The Tube

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Have you seen the HSBC ad in airports?  In the last five years, I’ve mused at its ad campaign on “different points of value” as I walk through tarmacs of London Heathrow.  There’s either a row of the same picture in triplets with a different word on each frame or a row of different pictures with the same word.  It’s all about showing different perspectives.  A word has to be in context to understand what it means.  One’s view depends on where he’s from or he’s at.

So what about the word TUBE?  Most TV junkies would immediately think that the tube is a part of the family.  The tube is switched on as soon as people get home.   The tube is the extra voice in family conversations or a companion when one is alone.  When I first visited London, I learned that the underground train is called the tube, too.  You take either the bus or the tube to get around the city.  The tube can take you to all the major stops in minutes unless there’s a tube strike!

Recently I found out another meaning of tube.  Tube in Vietnam, particularly in the Old Quarter in Hanoi, refers to a house.  A traditional Vietnamese house is about two meters wide and seventy meters long.  In the 15th century the narrow frontage allowed more merchants to do their trade facing the street.  It was also a trick to cut dues as taxes used to be based on the width of the house.

And so in a tube, one had his business in front and a working kitchen, toilet and bath were at the back.  The rest of the living space where families worship, entertain guests and sleep were upstairs.  Because of its length, a courtyard was set in the middle for ventilation and lighting.  There’s a narrow balcony just above it, a haven where one could have a tiny garden or own a pet in a birdcage.

In later years and even today, tube houses are built but with more floors like when families expand.  If you want to see an ancient tube house, there’s one that is open to the public at 87 Ma May in the Old Quarter.  This 19th century trader’s house is beautifully restored close to its original state with yellow painted walls, carved teakwood fixtures and tiled roof.

What’s your point of value on the word tube?  Do you have a different one?  Maybe HSBC’s branding team can put this word up on airport walls the next time you travel and keep the campaign going.

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