Red Banner Sister* steered the red minibus over the curved expressway leading away from Tai Po and toward Kowloon. Swerving between double-decker buses and passing a couple of taxis, she flew through the auto toll lane and into Lion Rock Tunnel.
The smell of sugar, fat and chocolate heavily perfumed the air inside the bus. She twisted her head slightly back and shouted, “How we doing on time?”
Seated on an empty passenger seat among towering crates of chocolate cake doughnuts, her right hand man, an elderly guy from Tai Po called Sugar Uncle, checked his watch and yelled back over the engine noise, “On schedule, Red Banner Sister, on schedule.”
She radioed the advance unit: “Team SM, what’s your status?”
“Red Banner Sister, we’ve just entered the Pierre Hermé store. Team SM is in position and ready to smash macarons at you signal.”
“Team SM: you are authorized to launch Operation Smash the Macarons. Repeat: launch Operation Smash the Macarons.”
“Roger that. Over and out.”
Exiting the tunnel and flying down Route 1 toward Hong Kong Island, Red Banner Sister thought back to the day her “Doughnuts to the People” mission was born. She had been passing through the crowded sidewalks and pedestrian overpasses of Central, Hong Kong. Surrounded by tired officer workers, whiney children and bored shopkeepers she sensed their desperation for sugary afternoon snacks.
Entering the nearby IFC mall, she wondered why the people weren’t seeking out such snacks within its marble halls. And then she understood: looking for snack-y sustenance she found only shop after shop selling diamond jewelry, luxury handbags and designer shoes. She ran to the mall’s central atrium and screamed out: “The people cannot snack on Rolex watches!”
Inhaling after her spate of shouting, she finally detected a hint of sweetness and followed the smell to the luxe outpost of a Parisian patisserie offering row upon row of rainbow-hued, over-sweet and overpriced macarons. Despite the desperate need of the populace for a good afternoon sugar rush, the store, manned by two bored and arrogant clerks, remained empty.
The people did not need expensive macarons with names like “Églantin, Figue & Foie Gras“! The people needed more. The people deserved more. Red Banner Sister felt deeply her calling to serve the people.
Hissing static from the radio brought her back out of her daydream.
“Red Banner Sister, come in Red Banner Sister.”
“Red Banner Sister here, go ahead.”
“Operation Smash the Macarons is complete. Every trace of pastel cookie has been destroyed.“
“Excellent work Team SM. Now bring in the chilled milk and start brewing the coffee. Chocolate doughnuts will land at the IFC mall in T minus 10 minutes.”
“Copy that Red Banner Sister. Over and out.”
The minibus exited the Central Tunnel Harbour Crossing and started down Gloucester Road. The air suddenly smelled not only of sweet chocolate doughnuts, but also of burning engine oil. Sugar Uncle sniffed the air and looked up at the red digital speedometer. He saw that she was pushing the minibus up to 140 kilometers per hour.
“Back off! You’re redlining the engine!”
“We’re only a few kilometers away from Central. The bus can make it! The people need chocolate cake doughnuts!”
A deafening crack split the air and the minibus rolled to a stop. Smoke poured from under the hood. Sugar Uncle let loose a string of unprintable Cantonese profanity.
Red Banner Sister joined in with a few less colorful English equivalents and got on the radio: “Team SM, do you read me? Team Smash Macaron, we’ve broken down on Gloucester Road. Dammit, we’re not going to make it!”
“Red Banner Sister, you’ve got to hear this. There’s been a lot of chatter on the taxi radio channels. When you entered Lion Rock Tunnel something happened. It’s like the whole city suddenly became aware of their need for a good, cheap sweet snack.”
“Operation SM a bunch of red taxis just pulled up. They’re parking in the roadway. The drivers are getting out. Hold on, hold on … They’re pushing the minibus! Repeat! They are pushing the minibus!”
“Red Banner Sister, I’ve got more information. I’m hearing that Statue Square is filling up with people. Wait a minute… they’re shouting. I can hear them shouting from here. I can just make it out. … Ha! They’re shouting: ‘People can’t snack on Rolex watches’!
“Suggest you divert to Statue Square. No use coming to the IFC mall. The people are gathering. This thing just got bigger than we could have imagined. We’re not just taking over one over-rated French macaron store, we’re changing the city!”
Red Banner Sister leaned out the window and shouted to the pushing taxi drivers, “Let’s head for Statue Square! Head for Statue Square!”
As they moved forward, the sides of the road became crowded with more and more people shouting encouragement, “加油! 加油! People can’t snack on Rolex watches! 加油! 加油!”
Passing a different upmarket shopping mall, Pacific Place, the minibus rolled over mounds of multi-colored crumbs; people had spontaneously taken the macarons from another expensive store and thrown them out into the street. Sugar Uncle opened a window and spat onto the macaron dust.
As the red minibus arrived in Central, the crowd parted and it was pushed up a few stairs and into Statue Square. Team Smash Macaron also arrived from the IFC mall with the key doughnut beverages.
Many, many others had arrived as well.
Old men in singlets, shorts and sandals pedaled up on bikes that were loaded with trays of Hong Kong egg tarts. Women appeared with shopping trolleys bursting with pineapple buns. Families pushed egg ball waffle makers on carts into the square.
What started as a chocolate cake doughnut dream had spontaneously erupted into a grassroots snacks-for-all movement.
Sugar Uncle and Red Banner Sister distributed doughnuts to the people through the windows of the red minibus. Team Smash Macaron filled endless cups with ice-cold milk and piping hot coffee.
Everyone was smiling. Everyone was outside. Everyone was high on one big sugar rush. And there wasn’t a single unsmashed macaron left in Hong Kong.
*Who is Red Banner Sister:
The Red Banner Sister origin story
Previous Red Banner Sister assault on Hong Kong luxury goods