Hello dear readers, whose comments enrich my life and make my heart swoon! (A bit over the top, I know, but it's been so long since we've, well, talked. Or should I say, it's been so long since I talked and you listened.) Anyhow, it's been over a week all the same. I missed you.
I had a break from school last week, my only vacation besides the week I get sometime in winter. So I took a break from writing as well, just to let everything kind of marinate inside my head for a while. I thought I came to some conclusions about my raging, my complaining, my lack of compassion for the Stealth Ajumma, etc. I had been thinking for a while of retiring the old Rage in the A.M. header up there and going with something more universal, a little more open, to give me room to rant about more than my morning commute and the inexplicable tics I find in Korean society.
I was moved to rethink my rage when I met a man who works at an established and successful publishing company at which my boyfriend is employed. This man is the caretaker for the building that houses said publishing company and was there on a Saturday when I accompanied Kenny there in order to do some weekend slave labor. It turns out this man lives at this building in a small basement room with no window, one bed, and a table. This man has no holidays. And when I say no, I mean not one. He doesn't get Christmas, New Year's, Chusok (Korean Thanksgiving), no bank holidays. He sleeps there and eats there. He has a house, which he never gets to use except for a few hours on Fridays when he goes home to shower, clean up, and change his clothes. He has an ailing wife who oftentimes must be hospitalized. But he isn't able to see her because... well, he has this job. He is well into his 70s and hasn't had a raise in 6 years. This company grossed millions in profits last year. It's not as if it's a failing company and it can't afford to pay it's workers. Anyhow, listening to this man's story was heartbreaking, mostly because he told this story only in response to questions asked. He did not ask for pity or sympathy. He was simply relaying the facts. With a smile.
When Kenny mentioned speaking to his boss about this situation, the man begged him not to do anything. He was afraid of losing his job, and at his age no one else would hire him. And really, he said, he was quite happy. It was a good job to have. He didn't want to quit because he needed the money, and he didn't want the company to hire another person to work shifts, because they would decrease his pay. Kenny's hands were tied.
And my rage was checked. What right do I have to complain, to agonize, to whine about tiny things like my personal space or the people who don't treat me like the center of the universe when this man is living this life. How can I open my mouth so loudly (or type here so furiously), my guts broiling with indignation when there is a happy elderly man living in a room with no window? How dare I complain about the lack of air conditioning in my new office at school? How could I possibly not get over the small inconvenience of locking the door every time I leave and getting the key to unlock it every time I come back? Oh, hello perspective. Hello other people in the world. So those were my thoughts and I was all penitent and on my knees ready to give up my raging ways.
Until this morning. I was coming out of the subway and ready to put my little T-money electronic ticket on the pad to be scanned at the turnstile in order to exit. And I was headed toward one of many, I repeat, one of many available turnstiles. When out of the corner of my eye, I catch a bright flash of neon nylon. I raise my hand to set my cute little square of technology on the pad when Neon Nylon Ajumma runs, and I do mean sprints, to get ahead of me and go through the turnstile before me. She shuffles through the turnstile as if she is being chased by a pack of rabid wolves (although this would never happen because ajummas are fierce Handbag Warriors and intimidate the crap right out of all wildlife). I have, in my bewilderment moved to the next available turnstile and gone through. I am not being chased by rabid wolves (are these worse than just regular non-rabid wolves? Is rabid too much? Should they just be wolves?), however, I have 5 minutes to get to work and I need to walk for almost exactly 5 minutes AND I must stop for breakfast at the Family Mart and say hi to Mart Man, who will most decidedly be disappointed that yet again, I am not wearing my "out hair," which we all know by now is "much better." So, I'd like to walk quite rapidly out of the station.
But that is not possible, because Neon Nylon Ajumma, although in quite a hurry to get through the turnstile, is in no hurry now and is walking as if through a field of dead rabid wolves with nothing to fear. And I'm all, to put it in serious literary terms, AAAAARRRRRRRRRRGH.
Did she just not see me? Or is it my problem? Do I really think I'm that important?
In America, we have this sense of "our rights." These "rights" are often referred to when our own personal sense of what we believe we deserve has been infringed upon by others. It's not really my right to proceed before the ajumma through the turnstile, although in my country, custom dictates that the person who arrives first would logically go first. But here, I need to remember that I am not in my country. But dearest readers (whose comments make me do a happy jig around my apartment to silly songs I make up dedicated just to you), it is so very hard to remember where I am. Because although Korea doesn't look like America and it doesn't really feel like America, I still feel like me and I still get offended when someone smacks me with their handbag, or stands on my feet, or pushes me out of their way. It's like this persona-space-vulnerability is in my blood. Because no matter how many times I remind myself that Koreans don't consciously realize they are pushing, shoving, and standing on top of another, it still enrages me when they do.
So, although my perspective has been tempered by the life of the Man with No Holidays, Ever, I still find myself angry at these small things. Perhaps it will take a while for me to water down my rage. It's a gut reaction, not an intellectual or mental response. Dang, those gut reactions die hard.
Oh, and I am engaged. Just thought you should know.