Call me grossly sentimental (I'm grossly sentimental): I find the fact that drivers pull aside when a siren sounds behind them peculiarly moving. Drivers, and I am sometimes one of them, are generally pretty self-absorbed and set on their goals. Lemmings in their cars, part of the problem and not part of the solution, I mutter bitterly to myself as I wait for my bus in Admiralty with the passing traffic kicking up pollution and every car seeming to contain only one person, who's always gazing blindly, mutely ahead. But when a siren sounds, the lemmings wake up to be reminded, and then to demonstrate, that there is such a thing as public-spiritedness.
I was quite shocked to discover that, in fact, in Hong Kong it's not customary to try to move off the road to allow a path for an ambulance, fire engine or police car with sirens howling. Instead, Hong Kong's selfish commuters sit there determined to hold onto their hard won place in the traffic jam. My office looks directly down on a highway and I've never yet seen anyone pull aside; the emergency vehicle waits impotently with lights flashing and siren sounding.
Perhaps this can partly be explained by the fact that Hong Kong's narrow roads, often bounded by concrete walls, and countless loops of flyovers, don't allow for anyone to pull to one side. But the fact that no one so much as makes an effort to move is astonishing.