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A Journey Backwards : On the grand scale of numbers

【明報專訊】A graduated student of mine works at a fine-dining restaurant where a set dinner costs HK$1588 + 10% service charge. Paid HK$45 hourly, he was planning to treat his mom for her birthday.

"For the experience," he said.

At a small restaurant near my office, lunch is priced at HK$45 — very reasonable for its location. Needless to say, not a day goes by when the wait is less than 30 minutes. Students, blue collars and white collars alike are stuck in the same queue, waiting to fulfil a common need for food.

One day, a familiar face in the queue was having grumpy conversation with his lawyer over the phone. The options were settling a case for HK$9M or pursuing a lawsuit for a potential compensation of HK$22M.

Over the course of lunch, the lawyer was fired.

A lady on the bus was very much worked up by the tumbling stock prices. Frantically refreshing her phone screen, she launched into a low mumble of a chain of numbers. By the time we were out of a traffic jam, I had those numbers etched on my mind.

My mom's favourite game at the dinner table is "guess how much". No one will be left at their peace until someone gives an accurate estimate of the cost of ingredients that night. Like many other families, dinner is set against the news on TV in the background, where our Chief Executive conveniently informs us of a 500-billion-dollar plan to reclaim some "necessary" land off the shore of East Lantau.

I used to be quite good at my mom's little entertainment, until I started losing a sense of numbers in this wild, wild city where not a minute goes by without the discussion of numbers.

■Writer's Profile

Mona C. has a strong appetite

for stories. Feed her enough.

Email: monafpchu@gmail.com

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