Girl About Globe | Rucksack Attack

Linda Kennedy

It’s daylight, on a tram in the busiest part of Hong Kong. The risk of assault is high.


We all know the usual tram risks. Tram tush, if it’s raining, because no one closes the windows to protect the seats.

Or a mouthful of urban mistral, if it’s dry outside but the window is still down. And dented ego – when you try to put the window up and learn you aren’t tough enough.

But another danger lurks these days. Rucksack attack. There you are, sitting quietly. The tram gets busier. People stand alongside. Some have rucksacks. You clock the hazard and angle away. You check your phone. You then glance up to see where you are on the journey – what, still not past Admiralty? – and thwack! Someone trying to leave the tram is pushing past. Their rucksack hits you in the face. They do not notice, because they forgot their extra trailing dimensions.

Rucksacks in Hong Kong are generally not filled with cottonwool. They tend to be carried by men and women, heading for the gym. Or worse, combining office and gym. Straps fly. The inevitable water bottle in the side pocket trails its sports dispensing cap. The corner of a laptop forms an angular jut inside the fabric. When a nose meets a rucksack travelling at speed, there is only one winner and it’s not the nose.

From the impact, I wonder if my assailant’s rucksack is a bag-cum-barbell. Why so heavy? Does a backpack build muscle? Is it a way of working out as he goes from the office to the gym via the protein bar shop?

At the recent fair, Art Basel Hong Kong, there was a prominent artwork which consisted of 180 replicas of a handbag owned by former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The piece was called ‘Not a Shield But a Weapon’ and was created by Filipino artist Pio Abad. Dear @pioabadartist, how about updating to include 180 rucksacks? ‘Definitely Weapons’.

I sit, dazed. But not so much I don’t see my assailant’s rucksack bashing someone else in the face nearer the front. Rucksack recidivism is a big issue – rucksack wearers take on a new shape yet not a new psychology, failing to make spatial judgments that include the additional five inches protruding rearwards. My rucksack attacker doesn’t even notice the damage he has done. Which means next journey, new victims. I can even see him alighting from the tram, and consider knocking the window to weakly shake my fist, but then realise the window, of course, is down.

What’s the solution? A rucksack with sensors that parp with increasing intensity when the rucksack is near to someone? Like a car parking? But that increases the noise pollution in Hong Kong.

Lobbying the incoming Lam administration for a ‘Taskforce on Tote Trauma’? That wouldn’t even be politically risky, because rucksack attackers are usually locals. Mainlanders prefer their baggage to have wheels.

The introduction of a new concept – a cabin bag limit on the tram or the bus or the train?

Recognition of this as a modern assault? TV adverts: ‘Have you been hit in the face by a rucksack? Sue your assailant by calling this number. We specialize in backpack inflicted pain.’

Rucksack Awareness classes? Anyone convicted of rucksack assault has to do these?

Community rucksack service? Standing on transport and pointing out the dangers.

At least I stop myself shouting: ‘hey you, muscle bloke, your big sack just hit me in the face’ because anyone who wasn’t felled by impact would die laughing or from shock.

Dangerous things, rucksacks.

Categories Opinion