28 March 2010

Driving to Work

One of my schools, 종달 (Jongdal), is on the opposite side of the island from me. It is not a fun commute. I can't go through the center of the island, because there's a huge goddamn volcano in the way. I guess in the larger picture, having the volcano just be in the way is the least of possible problems it could cause. But I have no perspective and it just bothers me right now.

To get to my school, I had been taking the bus. The bus is a silly thing, because it stops frequently in between when I get on and when I get off. Combined with its insistence on obeying the traffic laws, this means that it took about two hours to take two buses to my school, and two hours to get back. Four hours a day were being consumed with waiting for buses and waiting on buses. It was ridiculous, and also it made me feel bad that no one ever wanted to sit next to me because I am a foreigner.

So I got a car. I got a shining, roaring beast of a beautiful car. Its power is only exceeded by its beauty, and its beauty is only exceeded by the gravitational pull of a black hole. Spoken of in prophecy and worshiped by primitives, my mighty vehicle and well really okay I got a '97 Kia Sephia.

My new car has many good qualities. The bumper has been securely refastened with some kind of paste, for example. For Safety. And while none of the interior lights work at night, if you turn on the headlights and pull up to a wall you can see pretty well by the reflected light inside.

Some philistines claim that a car needs "working brakes." But to those people, I say ye, "Shut the hell up and help me pour water on the engine so it stops smoking."

On the plus side (frankly, the only plus side) the car only cost ₩500,000 - about $450.

With the aid of my noble chariot, I expected to cut my commute down from two hours to fifty minutes. So I sketched out a path and started out this morning in high spirits.

I learned a few new things since then. For example, I learned that if a sign indicates that the road is splitting to go in two directions, then that sign means right fucking now. There is no delay of a hundred meters or a quarter-mile or three feet. That son-of-a-bitch is becoming two roads at that very instant, and is just happening to do you the courtesy of mentioning it as it occurs. Ingrate.

I also learned that there are only four kinds of Korean roads.
  • Normal roads, as we may know them in America. These roads are paved, interrupted on occasion by intersections and stoplights, and go in straight lines or curves.
  • Mountain highways, which twist and go up and down as many hills as possible. Take a piece of paper and crumple it up, then imagine a road going up and down the folds of that wadded-up mess of inclines and angles. Sharp turns occur along rocky precipices which DID NOT FRIGHTEN ME AT ALL SHUT UP.
  • City streets. There are no rules and no laws. People cross the street where they please and whenever they want. If they want to, they can stop and nap. U-turns are legal at all times. Every lane is a turn lane. There can be no mistakes. There is only Zu'ul.
  • Village streets. They are about four-and-a-half feet wide, crammed with garbage and giggling children who get caught on your muffler. If you want to turn, then you had better know some serious geometry.
At long last, I got to my school. It took me longer than I'd planned, but it was still less than two hours. And thanks to my magnificent new vehicle, I've been able to take up smoking in a very novel way.

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