The Grab Plan

Between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m, every person in Seoul is trying to get to work. And they are all trying to get on the same train. I get this. After 3 weeks of riding to and from work every weekday, I understand the process. I am well aware each morning as I make my way towards Exit 2 (which also conveniently serves as an entrance) of Cheonho Station that I will be pressed between any number of people in any number of formations.

So, although it's a common occurrence, the way people choose to behave in situations like this still inspire anger to burn deep in my guts. Today was no different. I boarded the second train from Jamsil to Gyo Deh and was in a tight spot in front of the doors. This space between the seats where the doors are is a kind of metro purgatory. You cannot hold onto anything and everyone is going to stumble forward or backward with you. Your subway fate is uncertain at this point. Unless you are squeezed in so tight that it doesn't matter how much the train jerks around. Unless you are stuffed safely in the middle of at least 35 people in a space designed to hold perhaps 12. So today, I am in the purgatory area. It is not too terribly crowded so I'm not actually making physical contact with anyone, yet. So I make my Grab Plan.

The Grab Plan is a selection process by which you choose the prime candidate whom you will improperly grab and possibly grope when you begin to fall over. Preferably this is a person just outside the purgatory area who is holding onto a handle or leaning against a bar, or in a seat in front of you. The ultimate Grab Plan is not too old, very stylish, and male of course. Today, my Grab Plan was situated in front of me and to the left, wearing a navy blue Seoul Institute of Art hoodie . A bag hung on his left arm and the smell coming from it reminded me of Funyuns. Perhaps it was his lunch. He was reading a newspaper and I could see his hands. His profile was tucked behind his hood that must have been insufferably hot to wear. His shoulders were wide and his torso obviously tapered (in a sweatshirt- I know!). He had on dark jeans and white shoes. He was my Grab Plan. If I started to fall and could not recover, I would put my hands on this young man to right myself. I decided that my left hand would be placed against the back of his left arm, while my right hand would aim for somewhere around his right shoulder. Yep, that was my plan.

And I almost had to use it. Do you know why? Can you imagine why I almost had to use the Grab Plan? Hmm.... Danielle, was it because the train was exceptionally rough this morning? Nope. Was it because you were wearing high heels and couldn't keep your balance very well? Never. Well, why then? Hey, thanks for asking! I was almost forced to grab an attractive young Korean man most inappropriately on the metro this morning because the man behind me in his stupid pinstripe business suit was mistaken. Horribly mistaken. See, he thought that I had flown all 13 hours and got a new job doing something I'm not very good at and drastically changed my diet FOR HIM. He believed that my sole purpose in Korea was to support him on his morning commute. This man was back to back with me and he simply leaned on me as if I were a post or a wall. In the beginning, I simply inched forward thinking he would get the idea. Negative. He simply leaned further in order to regain his balance AGAINST me. And my hair kept getting stuck between us so that every time I wanted to look down or do anything except stare straight ahead, I had to jerk my hair free. But this was lost on him.

Okay, second tactic was lean back, but harder. I'm bigger than most Korean men anyway (which constantly shames my boyfriend. I mean, he's got muscles and all that, but he's no match when I just lay into him. If I use all my weight, I always win.) So I start pushing back and.... nothing. No response. He simply adjusts his feet so that I don't push him over. He's RIGHT BY THE FREAKING BAR! Just hold onto the bar! I scream at him in my head over and over.

3rd plan- make my shoulder blades stick out as far as possible so that leaning on me is uncomfortable. Oh, he shifts! Oh, maybe... Nope. He's just repositioning. Finally enough people exit the train for me to move around completely behind my Grab Plan guy. After the man who thought I had applied for the position as stalwart object to be leaned against left the train, I no longer needed my Grab Plan guy.

But I stayed behind him anyway. I felt close to him. He didn't know it, but he theoretically could have saved me from the embarrassment of being fatwhitegirlwhofelldownthismorningonthetrain. People already stare at me. I don't need anything to increase the attention I'm receiving. And so I felt I must remain loyal to this man. So I stood there for all the rest of the stops and when I left the train before him, a small tinge of sadness crept up toward the top of my head. It reminded me of long trips to Georgia when I just happened to follow a certain car all the way down 75 and that car exited the highway before me. I didn't know the person in the car; I had simply become comfortable with our arrangement, our situation. Thank you Grab Plan Man. Thank you for being there. And I would like to metaphorically hock a loogie (sp?) on the Leaning Guy.


