There was once a show on cable TV where taxi drivers in New York had conversations with their passengers and they stuck a hidden camera in the cab so they could get all the drama. It didn’t last long and it was mocked mercilessly by SNL.
But I only bring it up because last night I had an experience where the driver seems to have let me in on a big secret.
I took a cab home along a route that normally takes about 15 minutes, and by cab would cost around 5000 won.
But that’s not what happened. As we got onto the Gangbyeon expressway the cars were only inching along. I thought nothing of it at first. It was rush hour afterall.
But this wasn’t rush hour traffic. This was like, Walking Dead we have to get out of Atlanta traffic. It was Everybody Hurts so let’s all get out of our cars and abandon them on the freeway traffic (for the young or very old, that’s a reference to an R.E.M. music video).
As we moved onward and onward as the snail does, it became apparent that there was an accident ahead. Only that would explain why we were barely moving, and why I would likely be paying more than double.
The driver turns on the radio to listen to traffic updates. It’s confirmed. There’s an accident. I start thinking of other terrible car accidents I’ve seen the aftermath of. The one where the VW bug was upside down; the one where two old ladies were trapped and it looked like EMT was struggling to get them free AND attend to their medical needs; and the one where both cars were ablaze.
But suddenly my reminiscence was interrupted as the cabby begins honking rolls down his window and shouts out probably the most profanity laden tirade I’ve ever heard. It had the 18s, the dog babies, their mother, and probably things I have yet to learn.
“What’s going on?,” I say as I look out the window. We drive by 2 demure ladies who have had a fender bender in the middle lane of traffic on the expressway and simply stopped in the center lane instead of driving to the side or off the freeway. One could hear their conversation. “What should we do? What should we do? One was crying and the other wafting her hands over her face in that annoying motion that accompanies crying and not wanting to ruin makeup.
As we passed, people stopped rubbernecking and traffic began to flow normally.
The driver was still mid tirade when I said, “sir, it’s okay. Those people were thinking only of themselves. That’s why they didn’t consider everyone behind them. ”
And he said “No, it’s because they are Korean, and Koreans are rotten.”
He hits the meter saying he can’t in good conscience make me pay more than what the meter had already run up. We were still only halfway home.
I retorted, “surely not all Koreans are rotten.”
“Trust me, I’m Korean. Enough of us are rotten and our society is going to fall apart.”
He then started talking about how Japanese didn’t loot or fight in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster and were very orderly and most survivors made out alright.
“If that happened in Korea,” he said “You’d see robbery, killing, and prostitution over cup ramen.”
“Well you’re not a rotten guy,” I countered. “You stopped the meter.”
He agrees, but then admits he was contributing to the traffic jam by rolling down the window to scream at the two drivers and didn’t bother to call the police to come help out.
I got out of the cab in front of my apartment and gave the driver more than the fare. He tried to give change, but I tell him to keep it. Another lady gives me a dirty look as I’m gathering my stuff. She hops in and starts screaming at him to go somewhere.