Dear Mr. Shocked Subway Rider

Look, man… you get to pick two of the following three. Two maximum. You can…

  • … stand right in the middle of the space through which people need to pass to get into and out of the subway car, in a way that explicitly blocks the exit to the subway car, and don’t look around to see if someone behind you needs to get out (or even position yourself such that you’ve considered the fact someone might want to get on or off the train).
  • … act shocked when the force of someone trying to push through the rest of the oblivious crowd (mostly standing in that same way) so he can exit the subway ends up resulting in you momentarily–but not violently, really–being pushed out of the subway car yourself.
  • … be considered a sane, reasonable, adult human being in possession of common sense and higher mental functions.

You only get two. You cannot have all three.

And since you insisted on having the first two, despite what I said, I’m not very sorry at all. I mean, what did you expect, man?

All that said, my iPhone4 with 3G connection and unlimited data makes the subway ride so much less painful, especially after coming home from Seoul following a good evening in the company of Miss Jiwaku.

8 thoughts on “Dear Mr. Shocked Subway Rider

  1. I actually stopping caring about being ‘caring’, ‘kind’ courteous, or any of those other words. Sorry, but I don’t know you. You are in my way of reaching my destination, therefore you are an obstacle to be navigated by any means possible. Foreigners, pregnant, and obviously injured people get a break. The ajumma that RUNS TO THE ELEVATOR gets nothing.

  2. Chris,

    I’m having trouble visualizing the ajumma running for the elevator: are you in the elevator? Is she crossing your path and expecting you to get out of the way?

    (I’m always perplexed by how people run like hell for elevators and subway trains: except in the case of express trains where the next one is thirty minutes later, one never has to wait long for the next one. Yet people run like maniacs.)

    Anyway, I hate to admit that while I want to maintain a semblance of civilized gentility, I tend not to yield so much. It’s just plain tiring being in the minority of people demonstrate manners towards others in terms of yielding and avoiding slamming into others.

  3. I recommend the “offensive line” technique.
    Just before the door opens at a busy station, line up directly behind the adjummas at the door. They’ll be your blockers. When the door opens, start running and they’ll plow thru the crowd and all you have to do is stay right behind them until you’re clear of the crowd.

  4. Ah, normally this is a great technique and I use it, but this was a case where there were no ajummas. And indeed — and this is unusual for this station — only a couple of other people were exiting at all.

  5. In 2004, while running to catch a train at Onsu station, I ran into an old lady, who fell and fractured some bones. It cost me a few thousand dollars in medical costs. Obviously I don’t run at subway stations anymore. I learned a lot about how Korean negotiations work during the time. The old lady’s husband and I tried to be reasonable, but both families’ relatives were throwing gas into the fire, and both of us were acutely embarrassed by them.

    I really hate people who block passageways, especially in train stations with the narrow corridors. The worst offenders, IMO are young women, who often travel in packs, and insist on travelling side by side, blocking everyone else. Sometimes, they are terminally slow because they are talking with each other, talking on cellphones or watching TV on their cellphones. As far as I’m concerned, such women deserve to be run over. (Blocking the passageway also happens way too many times in supermarkets – even ones with wide aisles, because the shoppers don’t have the sense or the courtesy to park their carts to the side while examining and comparing various packages.)

    Earlier this year, I don’t remember whether it was during the train strike or during a snowy day, but a train at Onsu station was delayed for about half an hour. Thus, the train was packed like a sardine can. When the train stopped at Yeokgok station, with dozens of people trying to get out, just before the door opened, an ajussi (may be in his mid 50s or early 60s) who was standing at the front of the door, grabbed the door so that he wouldn’t be pushed out. Nevermind that there were at least twenty people trying to get out behind him, and he was blocking about 1/3 of the passageway. If he had fallen, he’d have probably been badly trampled. (You’d figure common sense and common courtesy would say he should just step out of the door way to the side for 20 seconds…)

    This reinforced two things that I should have remembered, but sometimes forget:

    1) Age does not necessarily give wisdom, and thus age does not automatically deserve respect;
    2) Some people are just too stupid to live. It’s a shame civilization protects them. We should perhaps return to “evolution in action” to deal with plain stupidity. Let them be killed.

