Perspectives. It’s all about perspectives. And culture.
I was heading home last night from a fantastic birthday bash (happy birthday again A!) with a group of friends who live in my area (that area being the area of Seoul no one goes to because we are practically in North Korea). I am being my normal self, talking and laughing, but not TOO loud. Believe it or not, Korea has decreased my volume from REALLY LOUD to LOUD. I just can’t help it that my voice carries okay?
Anyway, someone says something funny (probably me) I laugh, and then some Ahjussi* looks at me through the legs of people (it is not a desolate subway train, meaning other people are making noise too) and says, “I want quiet subway ride.” I smile politely and laugh no more and also tell him that his English is really good (I may have whispered that last part because he scared me). I only did this though because I was with six other friends, normally I let the ‘melody-rag-at-koreans-because-she-speaks-English-at-the-same-volume-as-everyone-else-who-is- speaking-korean-but-gets-shh’ed-all-the-time-because-her-language-isn’t-cared-for-on-public-transportation-and-therefore-people-constantly-try-to-kick-her-off-the-subway’ (okay only once has someone tried to kick me off) show because I just don’t think it’s far that korean girls can scream in their phone -through their hand of course- or old ahjussis and adjumas can yell loudly at each other, but as soon as I say one sentence in English I get “shh’ed!”. The previous rage mentioned usually just involves me saying, “No, I will not stop speaking English just because you don’t like my language or understand what I am saying and you feel the need to stare at me 24/7.” By the time I am in the middle of my rant, which I have maybe given twice (the other times I actually just stop talking) the “shh’ers” are trying to ignore ME.
Back to the story. After the ahjussi sternly stares at me…
BK then wants the others to hear how good this old ahjussi’s English is and offers up chan won (a buck, not really sure if that is how you spell chan won) to whoever can make me laugh. I ask him if I can have the money if I make myself laugh, he denied me. Psshhh, well I am not about to laugh for anyone else then.
About ten minutes later (I am not even TALKING at this point, maybe…?) I see the ahjussi coming towards me, on a mission to correct my devilish ways of making his subway ride noisy, when as fast as Mr. Incredible himself (who is so much cooler than Superman) BK is standing in front of me, blocking him. “You don’t need to talk to her. Just leave her alone.”
“I just want to tell her, that I like quiet subway ride.” Really, this ahjussi’s English was pretty good. He then tries to explain to BK that he has a right to a quiet subway ride, while I apologize in Korean (where did all of my sass go?) and my other friends tell him he is more than welcome to change subway cars…you see in our minds we felt that we have the right to speak in a public place and since there are so many of us it would just be easier for him to step into another car.
At one point BK tells the old man that if we were screaming in Korean he wouldn’t have even noticed us (so true). The ahjussi is trying to get over the fact that BK looks Korean but is speaking English, “You are Korean American?” He seems so surprised. After establishing the fact that yes, BK, was indeed born and raised in America, he continues to press upon us his right to a quiet journey on the sub.
And then he got off at the next stop.
*Term for older man/uncle type figure/bus driver/that guy laying on the side of the street with a bottle of Soju in his hand.