Okay, so I come from a small town. There ain't no public transportation around Eldridge, and even in Davenport I've never once been in a cab or taken the bus. Sure, I've been on the L in Chicago, the tube in London, and the subway in NYC. I've had my share of crazy cab experiences in Chicago as well (que one April Klauer). But after living in a city for four months, and becoming a frequent rider in cabs, the crazy stories really start to pile up.
In the beginning, the most challenging part was communication. Now I feel like a pro, but those first initial weeks here, I felt completely helpless. Every cab ride had to be planned out in advance and overly prepared for. I collected business cards and little scraps of paper with addresses written in Korean so that I could hand the cab driver the location I desired. But now, I've got it down. I just had to learn the Korean pronunciation of a few key words. For example, if you want to go to E-Mart or Lotte Mart, two giant chain stores in Korea, you've got to master how to pronounce mart, a la Korean. Its Mart-uh. Without the uh, you're going nowhere. And I mean nowhere. They will look at you like you're crazy.
Korean cabbies are also just entirely reckless drivers. You are putting your life on the line every time you step foot in one. I think about the headlines, "Foreigner Dies in Cab Crash in Korea." If I am going to die in this country, it will definitely be in a cab. Most of them have GPS devices that beep LOUDLY when they are going over the speed limit. I hardly even hear it anymore, because it happens for the majority of the trip, every trip.
A few weeks ago, I was riding home late at night with a couple of co-workers. (The rides that happen between the hours of 2 am and 6 am are the most frightening because traffic is dead, so cab drivers basically decide to morph into Paul Walker and Vin Diesel.) Police are rarely ever seen monitoring the streets, but on this night, there was an exception. Our cab driver was going like 100 mph and running red lights and other various traffic offenses, when the police lights start flashing behind us. He definitely got pulled over. I have a completely unrational fear of law enforcement, so I basically freaked out thinking I was going to end up in a Korean prison. It looked very "Bridget Jones Diary 2" for a minute.
Another unfortunate aspect of cab rides in Korea, is the insane amount of speed bumps this city has. Its unnecessary. And the cabbies lack respect for the speed bumps. Most rides, I end up pleading to get out early in fear of throwing up in the back seat. And that feeling is only hyper-activated after a night on the town, so to speak. This past weekend, I was riding home with my two co-workers, Peter and Aaron, and I held my hand over my mouth for the last ten minutes. I think they really thought I was going to hurl all over them. It was a classy evening. But the thing is, even sober these rides are bad news, so drunk it is just cruel and unusual punishment.
But now I am thinking to myself that I am giving Korean cab drivers a bad rep. So I gotta tell ya, they ain't all bad either. Many times I find myself audibly laughing at the unusal and unexplainable music they listen to. I've heard everything from "Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat" to "Moulon Rouge", Madonna, to Maroon 5, even a litte Josh Groban. On my way home from Lotte Mart-uh the other day, my driver was rocking out to Queen's "Somebody to Love." And I mean ROCKIN OUT. Head was thrashing, fists were beating the steering wheel, and some version on Konglish-humming was seeping out from between his lips. I just started singing along. That's really all you can do in Korea.
"I think the thing to do is enjoy the ride while you're on it." ~Johnny Depp