  6. Junsok,

    Wow, that story sucks. Yeah, I avoid running at subway stations too, though not just to avoid injuring other people: I also avoid it simply because there will be another train along soon. It’s like at the grocery store earlier today; we were paying for groceries, and I was putting them into bags, and the lady behind us in line was glowering because I wasn’t being all frantic and hurried about it. Which made me do it even more slowly. Lady, the 30 seconds it takes to bag my stuff right is not going to hurt you. Chill.

    (Miss Jiwaku actually complains about this; in Indonesia the grocery stores have baggers and everything is very leisurely. On returning to Korea, she was shocked by how frantic and stressful it is, by comparison, to pay for and bag your groceries.)

    Anyway, yes: the idiot who blocks the subway exit — or, worse, who tries to board while a flood of people are trying to disembark — is a moron. Common sense and common courtesy would dictate moving out of the way, but I see a great lack of both on the subways here. *shrug*

    In any case, I agree 100% on the first point. I prefer not to have every stupid person die as a result of their stupidity. (Not in the least because, knowing Seoul, the cleanup wouldn’t be at a reasonable rate and some neighborhoods, like Yeokgok, would be a downright bloodbath.) But I certainly have minimal sympathy for people who are as stupid as the guy you mention. Even less for the guy I wrote about: I got the sense if he wasn’t climbing back onto the train, he’d have tried to start a fight, he was so furious.

    Also: I think another reason the young women who walk three or four or five side by side move so slowly is the high heels. Especially on stairs, they’re shaky. (Dieting may also contribute to that.)

    My personal favorite is people who step off an escalator, and then fail to move out of the way, even knowing someone is behind them a few steps or so; the number of people who step off an escalator (or moving walkway, as in grocery stores) and then stand still and look and their phones… it blows my mind, still.

  7. High heels …

    Maybe it’s because I do not find it all that kinky sexually, but I never could understand the appeal of them, and why women seem to be obssessed with them. My wife used to insist on wearing high heels until about four years ago, even though she knew that they worsened her back pains and back problems.

    Then I found following passage in a popular science book (it’s deliberately written in Cosmo-gossipy “Sex and the City” approach, but the research the book cites seems valid based on references in the back)

    “Anatomically speaking, in heels you’re doing what chimps do when they’re in heat, standing on tiptoe, arching the back and sticking out the butt. … It’s hard for others not to notice the sway of your hips, the thrust of your breasts, the incline of your pelvis, the strut of your stuff.”

    Go figure. (On the other hand, what does it say about me not finding high heels all that attractive? )

  8. I was very amused by a Western friend (though longtime expat in Korea) who told me a funny story about heels. He was on his way to someplace in Southern Africa, someplace rural I mean, with a church mission group. He said all the young women in the group turned up in heels, and he asked if they had sneakers in their luggage. They couldn’t understand why, and he ended up making them buy running shoes at the airport despite the fact they couldn’t imagine why fancy, girly heels would be a bad idea for wandering around in bush country in Southern Africa.

    All that stuff about high heels is true, in terms of signaling, er, well, in terms of stuff-strut-enhancing effects. I don’t object to occasional heel-wearing, but I find it’s often correlated (not 100%, and I’m not slamming your wife) with things I really don’t like in a woman (like excessive makeup, like having not much to talk about, like being more conforimst, like being inordinately concerned with appearance and clothing and fashion, and so on) and thus I actually find heels, if not a turnoff, then not all that much of a turn-on either.

    To some degree, I think a woman who wears flats is tough, enough of a non-conformist here. These are attractive qualities to me, too, as much as any stuff-strutting-enchancement could ever be… and often more.

    (And yeah, they’re murder on the back, another reason I’m always puzzled about their ubiquity here. They seem WAY MORE ubiquitous in Korea than I remember back in Canada. I always thought it was a mix of height issues, exaggerated dressiness, and the exaggerated femininity some women seem to think is necessary. Which always reminds me of drag queens back home, to be frank.)

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