Tuesday, 3 August 2010

been having an excellent taxi driver week

Sometimes it's the little things in life that keep you afloat... especially when one's glorious wedding/family visit/honeymoon to the maldives/summer vacation suddenly morphs into a "worst working schedule I've ever had and the staff room air conditioner stopped working" return to work.

but i'm happy to report that I've had a startlingly good run of taxi drivers lately.

And as tribute to Taxi Drivers, who can be the best, or the worst thing about life in Korea, depending on the one, and the day, and the weather, here's some taxi driver music, also known as "Trot" or 트로트.

Wifeoseyo and I were in a taxi heading to the Seoul Station Lotte Mart, and as we passed Seoul Station, Wifeoseyo twisted around and gasped, "We've gone past Seoul Station! What are you doing?" to the taxi driver. As we came a little farther around the corner, it was revealed that the Lotte Mart was around the side of the main station. Instead of the gruff, bulldog snarl that a lot of taxi-drivers would offer when their passenger said, in effect, "What the hell are you doing?" -- this taxi driver looked ahead, and sang cheerfully, "Lotte Marteu" exactly the way the radio jingle goes. It cracked us both up, and turned the situation from possible mean to brilliantly fun. Lovely.

then, yesterday, I got off work, and wanted to test out another route home before the car wifeoseyo and I ordered arrives, and I start seriously considering driving to work. So I caught a cab, and asked him to take me home by way of a certain road that's less travelled by than the usual thoroughfares taxi drivers head for, when one asks to go to my new neighborhood.

As soon as I started talking in Korean, the Taxi driver started laughing with glee -- it took me a few seconds to suss out that he wasn't mocking me, but was simply impressed and tickled that I spoke Korean as well as I did (not THAT well... but I'll take it)

Then, he started telling stories in 85% Korean (but mostly simple enough I could catch the gist), about other non-Korean passengers he'd taken, which included a hilarious re-enactment of a conversation with some Arab passengers-

"You tomorrow airport come! Big cash!"
"No I taxi small! Five people my taxi small."
"Please you come tomorrow please cash money!"
"I sorry taxi small no five people sorry!"

he was laughing all through his own story, and the way he told it reminded me of the seven-year-old I used to teach who was so excited about his story that he stopped using words, and just acted the ends of his stories out with broad, comical charades, while his classmates looked on, bemused, with faces reading, "I have no idea what's going on, but it sure is entertaining!"

Then he went on to explain how Japanese passengers can't speak Korean OR English, and complained that English is hard. He took his little screen (which had been playing trot/techno, which he stopped at the beginning of the trip, and which I asked him to turn back on, because it was hella fun), and turned on an English tv drama, which we watched, all as he told me in asides, "I have no idea what they're saying," and then took a phrase from the show "How do you like that?" and repeated it as he heard it: "Hawyuulaee'det?" over and over, until it cracked me up again.

So yeah, sometimes things get busy, and air conditioners break down, and wallets get pick-pocketed... but there's always a funny taxi driver, a cute old lady, or a friendly stranger, to keep things from going too far down the dark road.


Eugene (황유진) said...

The only interaction I get with the taxi drivers is them asking me why my Korean sucks so much followed by silence and/or rude smoking

The Sanity Inspector said...

Fun story. Once a family friend was squiring us around, and she was driving us back from Imjingak. She kept getting lost on the way back to our hotel in Seoul. Twice, she stopped and talked to a taxi driver, and twice the cabbies drove before her, guiding her towards her destination. She did give money to one of them, but it was gallant of them both to do so.

redskinfankorea said...

As much as I piss and moan about this country (especially now with the weather as it is), there have been many times where some random Korean person has been nice or helpful simply because that's what you do. It does restore one's faith in humanity and can definitely change the tone of the day.

Hannah said...

Hi Rob!
Really enjoyed this post. It's always nice to get a dose of positivity these days, cuz Lord knows it's easy to get burnt out and negative about life in Korea. I love getting kind taxi drivers, too.
Best of luck with everything as you set up your new life! It's exciting that you'll be getting your own wheels soon. Vrooom!

Jeffrey said...

I like your style - you really capture Korea in that last line!