5.25.2012

Taking a ride.

Taxi drivers in Seoul have become less than pleasant. They basically constantly grumble about where you are, where you want to go, where you want to get out. They'll pick you up in the middle of Gangnam at rush hour and then complain about traffic. As if they've never driven in Seoul before. God forbid they have to make a turn at any point -- you'll hear all about how you should have taken a taxi from a point that would have made it a straight shot, even if that's not even possible. As if it weren't their job, and they weren't being paid. It's horrible.

But out here in Incheon, they're mostly extremely pleasant. I rarely have any issues. Yesterday, on my way home from the mart with arms full of groceries, I did have one grumble when I said, simply, "여기요," when we got to where I wanted to stop. He muttered under his breath about how I had given him no warning and just suddenly blurted out that I wanted him to stop. We were about fifty yards from the destination I had originally told him, there was zero passing traffic to interfere with his stopping, and this is pretty much just how you take taxis. But nonetheless, he was put out that I had asked him to let me out at my destination. A horrible inconvenience for him, it must have been. I can't even imagine.

You eventually learn to just ignore it, or pretend you don't understand it. Keep smiling and say thank you and go along on your way. Grumpy old men being grumpy.

But this morning was quite different. I was running a bit late to work, due to I don't even know what (by "late", I mean late for the thirty minutes early I usually arrive), and had been standing waiting for a cab for a good few minutes when, just as a taxi appeared on the horizon, a young female university student clutching her books with wet hair and sleepy eyes took a good look at me and then stepped out in front of me and grabbed the cab first. I stared her down, as I usually do in these situations, because, given that we were the only two people standing there, it's not as if she wouldn't have known what the score was.

But then, as she started to climb in, I saw the taxi suddenly jerk forward. She stepped back, confused and then leaned her head inside. I saw the taxi driver turn around and say something, and her face changed to angry, and she attempted to climb in again. The car jerked forward again. She shouted and slammed the door. And he pulled up and stopped in front of me.

By this point, I was laughing. I climbed inside and thanked him emphatically. He was laughing too, and he explained how he had told the girl that it was bad manners to take the cab of the person in front of you, who had been waiting longer. He asked me if I was a teacher, complimented my (at this point extremely basic) Korean and then started to explain how his daughter was attending a local elementary school, and how he would like to send his daughter to my school. I explained that my school is a boys' school, so that might be a little difficult. He said we could probably make an exception. I laughed some more, and he asked, "아저씨는 재미 있지?" I'd have to agree. This conversation, this situation, was not what I was expecting on my morning commute.

He went on to explain how his daughter doesn't like him, and only clings to his wife, so he's a 왕따 in his own family. I told him being a teacher teaches you more than anything that kids can be difficult for no reason.

It completely brightened my day, and now I'm ready to get my classes done and get out of here for the long weekend. Even my lesson plans for today are fun, so it should be a good, quick day. Let's just not think about the open class next week....

6 comments:

Rachel said...

My husband and I had a similar experience with a street food vendor. We were in line for 붕어빵. When it was finally our turn, a slightly inebriated 아저시 cut us in line. My husband tried to push him away, but that didn't work. He was older and felt that seniority ruled? The street food seller gave him a piece of his mind and told him to go to the back of the line. :)

baekgom84 said...

I hear nothing but horrific stories about arsehole taxi drivers here, and yet all of my (numerous) experiences with them have been quite pleasant. In fact I'd say some of the most interesting conversations I've ever had here were with taxi drivers. There was one guy who had travelled to something like sixty countries (and spoke reasonable English); turns out he had once worked as an executive for Hyundai but got laid off during the IMF business.

I've had exactly one 'horror' story involving a taxi driver, but even that was an incident so filled with unintentional hilarity that I'm almost glad it happened, just for the story.

박재선 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
박재선 said...

(↑ I made a mistake y.y)
"He is somebody's father, somebody's husband and somebody's son". Taxi drivers have to be friendly for passengers but sometimes they don't act like that. plz understand all drivers aren't grumpy people and it might happen bad things before you ride the taxi:) But I'm ashamed about lady's behavior.

I'm no Picasso said...

박재선: Maybe you misunderstood? The story was a positive one. I don't think noticing that sometimes taxi drivers are rude means that I don't understand them....

Unknown said...

It's been a few years since I lived in Seoul, but yeah definitely a few memories of less than pleasant taxi drivers. Mostly they are fine, and some have been really nice. My wife and I had one nightmare situation when we came back to Seoul visiting, a year after leaving. Hopped in a taxi in Itaewon to take a short trip to a friends place maybe 5 or 10 minutes drive away, we were running late .. as always. Anyway, once my wife explains where we are going, the driver grumbles something about how we should have walked or some such crap. My wife immediately asks him to stop and let us out, then proceeds to tell him that she will contact his company/website and let them/people in general know about his behaviour. The driver stops, we get out, and then he starts shouting at us to get back in, he follows us down the road shouting, trying to grab my wife's arm, her shouting back at this stage, me trying to stay between them. More words exchanged, eventually he backs off. Pretty horrible situation, could easily have gotten violent, which would not have ended well. Ah well, still miss Korea :)