Sunday, July 12, 2009

Subway Encounter

On Saturday, July 4 I was on the subway to Insa-dong to meet Amy. Suddenly, it started pouring with rain. It was coming down hard! When I left home just 45 minutes before, the sun was scorching, with no indication of rain. So I didn't have my umbrella with me. I was a few stops away from Seoul Station. I thought I had 2 options:

1) Get off at Seoul Station and take a cab to Insa-dong (get wet walking from station to cab)
2) Go straight to Insa-dong (get wet walking from station to meeting place)

When I ride the subway, I almost never sit - unless it's late at night and my feet are sore (and there are enough available seats - which is very rare). I usually stand at the door, so I can get a few seconds of fresh air at each stop.

A couple of stops before Seoul Station, 2 guys walked in from the door where I was standing. One was Asian, the other - white. [I mention this because I later find out that one is a Korean-American] They stood near me, and were talking about trivial things. I always mind my own business on the subway, either lost in my thoughts or whatever song is blasting in my ear through my MP3 player.

I honestly don't know what made me turn around and ask them: "Are you teachers?" The one guy (Asian) said they were and asked if I was too. The other guy asked where I was headed and I said that I was still trying to decide which stop to jump off at - to avoid the rain. He made some silly comment saying that I could have another shower if I got stuck in the rain, and that I should follow him to go to where I wanted to. He made a few weak attempts of really silly small talk.
Thankfully, he was getting off at Seoul Station. I decided not to.

The other guy was getting off at the next stop - in about 1.5 minutes. Within the approximate 90 seconds, we had a quick conversation asking questions that most foreigners ask each other when meeting for the first time.

He lives in Siheung. That's where I live! (No one really knows about this city, even Koreans themselves!) He works in Bucheon. That's where I hang out! When I asked where in Siheung he lives, I was amazed that he lives in the same area as me! He's Korean-American - he was born in Siheung, but was brought up in the States. Just before he got off at his stop, we quickly exchanged numbers.

We agreed to meet for a drink or something - after all, it's rare meeting English-speaking people in my area.

Anyways... Fast forward 5 hours.

I was on the subway headed home after spending time with Amy & Anne.

As usual, I was standing at the door watching Seoul's skyline whizz past me while I was listening to my MP3. Without thinking, I just glanced over my shoulder and looked straight into the face of the guy I'd met earlier (the one who got off at Seoul Station).

What are the chances of being on the SAME train as someone you'd randomly met earlier that day?

"Did you have a good day?" he asked me. He looked like one of those people who don't blink, and who have a permanent non-movable smile pasted on their face. Hmmmm..

"Yeah...thanks" I tried to turn around again. There were a few people standing between us and he had raised his voice to speak to me.

I felt obliged to ask him the same thing.

"Did you?" I was hoping he wouldn't want to strike up a conversation - for various reasons. He had these beady eyes and something in my gut told me this isn't someone I'd strike up any kind of relationship with.

He pushed through the people between us and came to stand next to me. So there was no need to speak loudly, but he did. He went on to talk about what he did during the afternoon, playing tennis with his friends. I just nodded politely.

"Where are you from, again?" he asked.
"South Africa"
Obliged to reciprocate the question...
"And you?" I asked.
"Iowa" he said, as if it's a country on it's own. (Note: the other guy I met earlier said "I'm from the States - New Jersey" Why Americans bother to say where they're from by just telling me their State is really beyond me. As IF America is the WORLD.
He didn't stop talking.
"Oh! Are you going home for the Olympics next year?"
"You mean the soccer World Cup?"
"Same thing, right?"


A few seconds silence. Ok, maybe he got the hint that I don't really wanna talk. By this time he'd attracted a few stares from Koreans near us. Also, there was another foreigner on the same train - he looked very sunburned - the kind of red that is painful!

The guy trying to talk to me blurted out, "Woah - "someone's" really burned" - rolling his eyes over to the other man. Couldn't he at least lower his voice? Couldn't I move? How many stops till I get off?

He went on to tell me that he was meeting a friend later that evening. A Filipino woman - a factory worker he'd met online. He went on to talk about some things unique to Korea. And I don't know HOW, but there was a mention of "Love Motels" - basically the name is self-explanatory.Couples (married/unmarried) go to these motels for

All the while I was just nodding, and avoiding eye contact, occasionally glancing at the map above the door - why did my stop seem so far away?!

So he made a mention of "Love Motel" (I can't remember in what context), but I just said "Yeah, I know". The man turned his head to the side, looked at me from the corner of his eyes, flashed this cheesy grin at me, and touched my leg with his tennis raquet and said, "Eyyyy - How do YOU know about Love Motels?"


Ok I was one stop away from where I was getting off.

Finally, we arrived and I said, "Ok - have a good evening ... good bye!"


Pumba said...

hahaha...too funny. Actually, when I was with a friend in New York last year, we saw the same couple 3 times in 2 days. We first met on the subway coming into the city from the airport and got talking, presumably because we were the only people on the train with luggage. They were from Germany and there on vacation. So this was at about 10am on Saturday morning. Then, we saw them that same night at about 11pm in Times Square amongst thousands of people. And they were so happy to see us too. We thought that was weird, but then we saw them again the next day in downtown NY, which I thought was getting really weird. I thought that was funny but not as funny as your story.

Sheetal said...

@ Pumba ~ Wow! What a cool experience. I've met quite a few people through some random experiences. They make for good stories to tell later!

Thanks for your comment! x

Nicki said...

Wow! This is funny and cool. Was he good looking? Hahaha!

Sheetal said...

@ Nicki ~ Thanks! And nooooo - not good looking. A bit creepy, if you ask me. And I NEVER say that - so .... :)