, and I would say “no sugar, thank you.” You might have thought I would have stopped doing this after the first time, but you’d be wrong. However, I don’t think I kept it up for the whole year. Nietzche’s Will to Power is often misconstrued, but the basic precept is for someone to try to be the best version of themselves they can be. Perhaps the best version of me was one who quoted from movies every day. Or, maybe it was like the time my freshman year of college when one of the students on my floor would see me and sing a lyric from Piano Man. “And he’s talking to Andrew Davie, who’s still in the navy, and probably will be for life.” Yes, he said it every time he saw me without fail.
Andrew Davie received an MFA in creative writing from Adelphi University. He taught English in Macau on a Fulbright Grant. In June of 2018, he survived a ruptured brain aneurysm and subarachnoid hemorrhage. His other work can be found in links on his website: asdavie.wordpress.com