I often visit a blog call What the Kimchi??? On it, Flint does a series entitled “Mook of the Week” where he details some of the crazy shit that he notices Koreans doing.
Many of these posts are incredibly funny, and while I have no intentions of starting a similar series on this blog, I experienced something last week that reminded me of the Korean what-the-fuckery I often read about on What the Kimchi???
Everyday after work I hop on a tiny bus that weaves its way down a mountain on narrow streets packed with parked cars. . I often marvel at how drivers moving in opposite directions negotiate who gets the right away when there’s not enough room on the road for both vehicles to pass simultaneously.
Normally the right to pass is given to the bigger vehicle while the smaller one waits its turn off to the side of the street. For the most part this system works well, and even during rush hour, traffic seems to move along at a steady pace. On this particular day however, we were met with a road hog that decided to fuck up my plans of getting home in a timely manner.
As the bus I’m riding makes it’s way down a steep incline a van approaches from the opposite direction and instead of turning off into a nearby driveway to let the bus pass, this bastard decides to speed up and stop right in front of us while motioning for the bus to back up and let him through. At this point I take a look out the back window and notice the bus would have to reverse back to the top of the hill into the middle of an intersection in order to let the asshole get by. It made much more sense for the van to back up and turn off into the driveway that was all of ten feet from his rear bumper.
Instead, a 45-second stare down ensues with both drivers motioning at the other to back up and neither vehicle moves an inch. I begin to get frustrated and search the faces of my Korean co-passengers hoping I wasn’t the only one. Surprisingly, no one seems to give a damn.
The driver of the van then hops out, approaches the bus and begins arguing with the bus driver, each man motioning for the other to back up and let him by.
I haven’t the slightest idea what was said but I imagine it went a bit like this:
Van Driver: Why aren’t you moving out of the way?
Bus Driver: Because I was here first. Why don’t you move?
Van Driver: There’s no way that I should have to move. Sure, it’s much easier for me to back my van up a few meters and let you pass, and clearly this would be more logical than you backing your bus up a hill into an intersection, but I was here first and as such, should be awarded the right to pass first.
Bus Driver: Wait, can you explain all that again. I have passengers that need to be somewhere and I’m pretty sure they want to sit here longer while we argue about which one of us should let the other pass. They enjoy watching two grown men act like complete jackasses.
Van Driver: Fine. I’ll just return to my van and stare at you some more through my windshield hoping you and your bus mysteriously vanishes from the road.
The van driver then returns to his vehicle and does just that.
I again look around at the other passengers hoping to find at least one person who shares my growing frustration (In hindsight I think I secretly hopped a gangster ajumma would come to my rescue, going upside the stubborn van driver’s head with a bag of freshly bought bean sprouts. Alas, this is an imperfect world).
After another minute-long stare down, it’s now the bus driver’s turn at an attempt to exert his will. He climbs out and approaches the van, and once more, an argument kicks off, this time with more arm flailing and gesturing. Another minute or two passes (I would have been home by now had I chose to walk) and he returns to the bus swearing (I’m assuming they were swear words) under his breath. He then calmly takes off his sunglasses, wipes them clean and places them back on his face. I got the feeling a curbside brawl was approaching (which I no doubt would have stuck around for) or maybet a game of “chicken.”
The van driver, meanwhile, is wildly pounding his steering wheel and screaming out his window at the the equally stubborn bus driver. I finally decide to get up and walk the rest of the way home when the van begins to creep backwards. What should’ve been a simple 90 degree back-in to the driveway turns into a five-move NASA space shuttle manuver that nearly clips the side mirror off a parked Hyundai.
As the bus finally pulls forward and continues along it’s route I contemplate standing up and applauding but this would have been pointless. I was the only one on the bus who even remotely cared that we were finally on our way. Everyone else was too busy staring at their cell phone screens or otherwise not giving a fuck about what was going on around them.
Because I live in Korea.