Sunday, May 25, 2014

How to Break a Rule in Korea and Get Away with It

I've discovered the secret, folks.

Basically, if an ajumma says you can do it, it's okay.

Ajumma: An older Korean woman. Typically travels in packs with other ajummas (I suspect there are ajumma gangs that have turf wars with competing ajumma gangs...we'll save that discussion for another time). Likely has brightly colored clothing, a smart perm, and a fashionable visor.

I can't take credit for this, but can.
So there I was on the subway, sitting down. The train had gone two stops from my point of origin, and there were very few seats left. The train doors open, and four ajummas rush in. One sits in jumps into an empty seat by me. "YUH-GI!!!" she shouted. I suspect that she was the pack leader, because one of the ajummas immediately and obediently sat down.

Yuh-gi (여기): Over here, over there, come here.

Two ajummas remained standing on the train, so I stood up to offer my my seat. "YUH-GI!!!!" the permed gang leader shouted. Seconds later, my seat was taken. One of the gang members (I have a feeling she's the sweetheart of the bunch) said "thank you" (in English, I should note) to me. I looked around to see several glances of approval for my noble action of standing up. If only they knew that, in the US, what I did was considered basic gentlemanly behavior...but I liked the positive attention, so I went with it.

As I stood, I glanced over to my left to see that a different ajumma was beckoning me to sit by her. This would not be blog worthy if this woman wasn't in THE SENIOR SECTION. At either end of any train car are six seats that have a different color from the other seats. It's obvious that there is something different about them.

And there is. If you sit in one of these seats without being:
  1. Over the age of 55
  2. Pregnant
  3. Mobbed by your five children
You will, on your best day, get a month's worth of stink-eye from the train passengers. You may even get scolded.

I found myself in a dilemma. Do I sit in the forbidden seats or risk offending the ajumma? I went with the former.

Guys, this is so stupid, but I felt like I was in a limo.

The ajumma, at one point, excitedly said, "I go! Spelling?" So I spelled it out on my hand, with my finger, several times, until I felt fairly sure that she either I had misheard her question or that she wasn't really listening. It was still amusing. And did I mention I was in the senior seating?

It's the little things.