September 2001 Cont'd

I said I don't remember where I stayed in Seoul when I landed in 2001. And then I came across this photo nugget. At some point, the wife organized all our photos into boxes with labels. This picture was in the same pile as the others from my 2001 adventure. I don't recall staying at this lovely Gold Star Yeogwan. But I don't know that I would take this shot for any other reason. It's not like I need a photo to show people where I did NOT stay. I'm gonna guess I stayed here at least one night. It's not like my highly paid fact checker is going to hammer me for being wrong about this...

OK then, where was I? Right, off to Mokpo.

I don't remember anything else specific about my time in Seoul in 2001. What I do know is that I took a train to Mokpo. I know this because my spreadsheet says so. I also know because I remember that train ride very well. I took a window seat so I could enjoy the view and I hunkered. The aisle seat next to me sat empty right up until the train started to move. Then, at the last possible moment, my ridemate took his throne. I feel like I probably smelt him before he fully arrived, but that is not totally fair. I guess.

Drunk? Hammered.

Over the course of the next several hours I tried faking asleep, fake snoring sounds, fake couldn't speak English, fake couldn't speak Korean, I looked for an open seat elsewhere. I took like 10 trips to the loo. I looked around for a friendly Korean to intervene on my behalf. Nothing. You've all been there, you know what I'm talking about. But my ridemate was persistent. He kept talking talking talking and breathing his sourness into my face. He racked his muddled brain for more English, occasionally letting Korean fly as if it were English.

Right about the time I was fixing to lose it, he busts out a black plastic bag that could have come from any ol' market. Out comes a couple trays of those green rice balls (it was the week before Chuseok after all...). He wants to share his bounty with the foreigner. I decline. No thanks. I have never tried them, believe it or not, but I am convinced I hate them. He persists. I decline. He persists. I wave my hand at them, I cross my arms in front of my body. Persistence wears resistance (thank you Kirby vacuum sales training). I relent. Delicious. I am not kidding. I was pleasantly surprised. I yummed down a few 'cuz they were good, but also because neither of us could talk while chewing up that rice and sesame goodness. Lesson learned again: you might like balls of green rice, you might like them try them and be nice, you might like them stubborn punk, you might like them with a drunk.

But even that shared joy only bought me a brief spell of peace. At last a nice gentleman behind the drunk asked him to leave me alone and then turned to me in English: "I am sorry." The drunk did not take too kindly to that advice and tempers flared. They exchanged a few heated barbs and it looked as if fists would fly. More fellow travelers got involved and managed to calm the scene. The kind gentleman traded seats with me and I felt like an a-hole.

We arrived in Mokpo without further incident. The Master was waiting for me next to a cab. As I walked toward him, the drunk caught up to me and asked where I was going. I ignored him and made for the Master. I hastened into the haven of the waiting cab and as we sped away I memorized the sad face of the abandoned and mistreated drunken rice cake ambassador.

1 comment:

Matthew Smith said...

"You've all been there, you know what I'm talking about" that we do. that we do.

At least my memories are not from a long train ride. Mine are more from short subway destinations where I can fake like it's my stop (and wait for the next subway to come by)