Talkative people on the subway

So this happened a few days ago and I am not really sure how I feel about it. I was riding the subway long distance, drifting in and out of sleep when I woke up, fearing I might have missed my stop, I looked out the window to see where I was, then I looked at the subway map to see if I had passed my stop. Luckily I hadn’t yet reached my stop, but the sight of a handsome young man in distress caught the attention of two old ladies sitting next to me. One asked if I knew where I was going. I said yes. Then she asked if I spoke Korean. Given that I look pretty foreign, I am used to this conversation by now. It usually begins with a question meant to ascertain one’s Korean ability followed by a huge compliment regardless of if that ability deserves the compliment. It is then followed by an inquiry about how one learned Korean, followed by inquiries into your personal life such as your job and marital status. Finally the conversation will drift towards some aspect of Korea that the person wants to advertise, such as the food, the four seasons, the blue sky, or anything else that might distinguish Korea from other countries so that you’ll take that bit of knowledge back to your nest and feed it to your hive’s queen so that she will command all her drones to operate with this new information. “Korea has four seasons! Holy shit, let’s give them money!!”

Anyway this conversation did not go this way. After the inquiry into my Korean ability the lady said that in the past it would be totally okay to talk about foreigners right in front of them but now we have to be careful because they are more likely to understand. I said that this was probably true. Then she said that back in the day whenever a black person came along people would casually talk about that person freely using the Korean equivalent of Nigger.

I asked the lady not to use that word and she laughed saying it was okay because she wasn’t calling anyone that, she was talking about calling people that. She has a point, but she was talking about herself calling people that. Besides, any escape clause this presented was dashed when she said that it’s okay because there weren’t any around.

She then switched to English to my surprise, and explained that she had lived in LA for a long time and used to work in an hair product shop that was frequented by black women and she got in serious trouble when one lady tried to buy a product ad she wanted to suggest another that would be better for her hair type. She said that this other product was designed for Nigger hair. Since then she has known to watch what she says in front of certain people.

I would have thought that this would lead people to eliminate certain words from their vocabulary regardless of which company was present. But she’s old so I give her the benefit of the doubt.

At least she didn’t talk about Korea’s four seasons.


One Response to “Talkative people on the subway”

  1. One person asked me once, “Korea is famous for its blue skies, what color are the skies in America?”
    Also on a bus once, people were having a discussion about whether I was a man or a woman. I was too tall for a woman to be even though I looked like one. In those days no Korean men wore long hair, but they knew that male “hippies” in America did. I settled the issue by speaking up in Korean to reveal my gender. They were embarrassed and apologized.

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