The Big Bad Purses

If I charted my Wednesday on a graph, it would start in the negative quadrant, well below 'Just okay.' This morning I was less than okay for two reasons: a). I didn't succeed in berating myself out of bed until 8:20 a.m, which is usually the time I leave my apartment and b). it was raining. When I peeked behind the window shade and looked down, I was greeted by the dreadful and gloomy tops of umbrellas shooting down the sidewalks toward the subway entrances. Ugh. I could already see the ever-dreaded and miserable wet pants scenario. I would roll my pants up, but the whole walking thing would convince them to unroll and play in the puddles that gather on the uneven sidewalks. And I could already feel the disgusting moment when I removed my shoes at work and the wet pants would touch my ankles. I hate that. So I sighed and grumbled fiercely at my reflection in the mirror as I tried to figure out the best way to fix my hair so that I looked less like an unwashed miscreant and more like a respectable English teacher.

A few minutes later, I headed out the door and the line of my day continued on the x axis, steadily running towards "grey and boring." As I boarded my first train, I was lucky enough to be standing in the aisle between the seats. This space is much better than metro purgatory (See 'The Grab Plan' below) because although I can't hold onto anything, the commuters on either side of me can. This usually eliminates any unnecessary touching, pushing, or leaning. But nooooooo. The young, seemingly healthy woman behind me HOLDING ONTO THE HANDLE decided she couldn't find enough support and needed to lean on me. I kept inching forward and wiggling around to let her know I was definitely not okay with this situation. But she continued to rock back on her heels, her fingers firmly wrapped around the black handle, and press her back against mine. This was the kind of press that made sweat start to form in my many crevices and I felt a drop bead and run down my side. It was hot enough in the train. I was already disgusting, but she was making it worse. And so my rating on the rage-o-meter soared (all sorts of bells and whistles were going off) and the line of my day plummeted towards 'worst yet.' Luckily, I only have 3 stops on my first train and so I was able to transfer at Jamsil. It's a long walk from platform to platform so I had a bit of time and a bit of Ryan Adams on the trusty iPod to assuage the rage. (I know it rhymes. Deal with it.)

Deep breaths. (From walking fast and climbing stairs, mostly). Okay. Waiting for the second train, I stood in line and convinced myself not to look at the clock or my cell phone because knowing what time it was wouldn't make me any earlier or later. And it definitely wouldn't help me to be calm and rage-less for the next 7 stops on this train. And all of a sudden I am whacked. I am whacked with a big bulky purse the size of my midsection belonging to a sturdy, apparently powerful Korean woman probably no younger than 50. I turned around in disbelief, forgetting that I was in Korea and vulnerable to the attack of the old-lady purses, raised my hands and my shoulders in a “What the hell?” kind of gesture. But my disdain was too late. She was off whacking her way through the middle of the lines of other patient commuters waiting for the train. (Forthcoming post on The Ajumma - I will check the English transliteration of the Korean- a stereotype based entirely in fact.) Anyway, my day-line plummeted towards dejected.

I went to school. My kids channeled demons all day.

I stepped out of the elevator at the end of my work day and the rain was gone and the sidewalks were already dry. The sun greeted me and pulled the line of my day up the Y axis to “maybe I won’t die today” status. I got on my first train and stood in front of a school girl in her green jacket and plaid skirt uniform. She got up at the first stop and I moved to take her seat. But right as I was turning around to sit down I saw a large purse out of the corner of my eye. Having still not fully recovered from the indignity of the morning’s purse incident, I immediately stepped back and motioned for the old (anything but frail) woman to have the seat. She took it. And then a miracle happened. The woman sitting beside her smiled at me. She had shoulder-length hair and only the lines around her eyes whispered she might be over 45. She rose from her seat and motioned for me to sit down. I thanked her in Korean and slightly bowed to her before sitting. I thought what luck it was that she was going to get off at this stop. But she didn’t. No, ladies and gentlemen, she didn’t get off the train. She just saw that the line of my day was still in a negative quadrant and wished to boost me up that good old Y axis with a kind gesture. She smiled at me from her spot in front of me, holding onto the handle. I rode that train in a seat for the next 6 stops. And I’d like to say my official endpoint on the chart was in the positive, hovering somewhere between “restored faith in humanity” and “forgiving all ajumma’s with large purses.”

I guess sometimes what you put out into the universe, Mel, comes right back at you.


  1. Get some safety pins and when you roll your jeans up on rainy days, pin them. Then you can unpin them at school and let them down. Maybe that will work?

  2. Yes, but that would actually work, and then I'd have nothing to complain about on rainy days.


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