Last week, this columnist made a jokey reference to being in need of a contract killer and promptly found myself being advised on how to get one (we're proud of the fact that our readers have the widest network of contacts on the planet).
"My husband met a couple of contract killers one midnight in Kowloon City and they offered their services at a mere HK$300," said reader Dancer Wong.
For the sake of comparison, the last parking fine I had to pay at the same location was HK$450.
Sheila Jade, another reader, asked: "What was your husband doing meeting hired killers? I hope he was not after your life insurance." Dancer, a newlywed, said: "I'm far too broke after my wedding to actually own life insurance."
A pair of hit men were approaching people to ask if anybody wanted anyone killed, she said. Her husband did not.
"But they actually had a nice chat about how difficult it is to find business these days," Dancer said.
An American reader said contract killers in his country are classier. A woman asked hit man Kurtis Armann to kill her ex-husband. He made her sign a legal contract which included a "reversion" clause which allowed him to kill her if she didn't pay on time. Cops admired his professionalism. (If my landlord hears about this, he will definitely add the clause to his contracts.)
But an Indian reader showed me a recent cutting from a newspaper in her country about a contract killer who strangled a victim for just 150 rupees, which is HK$25, less than the price of my morning coffee.
"That the value of human life is going down by the day is well known," Pervez Iqbal Siddiqui of the Times of India, lamented. "But how low can it fall?"
That night, my mentor/bartender came up with a positive spin on all this. "If contract killers in Asia are dropping their prices, this is good news. It means no one wants them anymore."
This makes sense. We journalists get into more disputes than the average person. Yet I cannot think of a single person I would want to have killed. Except for spam forwarders, the generals of Burma, people who run pet shops, the guy who got the last seat on my bus this morning, and of course the woman who stole my parking space last night. Especially her.