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.


  1. I love it! I'm going to tell my boyfriend that he must make friends with you on facebook just so that he can read your stories (he loves to read all the time and he would love to read what you write, because I HATE reading, but love to read what you write, so it must be THAT GOOD!) Love you- i'm glad to see you're enjoying yourself!!! - Amy T.

  2. I'm done with Hamlet! I'm done with Cyrano! I'm done with Grant Wiggins! Leaning Man is now officially my new favorite literary character. "He simply leaned forward to regain his balance AGAINST me"--classic. Danielle, I'm here to tell you: don't mess with Leaning Man or with what he does. Just let him lean!

  3. Nick, you're cracking me up!

    I will trade the promised 14-page letter for more great comments on this blog! Hehe. It boosts my self-esteem and makes me look good in front of all the people reading this (which is like, the last time I checked, 2).

    Miss you and the book club. Just finished Brothers Karamazov. I need to discuss it with you!

  4. Sounds like the green line routine...much worse than the orange line. I'm sure it's healthy to have all these people leaning on you and smashing your ribs without occasionally screaming at them...or at least giving them a nice, solid "YA!"

    Seoul is a virtual boofay of rage...and subsequent aneurysms of people who are a little too good at containing it.


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