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....