Seoul Subway Snippets

New Zealand is devoid of subways, excluding the edible kind, so the Seoul subway was host to my initial experience. One of the first times I rode the subway was when I took the green line at around 7pm on a hot April night. We were sardines, I was snuggling sweaty strangers, and I got redder and redder and flustered and awkward and I eventually ended up getting off before my stop. The subway can be excruciating but also fascinating, and it’s all because of the people who ride it.

I must say I am the kind of subway user who stares, I try not to get noticed but I can’t help gawking at the interesting people and wondering about their lives. Unless I am in a bad mood, then I stand with my nose pressed against the dirty glass windows, turn up Massive Attack and pretend I am elsewhere.

My friend. The Head Loller.

Here are a few of the regulars and not so regulars who ride the Seoul subway –

* The middle aged guy who stares at the girls phone beside him. He reads her Kakao messages over her shoulder, scrutinizes the multiple photos she took of herself that day, and he too gets caught up in that enthralling k-drama she is watching.

* The old lady who puts her bag on the seat next to her even though the other seats are all full and there are people standing. Everyone is too polite to do anything. You stand in front of her for a while and stare before motioning that you want to sit so she has to remove it. The ajurammus.

* The stranger sitting across from you that you kind of fall in love with. You stare for a while, then glance at the people around you to ensure they are not watching you, watch him. When he exits the subway you feel a dull sense of loss.

 * The seemingly passionate but invisible seller of disposable raincoats, sweat rags, face masks, and other cheap synthetics. He has a lovely bum bag/fanny pack but he remains to be seen.

 * The guy who stands in front of your seat, just a little too close for comfort, you find it hard to avoid looking at his crotch positioned right in front of your face.

 * The student who sits next to you and occasionally glances your way. Suddenly he reaches across and removes a tiny piece of lint from your stocking without saying a word. You don’t know what to do so you just sit there in silence as if it didn’t happen.

 * The ajumma who stares at you constantly, you stare back, but you can’t really see her face under the thick coating of make up. You hope she doesn’t wipe her forehead or she will be left with a solo eyebrow.

 * The people who don’t sit next to you when it is the one empty seat left in a full carriage. Sometimes it’s cool, but sometimes it’s like shit, do I smell?

* The person who has fallen into a deep sleep, and whose head lolls precariously closer and closer to resting on your shoulder while you shuffle awkwardly in your seat to get further away.