Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Inner Circle of Crazy

Breda and I got to talking last night about Seoul's subway system WHILE ON THE SUBWAY WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT, and we decided that
a) Line 1 (the dark blue one, the oldest/biggest line) is the drunk line, because we always witness people puking/stumbling around while on it
b) Line 2 (the green line that circles the center of the city) is the crazy line, where people are often witnessed screaming for no reason or getting into fights. I then proceeded to tell this TRUE story, which I personally think is pretty blog-worthy^^

On my way to tutor or shop or meet up with someone or whatever, I hopped on the green line near my house. Headphones in ears and the volume turned up just loud enough that outside noise was blocked out, I was in The Zone--focused just enough to be aware of the progression of the train to my destination. I found an empty seat and proceeded to forget the world for fifteen minutes or so.

Maybe I was listening to this:

As the train moved closer to the center of the city, it became more and more crowded. People started standing over me to hold on to the little dangley rings over my head. One fellow got on the subway and stood right in front of me.


He wasn't dressed in rags or a clown suit or anything "weird" like that. If I remember correctly, he was wearing typical Korean Salary Man Casual Weekend Clothes--pleated pants, tucked in polo shirt buttoned all the way up, brown belt with a buckle that looks like a seat belt fixture. He too was rockin' out to some sweet tunes. As I sat there, he proceeded to get more and more into his music.

Phase 1: Eyes closed, rocking back and forth, head bobbing (30 seconds)
Phase 2: More rocking stemming from the core, lips mouthing the lyrics. Toes tapping (30 seconds)
Phase 3: Audible humming sounds coupled with more core rocking (15 seconds)
Phase 4: LOUD LOUD LOUD singing. So loud that everyone stares for a second and then immediately looks away. But I can't look away, because it is right in front of me (1 minute)
Phase 5: Arm wagging commences, with each wag of the arms accompanied by loud a loud crescendo. The singing is now so loud I couldn't hear my own music if I wanted to. (15 seconds) Phase 6: Full on Napoleon Dynamite/Robot Dancing. Said fellow has let go of the dangley ring above my head and proceeds to BREAK. IT. DOWN. In the middle of the aisle, popping and locking commences. I am completely captivated.

I find that when most Koreans are encountered with someone or something that is socially stressful in public, they typically ignore the offensive behavior. They will fiddle with their cell phones or look at their hands, and will definitely not get aggressive or intervene. If the stressful thing is occurring right in front of them, and it is impossible to ignore, they will simply move so that the stressful person/thing is not in the way. So naturally, half of the people in my subway car got up and moved to the car next door. The remaining folk had, like me, abandoned all attempts to ignore this dude's rhythmic gyrations, and we all flat out stared, slack jawed, at this man pelvic thrusting in the middle of the subway.

Meanwhile, something was astir in the "priority seating"--the seats in the corner of every subway car that are reserved for the olds, the disabled, and the pregnant woman. An ancient Korean man, who had first been in deep slumber when I got on the subway, had been awoken. I watched as he slowlyslowlyslowly sat up. He blinked several times, squinting, turtle-like, looking for the source of the noise that had roused him from his mid-afternoon subway snoozin' session. He saw Napoleon busting a move in the middle of the subway, stared for several seconds, and then SLOOOOWWWWLLLLYY stood up from his seat.He shuffled in that deliberate way that only Korean men shuffle, moving ever so slowly, slowly, slowly, until he creeped up right behind the dancing man. And then. He bitch slapped him, so hard that the CRACK of the slap seemed to echo for aggggggeeeeeeessss.      

It was as if this old dude had hit the "off" switch on a dancing machine. Napoleon stopped, literally froze with his arms in the air and mouth open, for five full seconds. And then. He dropped his arms, stood up straight, and morphed back into Everyday Korean Salaryman. The old man shuffled back to his priority seat, and everyone quickly went back to fiddling with their electronic gadgets. I turned up the volume on my iPod, wishing subway dancer had grooved for the entirety of my journey^^  

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