Saturday, July 23, 2011

Exercise in bureaucracy

We finally did it. We have been inducted into the secret triad of fitness freaks in Mui Wo.

But boy, that was three and a half hours we'd never get back. Watching Harry Potter would have been a much more enjoyable way to spend our Saturday.

Hong Kong loves bureaucracy and nowhere is it more apparent than in that pink concrete monstrosity they call the Mui Wo Municipal Services Building.

You can't just turn up, pay and use the gym. You have to go for a "briefing" on how to use the equipment, with a large dose of nanny-state warnings thrown in.

Because there seems to be only one session a month, everything was fully booked so we had to resort to registering as a walk-in.

It was typical government office procedure – you took a number, filled a form and were made to sit in horribly uncomfortable metal chairs till they called you (after all the obedient registrants).

Then it was like school again. The trainer accepted the forms, checked that they were filled in properly, then did a second roll call to weed out stowaways.

We did all that... only to find out that it was for a Cantonese session. The counter guy conveniently forgot to tell us that.

Determined to get our pass, though, we sat through a video, a two-hour session entirely in Chinese, and (don't think you get away so lightly) a multiple-choice test at the end of it.

All for the privilege of going to the gym. A privilege we still have to pay for: HK$17 an hour or HK$180 a month.

But at least, as a fellow sufferer/trainee pointed out, we're now in the system. That's all that matters with bureaucrats, isn't it?

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