Spiders and Marking and a Maddening Cabbie

This is a general update of blather.

The other night I had a horrifying dream that I was in a hot apartment, and sleeping, and awoke to see a huge — I’d say four-foot legspan, tip-to-tip — spider descending on a thick line from the ceiling. No possible way it could have gotten into this room that I was dreaming, but I yelped in horror and it ascended and escaped. Then, in dream-time, what felt like about twenty minutes later, another spider descended. This one was furry and striped black and white, and I tried to kill it with a big wooden box. I hit it, but I couldn’t kill it. It had come kind of hard carapce under the fur. It was downright horrifying, and I woke with a start.

I think it’s the marking that gave me this dream.

Some student writing is wonderful. You want to go to the student and personally say, “Thank you for sharing your wonderful ideas. You have renewed my faith in the ability for young people of your generation to actually think critically and say something worthwhile. I salute you.” There are students for whom all you can do is print out the websites they plagiarized from and shae your head sternly at them. And then there are the many in between, who write, well, passably well, but not in any way that inspires you. Of course, you still have to give them worthwhile feedback, and you still have to read everything they write.

I have finished the marking for one of my two exams, plus a stack of essays. I have another stack of essays, another set of exams already-written, plus a big pile of recipes from two classes of students. The recipes are exercises in using two types of lists… lists of items (ingredients) and lists of sequence in a process (the instructions for the recipe). Tomorrow evening, another pile of exams will come to me, and then the next morning, yet another pile. Luckily, in my Public Speaking class, there are no written exams, so that will be the end of the incoming work for the week. My writing classes for the rest of the week will have fun, and in my Media English class, I’ll be refocusing the course to give students more control over what media we watch, and more responsibility for finding ways of presenting it. (I think Tuesdays, each week, a pair of partners will present on some piece of media — an article, a TV show, a pop song, or whatever they choose. Thursdays I’ll be responsible for the class, and I’ll have a few backup exercises for the Tuesdays, in case some pair of students shirk their duty.)

Anyway, the muttering sound out behind the stack of papers covered in red ink? That’s me.

Muttering. I was muttering last night, too. Lime was working a 24-hour shift in the ER, and I decided to bring her some coffee. I did this after picking up some groceries, and I had a horridly heavy backpack plus a plastic bag. After we met briefly and I have her the coffee, I went to find a cab. Now, normally I can catch a cab right in front of the hospital, but at night they’re much rarer, so I made my way down to the street out in front of the hospital.

I swear I waited and waited. A bunch of schoolgirls came and stole a cab half a block down, acting as if they didn’t realize I was waiting for one. Then as a cab pulled up to me, a gang of housewives tried to push past me to make their way in. (This incosiderateness is something I’m rather used to now, but it still grates on me. How can people so easily ignore others?) Having had quite enough of waiting and waiting, I ignored them and put my bags in the cab, and sat down. I told the cab driver my destination and he informed me that this was in “the other direction”.

“Okay,” I said, “Sorry. I didn’t know which way it was. Just go ahead, ok?”

“But you need to catch a cab on the other side of the street,” he says.

“What?” Here I am, looking out the window at this pack of impolite housewives, glancing at my huge and heavy bags of groceries, and thinking, Surely you can do a U-turn on this empty street, man. “Just go ahead, it’s okay,” I say. “Please.”

“No, you need to catch a cab on the other side of the street. You need to go over there now.”

“I need to what?

“Go to that side of the street,” he says, apologetically.

It doesn’t make sense. The drive would have been maybe five minutes for him. The street was not so big that he would be likely caught for doing a U-Turn. And I wish I could say that the only explanation I could think of was that the housewives looked like a more lucrative fare, but, in fact, I’ve had this happen before. Small, empty road and a long wait; catch a cab; driver informs you that you caught a cab on the wrong side of the road, and you have to get out and cross the street and catch a different cab.

What is with this? It’s one of the most infuriating things I’ve encountered in taxicabs in Korea. Worse than the rare smoking cabbies, or the cabbies who try to preach at you without the benefit of a word of English. Why can they not just turn around for a short drive? What’s the deal? I mean, if a cabbie’s willing to drive from Seoul to Bucheon, as the one I rode with on Friday night was, then why not the 15 blocks to my home?

And the cabbie on Friday, by the way, he was totally from the year 2035. He was sci-fi embodied, man. He didn’t know the destination, so he called some service, and then mounted his cell phone on the dashboard. It asked him where he was going, he responded verbally, and then his damned phone guided him. It tracked him by GPS and told him when turns were coming up, and when to take them. This little arrow and a distance meter gauged how far to the turn, too. It was almost as good as the cab driving itself, really. Amazing.

4 thoughts on “Spiders and Marking and a Maddening Cabbie

  1. Was he looking for a long-distance fare? I had a somewhat similar exp the first year I was in Seoul — it was late at night after the subways had closed. There was no shortage of taxis, but no one — not one — would take me. Finally I chose a cab, got in and shut the door, waving o cheon won as a tip (I wasn’t going far and this would have been 100% over the cost). But the cabbie, a woman, wouldn’t budge. NOt getting the situation, I didn’t budge either. She pleaded in very basic English while I attempted reasoned argument (or something) in even more basic Korean. It took us 10 minutes before she finally hooked me up with a driver who wasn’t only looking for big fares.

  2. Maybe they do this more in Seoul, I don’t know. My memory of Jeonju is that cabbies were willing to take almost anyone, but sometimes they rejected a fare if the destination was in the opposite direction to where the cab was headed. (But the cabbies wer somewhat desperate in Jeonju according to a few I talked to; many claimed that they wouldn’t even charge extra for call-taxi services, while handing business cards out to customers.)

    I’ve found it’s MUCH harder to catch cabs in Bucheon than it was down in Jeonju or Iksan. Much, much harder. My girlfriend’s remarked about it, too.

  3. I lived in Bucheon for 2 years, and catching cabs was always a headache. In Bucheon I don’t remember having problems like the one you described; if I did, it was because it was a Seoul or Incheon taxi. I live in Seoul just north of Bucheon now and have occasionally run into that kind of situation. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s pretty annoying.

    Seoul has so many entertainment/shopping areas, which tend to diffuse the nightlife crowds across the city, but Bucheon, because it’s relatively small, only has one real center (or two, if you include the newer shopping district on Kyenam-ro in Jung-dong). Right around Bucheon station has got to be one of the busier areas in the Seoul metropolitan area, what with the traffic and the bar area. Every time I go back for a visit, the Bucheon station vicinity is pretty overwhelming – and may explain why taxis can be difficult to find elsewhere in the city, as they’re all heading to or leaving that area.

  4. Yeah, that’s the one place I’ve never ever had a problem catching a cab: you can walk right out of the Emart and get a cab in two minutes.

    Whereas in the Yeokgok area, if you’re not right by the station, it’s extremely difficult to get a cab. Most will tell you they’re Seoul cabs and flee.

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