The Comeback

Hello dear friends and random readers! Greetings from South Korea, the land of my true love and kimchi. (Kimchi the food, not my cat, who also has the same name.)
I finally feel settled enough to resume writing. Actually, I feel that I shall soon either a) implode or b) shrivel up and die if I do not begin to write again. You may notice that the title of this blog has undergone a few revisions. So welcome to the new me- the Danielle that commutes to work on the Seoul Metro every weekday and experiences great personal space violations and inordinate amounts of sweat in every corner and curve of her fried chicken and sweet tea-inspired physique. I want to share with you the daily rages and sometimes hilarious situations I find myself in because, well, just because. And you kind of want to know, right? However, I won't be limiting myself simply to stories of my underground travels, but writing about bigger, more important things. Like the frustrations of trying to keep my floor clean. Or finding very polite ways to refuse Keun Ha's mother's generous offer of a magnetic hula hoop that will magically shrink my belly fat into nothing (besides the fact that I refuse to take that thing onto the bus). Or how it feels to finally be reunited with my fabulous Korean boyfriend who works 2 hours away from home and who I hardly ever get to see. See? Important things. Significant. Universally profound, yes?

I have things to tell you. I'm actually bursting with things to relate to your greedy and lately neglected eyes. Yes, bursting. My father says there is only one bust and there are two of those. So, bursting instead of busting. But, you will have to wait. Because it is past 11 on Sunday night. So although your day is only beginning, mine has come to an end. And I have to get up early and go teach a bunch of spoiled, adorable, frustrating, loving, Korean children. More later.

Anyway, I'm back. Did you miss me?


The Day Before

So, take three giant steps from my last post, and we end up here, the day before I leave for Korea.

I would write all about how prepared and packed I am, but since I am neither of those things, I'm going to write about Oprah instead. I know, of all things, Oprah. I don't even like Oprah. But sometimes I like the things she exposes America to, and so here we are. Two nights ago I was lying on the couch, flipping through the TiVo and saw something on Oprah called "Freeganism." I was interested. So I watched the first half hour of her show which was an expose (where's that accent when I need it?) on Freegans done by Lisa Ling (whom I do, in fact, like, despite her connections with the big O).

Freegans are those who have decided to opt out of the consumer driven economy and in an effort to reduce waste and bypass big corporations, they eat and live almost for free. How do they do this? By digging in the trash. Yes, the trash. They dumpster dive and all that jazz. Of course, you should be shocked. But then you see the things they find in the trash outside of grocery stores and bakeries. They find food that has been thrown out BEFORE it's sell by date and way before it's expiration date. They find fresh fruit, thrown out because of a tiny dent. They find UNOPENED, UNPUNCTURED packaging. They find FREE FOOD. It's estimated that grocery stores throw out 2-3% of their goods each year. These products that are thrown away add up to $30 BILLION! Not million people, but BILLION. Can you imagine how many people we could feed with $30 billion?! The amount of good food found by freegans is incredible. There was one woman on the show who spent about $10-$20 a week for herself and her husband on food that she couldn't find on her trash tours. There was a newlywed couple from Nashville who forage for food and furniture who are so conscious of the waste that our consumer-driven society produces. Americans make up 5% of the world's population, but we consume 30% of the world's resources. Big numbers if you ask me. Big numbers.

Now, I wish I had the time and the courage to go on a trash tour, but seeing as I have only one day left in this country, I don't see it happening. And I'm not expecting my friends to go digging in the trash for their food either. But it does bring to my attention how many things I buy, how much money I spend, how much harder I will work if I want to BUY something. What is it with all this consuming, consuming, consuming? Good grief! Anyway, I am moving to Korea with a simple plan. To consume less! I found one website where Freegans identified themselves on a map of the world and there is at least 1 freegan in Seoul! So perhaps Kenny and I will join the freegan movement there. I talked to him about it and he seemed really intrigued.

You can go here if you'd like to learn more about freegans in general. There are, of course, other websites and you can YouTube freegans and see lots of stuff on them. I think Anderson Cooper did a piece and maybe CBC. So, check it out and consume less! (I say consume less as I return from purchasing another suitcase because everything wouldn't fit in just one!! I think I'll have to downsize...
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