Several things have been called "the great equalizer". Education, they say, is the great equalizer. The Internet, they say, is the great equalizer. I'll add another one to the list: rain.
Well, at least in cities, rain is the great equalizer. A great equalizer, to kill off the unnecessary hyperbole. No matter where you are in the world, when the rain falls, things become like where you came from. We have this universal reaction to the rain: we go on with our lives, but, except in instances where there's nothing we could do, we bring out our umbrellas or pull hoods over our heads.
It's been raining the whole day in Hong Kong today. I expected that to mean it'd be chillier - like two years ago, not like one year ago - but it isn't. I step out of the hotel and it feels like Manila, only with a lot more Chinese characters. It's gloomy, it's wet, and more importantly, it's not chilly.
And yes, people just go on with their lives. The umbrellas are out, and so are the jackets, or perhaps, in a pinch, a copy of The Standard that an old lady gives away just before you get up the elevated walkway.
And their lives do go on.
Maybe rain is not a great equalizer, after all.
I mean, just a little rain and everything stops in Manila. We try to do like before, but chances are we find ourselves stuck somewhere, with no place to go. Here, save for some extraordinary circumstances, you only have to worry about stepping on a water puddle by mistake - and you wouldn't notice only because there are so many people walking. You see salarymen going about their day. You see the elderly pulling strollers, trying to have some fun. You see students holding their phones trying to catch made-up monsters. You see new graduates wearing their togas - still - while taking photos of each other. You wonder why they're doing this in November. And then you take a photo of them, and it looks so good, the glistening sidewalk and the light fog on your lens, the neon lights at Tsim Sha Tsui - and maybe it's just luck, you say.
This isn't the first time I found myself rained out in a foreign city. I saw people selling cheap umbrellas in the middle of a sudden downpour in Bukit Bintang. I found myself huddling for cover along Prinsep Street. I tried to walk back to the nearest subway exit at Xinyi. I could still walk. I could still walk to somewhere. Once again, I am reminded that I live in a country, or at least a city, where one mere downpour means disaster. And we discuss this, over and over again, over milk tea or Michelin-winning noodles.
To boot, in Hong Kong, when the conditions are right, it gets chilly and you actually get to enjoy that. But perhaps that's unnecessary hyperbole.