Thursday, May 26, 2005

Fasten Your Seat-Belts!

There are some people who like to take risks. You know, bungee jumping, parachuting, and Evil Knevieling a motorcycle over a long row of parked cars through a flaming hoop into a champagne glass.

That kinda thing.

I challenge those thrill-seekers to really flirt with disaster and get their adrenaline pumping by coming to Korea and taking a taxi ride.

I remember when I first arrived in Masan in the spring of 2002 and would kind of chuckle at my Australian friend buckling her seatbelt up in the back seat when we'd get into a taxi. She'd even refuse to ride in a cab if she wasn't able to strap herself in because there were no belts or they were broken or whatever. I asked, "What's the deal with you and seatbelts?" She assured me I would soon find out.

I did.

There are a lot of mental taxi drivers here. I'll amend that, there are a lot of mental drivers here. Lines painted on the roads to make lanes are negotiable. Red lights are optional. Adherence to speed limits are only appropriate in the spaces just before and after speed cameras. And the speed cameras, from what I can tell, are advertised! "Slow down 500 meters ahead, as we will take pictures of your speeding-ass and send you a ticket!"

A couple months after arriving here, my Canadian friend came to visit me from Japan, and he loved Korean drivers, urging them on from the back seat, "yeah -- GIVE 'ER!! GO GO GO!!!" Even on highways in Hokkaido, the speed limits are very very low and heavily enforced. He loved the speed, he loved the danger, he squealed in delight every time a taxi driver would blow through a red light.

Me,...not so much.

My Japanese friend visiting me here last Chusok (Korean Thanksgiving) shared my terror, as she turned to me, grabbed my hand in a knuckle-white grip and sputtered "Jenny, I don't wanna die!" I have echoed her sentiment many a time, sucking in my breath sharply and, before I can stop myself, yelling out "SHIT!" as we narrowly avoid collision.

What's up with that?

I'm thinking about this because I had a particularly maniacal bus driver tonight who seemed to enjoy stopping short and making all the standing passengers smash into one another. As I was right near him, up at the front, standing on the crowded bus, I almost ended up smushed up on the inside of the front window like a surprised cartoon mosquito.

Ha-ha, very funny motherfucker!

Something about his drivers license and a Cracker-Jack box. We started out our journey with the driver yelling at someone in his cellphone and smoking a cigarette! I should have known what was to come!

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