2012-12-04 Musical Tables
In all parts of the world, among adults as well as children, "Musical chairs" is a popular game at parties and other gatherings. In Hong Kong there is a similar game called "musical tables" played on the footpaths, at the markets and at the eating out areas of many locations.
On the footpaths this game is played by shop owners and inspectors. Shop owners put out as many temporary tables as they can on the footpath, to attract customers. When an inspector is coming, they take away the tables. After the inspector passes, they put the tables out again.
The same happens in most markets. Stall holders extend their stalls into the walkway between rows of stalls. But when an inspector comes, they pull back their temporary tables....until the inspector passes....then they extend their kingdoms again.
In the eating out areas of popular tourist districts, about 8pm on certain week nights one hears the call "Hoi toi!" ( 開 桌?), meaning: "the inspector has gone, let's put the tables out!" No need for this on Saturday and Sunday nights: there seems to be an unwritten agreement that inspectors will not come on those nights!