Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Happy 4th of July, America!

I spent the holiday alone getting some work done here and there. But I wanted to eat some good ole' American BBQ for lunch, so I headed to Linus' Bama Style BBQ in Itaewon. I had the pulled pork platter, which was pretty good and totally hit the spot. It felt nice being in the restaurant today because it was filled with other American customers who also seemed to have come with the same craving as me. It was a mixture of both young people and families among them who seemed like locals, in the military from the nearby American army base, or tourists. Being around fellow Americans was especially comforting on a major holiday like today, and reminded me of being back home in the U.S.

In general, I take the subway everyday here in Seoul. It's my major form of transportation. The trains are modern with full cellular and data capabilities, but the only bummer is that they stop running from midnight to 5:30am. One other major difference about the Seoul subway system in comparison to New York's is that each station here has floor-to-ceiling glass partitions at the edge of all platforms. The glass walls block any access to the tracks and only open where the subway doors open. That means angrily leaning over the edge of the platform like I do in New York to look down the tracks for the next train is impossible here. But stations in Seoul are equipped with tv screens that tell you how far away the next train is anyway, so that solves that. Another good thing about the glass partitions is that they also prevent people from falling into the tracks, or god forbid jumping in front of a train to kill themselves.

The other day, I was walking down the steps to a platform of a station when I saw a mass of people starting to walk up towards me. I knew the subway had just gotten there, and didn't want to have to wait for the next one so I darted towards the open doorway. I saw that the doors were sliding shut but didn't care and still went for it. The doors closed on me and I got stuck with half of my body inside the subway and other other half sticking out. Now, this happens all the time in the New York subways. And when it does, the conductor will quickly re-open the doors to allow whoever is stuck to get their whole body onto the train. Or if the conductor doesn't do that, other straphangers might help out by pulling the doors apart to force them open again (which usually always works). But when I was stuck between the doors the other day here in Seoul, it so did not go down like that.

From the shoulder down, it was the left side of my body that was sticking out of the doors. My tote was also in my left hand swinging in the air, so as I was trying to squeeze the rest of my body and bag into the train, I struggled to push through with the doors not budging. At. All. I looked around the subway cart in panic as I was fighting to get inside, and straight up made eye contact with all of the other straphangers who just sat there stoically watching me. It was a good ten seconds of my body in limbo as everyone just stared, but it felt like an eternity. Someone was even standing inside right at the door in front of me, but she did nothing but watch me scramble as well. And since the subway doors couldn't close with me jammed inside them, the doors of the glass partition weren't able to close either.

The conductor finally re-opened the doors and I managed to stumble inside feeling a bit frazzled. I looked around and felt this sense that people were looking at me like I had gotten myself into this mess, and I suddenly realized that they were right. In that moment, I became aware that commuters in Seoul don't stick their limbs or bodies between closing doors of the subway because that's just not how it works here. And I couldn't remember a single time when I had seen anyone else do that in the trains here. Well, phew. Duly noted, and lesson learned. Thankfully with my body still intact.

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