(I actually wrote this about a month ago. Shh. Don't tell.)
We went out for a walk today. The weather was nice, so we did this. It felt healthier than if we had not, if we had done something else. Yes, I think it was the right thing to do.
Now, we live directly in between two subway stations, and each are about 10 minutes from our front door. She suggested we walk to one of them, travel, exactly the one stop, then get off and walk home.
It struck me as sufficiently eccentric and useless enough to qualify as performance art, and therefore I vetoed the idea, reasoning that we are never going to be able to keep money in the bank and start saving for a bigger place if we keep behaving like artists when really we are not.
So. This is what we did instead. We got on the train with our 1000 won tickets (about US$1, the minimum one may purchase) and resolved to travel only and exactly as many stops as such would enable, no more and no less. You’ve no doubt guessed already that it was a bright, cheerful and sunny weekend afternoon, and we really needed nothing more than an excuse to get out of the house and into the world for a while. Along the way, this semi-sordid, semi-contretemps unfolds ...
People sell things on the subway in Seoul. Small, cheaply-made, knick-knacky, gadgety things that are seldom more than the price of the ticket you bought to get on board. They bring a wheeled suitcase on full of these items and in the 2 1/2 minutes between stops they deliver their spiel, very loudly and impossible to ignore, and yes, it is a weird time and place to do a business transaction but what might be weirder is that people actually do buy things this way. I’ve done so myself – my favorite was a cheap plastic digital wristwatch with a built-in butane cigarette lighter. (The timepiece broke before the lighter did, but I continued to wear it for several weeks just because it seemed like a way cool way to light a cigarette, like maybe how 007 would do it.)
This particular day it was some vaguely-comprehensible attachment for a hose. It was blue. Really.
The young co-ed across from us was amused as well, and she even laughed out loud – which is a little bit unusual here no matter the provocation, and she didn’t even cover her mouth with her hand while she did so. Maybe she was just in an exceptionally good mood that day.
I snapped pictures of the salesman with abandon, and one of the girl laughing. If you want to behave in an unusual manner in a public place, expect to be digitized, if I’m around.
Next, though, was the main event. Many Korean Christian denominations not only encourage public proselytizing but seem to actually require it, and shortly after the salesman wheeled himself and his hose attachments away into the next car, a woman got up and started talkin’ loud and walkin’ proud about Thuh Lurd. Now, I find it easy to respect other people’s sincerely-held faiths, and I generally do hope also that they will respect my lack of one – this last p[art seldom happens in my experience, though, or at least not as often as I’d like.
Whereas the salesman had been amusing, this woman was nothing more and nothing less than annoying – everybody’s gotta make a buck somehow, sure, but there are only a few salesman who sincerely believe in their heart of hearts as they lay their heads on pillows each night that their efforts and actions make the world better and the people in it more wonderful. I made no effort to hide what I was doing with the camera now, and I even turned on the flash, something I seldom use in public places because, of course, it annoys people (including me.)
Rather than cause her to retreat and look for a fresh audience in the next car (what I sort of hoped would happen) she instead got rather ired. I suppose she might have though I was mocking or ridiculing her – which, okay, I was, a little, but as for being irked, I was there ahead of her already. She decided to get in my face walking over to where I was sitting with My Best Beloved, and leaning over, again, with the loud voice, and demanding that I delete her ... and oh how I wanted to, but more literally than she intended.
I merely pretended to, and this part is a gray area for me, I admit. My rule about photos in public places is that everyone who’s out and about is fair game, mostly because in any modern city everyone’s image is constantly being captured cybernetically anyway, and though seldom done in secret it’s often so unobtrusive that it might as well be. But if someone notices me snapping them – usually they are part of a much larger scene – I’m happy to show them the picture, and I’ll delete it if they don’t like being involved, snap the street again without them in it. All that’s not even ethics (and I admit I’m not fully informed about the local laws here in Korea about it) but rather just courtesy.
But … she was being impolite – and the question arises in my mind about whether courtesy need to be shown toward those who feel no need of it themselves, which is something, by the way, the co-ed pointed out to her when the God-lady confronted me. To wit: People don’t get on subway trains and hope to hear about Jayzuss in a loud voice. (It was the same young lady who had so openly expressed mirth for the hose attachment salesman, and now, Buddha be praised in all his wondrousness, here she was speaking up to a woman nearly twice her age. Both of these things are verboten for a properly-raised young Korean woman, and both made me want to buy her a nice dinner in order to say, You go, girl, and let’s all give a cheer for improper raising of young women anywhere in the world.)
We got off at the next stop, as we’d planned to, and if I thought My Lady would express annoyance toward me for getting us into the middle of things, I was wrong to even suspect it because she was as amused by it all as I.
“She told the girl, ‘If you don’t like Jesus, get off the train!’”
“I’d have said, ‘Look, lady, I like Jesus fine, but I don’t like you.’ Does she think Jesus himself would get on a train and start shouting at people?”
I think in America I’d have considered such a person to be possibly crazy, and I’d have given her a wide berth, but over here it’s actually pretty common – but, I think still sufficiently lacking in etiquette to attain levels of annoyance that beg recompense.
“Normally,” I told her, “I’m happy to delete photos from my camera that people don’t like or didn’t want taken. In her case, she’s going on my blog, and no regrets – shouting and getting angry while doing God’s work … uh-uh, that don’t cut it, now way.
The main thing that leaves a bad taste in my mouth is using my camera as a weapon, which in one sense is what I was actually doing, as I was hoping it would make her go away and leave me to enjoy my ride as I’d hoped to. It’s been a loyal and trustworthy little machine, done me well on many occasions and it probably deserves more respect than that …