I’m about to admit something that will reveal how laden my character is with “nancyish” qualities… During my previous 10 months in Korea, I’ve pretty much avoided riding the bus save one occasion, which left me with no alternative. I actually wouldn’t trade previously mentioned event, as it was quite the adventure, but nonetheless, due to Korean bus stations having very little to no English on their signs, and the confusing nature of riding the bus altogether, I hadn’t made another venture since.
Until I started my new job (two weeks ago), which requires daily bus rides as my living location is too far to walk and there are no subway stations near it.
Before I get into my own personal experiences (thus far) with riding the bus, let me explain something about Korean bus drivers. Actually, let me explain something about Korean drivers in general. They are basically New York taxi drivers on steroids. It. Is Insane. Driving in Korea is mind boggling. The lanes are impossibly tiny and the cars seem bent on, if not delighted, to run over anything or anyone who dares to get in their path.
People generally do not jaywalk here. I am not kidding when I say the buses (and taxis, and motorbikes) will run you down. Just before I entered this coffee shop I watched a tiny, bent old woman, shuffling across the street in front of a bus that was literally lunging in bull-like angst due to the driver inching the gas pedal forward. He then proceeded to shoot past her, missing her by .25 inches.
They also drive extremely fast. Speed racer in bus form. Around tiny, preposterous corners and close knit vehicles. With much honking of horns ensuing.
And the “catching” of the bus sometimes (and in my case), involves running into the road, zigzagging between other large buses barrelling down on your stop, flagging the bus down, hoping the bus driver slows down long enough to allow time for jumping board, swiping your t-money (bus card) across the machine and sitting down before he sky-rockets off, sending you catapulting down the aisle or into the laps of poor (and horribly embarrassed) teenage boys. (I may or may not be drawing from personal experience on that one).
That being said, all the aforementioned qualities make for adventurous rides. Granted, on exiting the bus, I have to take a moment, clinging to cement walls and various shrubbery, to wait for the heart palpitations to cease. But this has only increased my appreciation for and enjoyment of the bus rides. (I’m not kidding… all dramatics aside, I’m really keen on the bus rides and look forward to them everyday).
Today’s ride was a bit more strenuous than usual, as I had to spend the entire 20ish minutes standing. Which might not sound too bad until you’ve actually done so with a Korean bus driver at the wheel.
To further compound today’s ride I should also note that I was carrying my usual huge brown leather messenger bag, a laptop (borrowed from my gracious friend Zach) and wearing a skirt that is much too large and unreliably fond of making me think it’s about to fall down. Unfortunately (or actually it’s a good thing) I’ve lost 30 pounds in the last 5 months and all of my clothes have turned into tents with arm and leg holes.
The unfortunate bit is that I’ve put off acquiring new ones and upon realizing putting it off any longer would mean the continual embarrassment of enduring my clothes falling off , found I had to switch jobs and now have to wait for next paycheck to do anything about the problem. So at this point (and yes, I realize this is sadly pathetic and I should probably not confess such ridiculousness) I’ve actually taken to cutting several inches off the hems of the skirts I DO own, as they are so large they now fall to Amish length instead of previously intended length above or around knees. *Sigh* Just call me the Macgyver of clothing.
Why am I telling you all of this and inviting lectures from my Mother and those with more fashionable instincts? Well, let me just say that standing on a bus, with arms full and a skirt that is too large is next to impossible. One already needs an extra appendage or two for a ride on these buses as so much jerking, whipping about and flailing of said arms and legs is taking place, it is hard enough to hold on with the two one has!
And to make matters worse I stepped out this morning in a skirt I just cut this past week and cut rather poorly, thinking no one would have the opportunity to truly scrutinize it from a close distance. Only to discover that everyone in the world decided to ride my 700 bus this morning and that I’d have to stand. Directly next to and in front of a bunch of Koreans, with their eyes basically at skirt level. Goodie.
So today I spent the bus ride, clinging for dear life (and to my skirt) sheepish and hoping no one noticed the unraveling and sorry state that is my hem, not to mention the cuts I’d acquired shaving.
And when I exited the bus today, my arms were shaking. Make that my right arm. My left arm was full with laptop and attempts to hold up skirt, while my right had the extraordinary responsibility of keeping me upright and bending in shapes only Gumby has the ability to make.
But halfway through that ride, I have to admit, I looked around, smiled and thought, “This is glorious.”
And I’m really looking forward to the bus ride tonight. (Which will hopefully involve an empty seat.)… 😉