Subway Nuisance

11 Jan

Riding the subway never fails to provide a little excitement and entertainment.Believe it or not I’ve actually started to enjoy the anticipation that comes right before I enter a subway car packed full of unsuspecting Koreans. I stroll in, take up a spot by the doors on the opposite side of the car and await the random looks of bewilderment and pointing that often accompany my unforeseen presence. I’ve read accounts of foreigners being quite annoyed at this, but I often find it amusing.

When I notice someone starring obsessively at me, I like to stare back with as little expression as possible. Do doubt, their probably wondering where I’m from (a lot of Koreans swear I’m from Jamaica) or if my hair is real, but there are things that I’m curious about as well, and the starring provides me with a good opportunity to relentlessly observe and ponder all the shit that continuously blows my mind about Koreans. For example:

Why, sir, do you have what looks remarkably like a woman’s Louis Vitton purse slung across your arm? Is a backpack or messenger bag not sufficient?

Excuse me miss, but it seems you have an addiction to applying pink lip gloss in 30 second intervals in addition to combing your bangs and starring into your pocket mirror.

You seem to have some flem stuck in your throat madam  and I respect your persistence in trying to hawk it up, but your method doesn’t seem to be working.

Now some of you might consider  this as rude or inconsiderate, but I think of it more as Korean cultural awareness. As I said before, it might be easier to allow the incessant staring annoy me,  but I’d rather use it as an opportunity to learn something.

That being said, there are times when I’m just not in the mood for subway nonsense and therefore would rather zone-out until I get where I’m going.

Once when making my way back from the Busan KTX station after a long weekend in Seoul and Daegu, an ajosshi decided to plopp down next to me on the subway. I hardly notice at first because I was enjoying watching Superbad on my ipod. Seconds later I notice the rank stench of soju and b.o. wafting around me, and as I look up and turn slowly to my right I am greeted by an old korean man smiling toothlessly in my face. He was so close I though he was leaning in to give me a kiss.

Startled, I jerk backwards, and before I am able to resume watching Superbad, he begins clapping his hands and happily yelling something at me in Korean, spewing out spit and soju stench with each word he spoke. Not wanting to cause more of a scene, I do the first thing that comes to mind: I point to my ipod and offer to let him watch Superbad with me. He lets out a loud “ahhhh, ok, ok, ok” then scoots closer for a better view. I look at the subway map and notice I’m still seven or eight stops from my apartment. I figure if I can keep him distracted until I reach my stop, I can make it home peacefully and return to breathing unsoiled air. Unfotunately, my friends, I’m not that lucky.

He begins speaking to me again, seeming to ask me an array of questions which I do not understand. This time I try to ignore him which only makes him lean in closer as to catch my attention. I glance across the subway and notice I now have a full crowd of onlookers, some who seem to feel sorry for my situation, others who look as if they’re curios as to what I’ll do next. I look down again and continue to ignore the toothless admirer which brings about more yelling and hand gestures, all while wafting more funk fumes.

With two more stops to go, I finally look over and tell him (in as calm a voice as possible) “You smell really really bad and it’s making me nauseous. Please stop talking to me.”

He clearly had no idea what I said, but it didn’t matter because after a quick pause smiled and yelled “American” and opened his arms as if to invite me in for a hug (which I decline).

I reach my stop, go home and proceed to cry myself to sleep. In a perfect world, me and the toothless fellow might have been friends.


Kimchi Dreadlocks


One Response to “Subway Nuisance”

  1. Jessica January 24, 2011 at 10:35 AM #

    Oh how you made me miss good ‘ol Korea! Enjoy yourself while you are there! I would go back in a heartbeat! I miss the soju zombies some days! Also, go visit the Korean War Memorial! It is a wonderful museum! It is in Youngsan.
    Best of luck to you and enjoy your time in Korea!

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