Metropolitan Hong Kong is thick with narrow, steep alleys, packed dense with small stores requiring routine restocking. The rugged carts plying the pavement of this ultramodern metropolis resemble rolling anachronisms, although the city’s complex ballet of commerce would quickly grind to a halt without them.
These carts unapologetically embrace (or at least are indifferent towards) “rough” edges, such as split wood, protruding nails, and visible weld beads. In their numerous iterations, the form of these carts depends upon their likely cargo, terrain they must cover, and the strength of their owners. For example, mesh-wire-encased cubes are mounted on three pairs of different sized wheels designed to let them surmount the steepest of curbs while carrying heavy objects that tend to roll (such as the 5-gallon containers that sit atop water coolers).
Cart personalization abounds as well. Some is intentional, in the form of colorful ropes, bungee cords, or the engraving of a store’s name into the body. Unintentional wear comes with age and use, including a broad palette of rust patinas, and wear characteristics appearing like lines on a topographic map upon the handles. Some grip the pavement with rubber wheels, while others roar down streets on metal rollers.
After a day of enabling their owners’ hustle across the city, most are designed be broken down, their handles un-mounting from their bodies, to occupy a minimal amount of space along the sides of Hong Kong’s crowded alleys (or, in some cases, in the backs of or beneath vehicles). In the valiant fight against traffic jams and gravity to keep shelves full and fridges stocked, the emphasis remains upon getting the job done, not looking flashy whilst doing so.
The thriving industry of pushing cargo carts coexists and supports a bustling trade centered around building, maintaining, and recycling those same carts. Parts stores occupy minuscule, closet-sized spaces within Hong Kong’s bustling streets, almost overflowing with wheels, metal tubing, bungee cords, and platforms of different sizes and materials. Workshops’ inventories sometimes spill over into the streets, with some customers even stopping by for a quick spot-weld or other repair while still loaded with cargo.