I just walked out of the subway and started writing this post. I'm fresh from the subway, which I took for the first time in probably months, because I'm a bus man. However, I had overslept on the bus back up from Yongin, which placed me at the last stop – the Kangbyeon Lottemart – which is really awkwardly placed right in the middle of the Green #2 Line and in an area far outside my bus ken.
So I'm watching Battlestar Galactica after realizing that it's the coolest TV I've seen in about a decade or more. I'm deep into the plotline at the very beginning of the miniseries, after the human colonies have been nuked into near-oblivion by the secretive and sexy (?!) Cylons, when I'm jolted out of my sci-fi reverie by a drunk-ass ajussi yelling at me. I'm standing at the door about to get off in two stops, so I turn up the sound, turn away, and turn my attention back to the pretty spectacular space spectacle on my little screen. I hadn't heard what he had said, which was all the better, which made it easier to refocus on those dastardly Cylons sending nukes screaming into the side of the Galactica. Damn those metal monsters!
But since I had to step out soon, I clicked over to "My Top Rated" playlist and got ready to jam on out. Unfortunately, when I switched out of video, the sound and video cuts off to let me explore the menu. So that's when I hear – even through my Shure, in-the-ear earbuds that cut out 80% of environmental sound – a slur of something about "my country" and "niggers" and other assorted things being yelled pretty loudly at me.
I look up and around to notice that the people in the car had kind of cleared our area, while I had been totally cut off from the fact that this guy had probably been yelling nonsense at me for a long time. Now I could hear it, and when someone calls you a "nigger" in any language – well, no matter how long you prepare for it – you wanna throw down, baby.
"Why he gotta go there?" I think to myself, pulse already racing. I'm rocking my sweet, banana-yellow tie in the 4-button, chocolate-brown suit with the tight, tan pinstripes, my favorite suit. I'm in a good mood, I look as good as I get, and my back didn't hurt, even though it was my heavy book day. And I had been watching Battlestar Galactica, man. "Why he gotta go there?!"
So I forcefully yank the buds out of my ears and yell, "What did you say?" in rude Korean. My rule is – you be rude, I be rude. I know I'm supposed to take the high ground and maintain my polite endings despite my anger, but I was taking a fast trip to the Ghetto Side of the Force™ after the "nigger" thing. Even though I was pretty certain of what I had heard – "nigger" = 깜둥이 = "껌댕이" in his country accent – I was still technically checking. So I shout, "Say what you said one more time," and didn't back away as he continued to slur nonsense through his alcohol-impaired tongue.
I saw the agassi still standing somewhere in our vicinity back away from the exit doors. Shit was on, mang! I now had to run through the decision list that men usually have to run through when publicly confronting another man. I was reminded of the old saying, "What do you call a black man in an Armani suit and a Mercedes? Nigger." So if and when the police came, I knew I'd be the one in trouble, and my visa's coming up for renewal soon. Didn't matter if I was wearing my tailored chocolate-brown suit; my caramel-brown skin meant that I'd be held responsible.
And in Korea, no one holds drunks responsible for their own actions (e.g. "Well, he was drunk, after all, what do you expect?"). The fact that I do hold drunks responsible for everything they say or do would be beside the point to the police. But I made the decision that I'd take whatever he said, as long as he didn't lay a hand on me; if he touched me, he was going on the ground, I was gonna be out the door. All this internal decision-making happened in the time it took to stand nose-to-nose with this idiot and ask him to repeat what he had just said.
Well, even through his drunken haze, and the smell of liquor breath, I think he also smelled the fact that I wasn't going to stand and take it, on top of the fact that he was surprised that was speaking in Korean and very not verbally defenseless. When the doors finally opened at my stop, I turned to him and said very loudly, "Watch what you say, motherfucker," and walked out. It was surreal and everything was kind of swimming, because I hadn't been that seethingly angry in a long time, not since late 2002, the last time some drunk ajussi messed with me on a subway; that was also the last time I violated my little rule of not taking the subway. See what happens? I was a bit surprised though, since I had never been harassed on any line higher than #2, and this was the pretty middle-class, office-worker heavy #5 line.
Anyway, I have reaffirmed my rule of not taking the subway unless absolutely necessary. I take the bus, because for some reason, no one seems to mess with me on the bus. Maybe it's the sunlight, or being obove ground, with a greater sense that you are in a real place; when you're below ground, certain people just seem to lose their minds.
So, I have now been called "nigger" about four times by an adult in Korea, which isn't bad for a total of around 6 years in this country. I also realize that no matter how much you try to brace yourself, or prepare for the occasional inevitable, there's something about that word – no matter how it's translated – that just makes the blood boil. I can take "Yankee" or just about any kind of curse in Korean and have it bounce off me, but that word...grrrrrrrrrr.
Conclusion? Since I don't want to have to end up paying some idiotic drunkard money in a police station for a punch he very well deserves, or worse, end up in Korean prison, I'm going to avoid the subway. Buses are good, they go fast, and you can watch people passing by. You usually get a seat, get to know the geography of Seoul better, and don't have to smell the stench of a drunk ajussi talking trash – expressing the nature of his true self, which is what alcohol brings out in any person. So now, I'm recommitted to just sticking to my own rule of staying the fuck above ground in Seoul.
Thanks for listening. Vent over.
So how 'bout that Battlestar Galactica? Cylons be cool, dude. Watch it.