16.12.09

The Midget Conundrum

My daily journey to and from work on the subway passes, most days, without incident. The system is terrifically efficient and comfortable, even warming my little arse with heated seats on a -6º day like today. Kendra and I ride together on Line 4 to Dongjak station, sipping our morning coffees and bickering, before going our separate ways to work. From Dongjak, I join the shiny new Line 9 and ride it 4 stops to Sapyeong station which is a 5 minute walk from my school. This 4-stop journey on Line 9 has been known to cause some issues.

Firstly, as I have already mentioned, Line 9 is new. The stations are new, the trains are new and everything is shiny and smooth. Very smooth. Especially the floors. I wear black loafers to work that clip-clop like a newly-shoe'd horse and the soles are far from efficient for this surface which, quite frankly, is like an ice-rink. This morning for example, running slightly late as I was, I stepped swiftly off the escalator, placed one foot on the floor and slipped backwards into an old lady, spilling coffee on my jeans and jacket. She looked at me like I'd just shagged her daughter and walked off leaving me red-faced and pissed off.

When I join the subway on Line 9, the trains are always full. Very full. We're squeezed in like a fat arse into lycra, in fact. I wear a backpack to work and, as you can imagine, this isn't the most appropriate baggage when trying to squeeze into a small space. Anyway, intuitive as I am, I have developed a trick for bypassing this minor problem. I drain my coffee before the train arrives and make sure I am standing on the right-hand side of the doors. Then, when the train arrives and the passengers exit out of the left-hand side of the doors, I slip my bag off my shoulder, enter the train sideways and then make a little twist as the doors close so I am facing the door and don't have to make eye contact with anybody who's crotch I may have inadvertently rubbed my hand against. Anyway, on this particular morning last week, I had prepped myself in the usual manner and had my backpack held by my side as the train approached. The passengers got off and I crab-walked my way onto the carriage, heard the doors begin to close and began my little twist manoeuvre before....disaster! Some little punk was biting my moves and had squeezed into the carriage behind me. This meant that I was trapped between a chubby man and this punk character, mid-twist and unable to complete it. I had one arm up against my chest with my hand in the air like a gimp and my face literally 2 inches from that of the fat-boy, looking directly towards him. I had to ride that way, avoiding eye contact and trying not to touch his cheek, for 10 whole minutes.

The main thing that troubles me about Line 9 has become known, rather grandly, as The Midget Conundrum. And when I say 'become known' I mean 'become known by me and only me'. Now, there is a scene in Curb Your Enthusiasm - you may have seen it - where Larry David discusses the fact that he finds himself nodding at black people. He can't really help himself, he just finds that, more often than not, he will nod at a black stranger. I have a similar problem. I smile at midgets. I don't know why, but I do. I always have done. It's not that I find them particularly amusing (well, I find them a little amusing) or that I mean to be at all patronising...it's just something I can't seem to stop. Anyway, most mornings, a little midget lady gets off the subway with me at Dongjak and walks with me to Line 9. It's always very busy and people in Seoul aren't really the best at keeping out of your personal space, so I see her quite often being pushed around and shoulder barged - okay, knee'd - out of the way. This angers me a great deal so, one morning, as our eyes met for the first time, I gave her a smile which I thought said, "I feel sorry for you little lady, how you feel is how I feel in a group of North Americans, I can feel your pain". However, from the daggers she sent from her eyes to mine, my look apparently said "I've seen videos of your kind doing unspeakable things". I've seen her a few times since then and I haven't been able to get any sort of eye contact from her. It breaks my heart really. I don't know how I could have offended her. Maybe she's somehow aware that the first time I saw her I had to text Kendra to tell her about it. Or that I secretly wonder if I'd be able to fit her into my suitcase. Or that I have actually seen those videos.

Either way, I don't think I'll be smiling at midgets or dwarfs or elves or any of Tolkien's creatures, in fact, for quite some time.

Love, Smithy x

1 comment:

Postman said...

Ha! I nod at black people too! I'm trying to say, "Hey man, I'm not like all the rest of those white supremacist bastards, I actually view black people as people..."
Sometimes it works. I haven't tried it in Harlem, NY or Compton, LA yet...

Good post, good post. Almost too true to be funny. I got this hilarious vision of you and the fat boy staring at each other the whole subway ride. Made me chuckle.