Friday, November 2, 2012

I'd buy THAT for a dollar!

On the average of every second train ride in Seoul, you will come across people who really aren't supposed to be there - doing what they are doing - and would probably be fined or arrested if anyone approaching a position of authority happened upon the same car. Frequenting the Seoul Metro System along with the average commuter can be found the following:

1) Religious nut-bags wearing beauty pageant sashes that say "Jesus - Heaven / No Jesus - Hell" and holding bibles in people's faces warning them to repent. I once saw one particularly zealous one getting relentlessly beaten by an apparently secular grandmother who had had enough of the fire and brimstone.

2) Persons pretending to have disabilities (and some with actual legitimate disabilities) playing traditional music from a portable speaker system and looking for money. I give - sometimes. I didn't give anything though to a particularly horrible actor who tried to earn money by posing as a muscular dystrophy sufferer - swinging from the hand-rails for "support"and falling in our car 8 or 10 times (sometimes onto people), before getting busted by Metro police and walking off the train in hand-cuffs without any limp, shift, or difficulty of any kind.

3) People selling random stuff: fold-able hats (my mom and aunt are now proud owners of such fine finery), pirated Anne Murray CD collections, sleeves for hikers (presumably for people who want to wear short-sleeved shirts and still avoid a forearm tan), and any manner of thing. I once chased-down a man - off the train and onto the platform - as he was selling thin and flexible plastic drain cleaners, and man - my sink was nasty.

Last night, while the rabbit slept beside me, a man with perhaps the world's worst toupee took a stroll down the aisle of our train car. I could see that he was selling 4-packs of tooth-brushes. Despite his rather unfortunate appearance, he appeared to be full of tooth-brush selling vigour - projecting like a professional and doing his best to make his tooth brushes sound like the best on the market.

I had my head down - looking at my phone - when I noticed that his tooth-brush 4-packs were suddenly being waved as close as possible to my phone without actually touching it. It took me a moment to realize that he was speaking near-perfect (if accented) English, and this - to my best recollection - is what he said:

"You, sir, should buy my tooth-brushes. My tooth-brushes are not made from cheap Chinese labour, as you know. They are made here in Korea. Your country must understand that buying these toothbrushes will help make Korea an economic power and you will help prevent a third World War. You want to prevent a third World War. Please buy my tooth-brushes. Only one thousand won ($1.00)!"

I had my hat pulled down low but it was then that I couldn't help but smile - 'cause that was some entertaining stuff. I managed in Korean to tell him that I would like to buy his tooth-brushes, but I had no money on me. This was true as I haven't been carrying cash on me for a few weeks now, and I wasn't about to wake the rabbit for her to see a car-load of stunned late-night public transit patrons staring at us as I had an English conversation with an elderly Korean gentleman who, despite his being Korean, looked kind of like this guy.

He then asked me what country I was from. When I told him, he reminded me that Canada is a peace-loving country, and, as a Canadian, I certainly would want to avoid a global conflict. We exchanged a few more words in Korean and English and I promised him that next time, I would buy his four-pack of tooth-brushes, and I will - because I am going to meet an old friend for a drink and I just put two 500 won coins in my pocket.

2 comments:

Tuttle said...

Well, you do want to prevent a third World War, don't you? Don't you?

George Bailey Sees The World! said...

I do, and I acted to the best of my ability. I was like Bobby Kennedy on the eve of the Cuban Missile Crisis - calling the bluff, or mare accurately - pretending there was never a message in the first place.