Thursday, March 16, 2006

back from shopping and peeved at whiners

My experience with taxi drivers in Seoul has been, I would guess, about 99% positive. Of the hundreds-- or maybe thousands?-- of times I've taken a taxi in this city, I can count the number of negative incidents on both hands. Taxi drivers here are generally friendly and get you where you need to go. They're also, in my experience, an honest lot, just trying to get through the day like the rest of us.

That's probably why it sucks all the more when taxi drivers act like assholes: because it's so rare. Tonight, somewhat pressed for time, I took a taxi to Lotte Mart. The driver was fine; I even paid him a bit extra to apologize for the shortness of the trip (all of thirty seconds).

On the way back, however, I had trouble getting a taxi from the front of Seoul Station, where there are two parallel access lanes and plenty of taxis, especially at night. The cabbies in both access lanes kept sending me over to the opposite lane; no one seemed to want to take my fare. I bounced back and forth between three taxis before I finally got pissed off and told the fourth guy, "No-- I'm getting in this taxi."

The guy whined the entire time about how I was supposed to get a taxi from the other access lane. Then, when I showed him the shortcut route to my dorm, which leads up a steep hill, the guy had the nerve to complain about how steep the hill was. I told him I've been up this hill with plenty of other drivers, and stopped just short of telling him to shut the fuck up.

The whole bouncing-back-and-forth thing took only about two minutes of my life, but it left me miffed. Son-nim-i wang i-da! The customer is king! (i.e., "The customer is always right.") That sort of treatment has never happened to me in front of Seoul Station before. With the sheer number of taxis I usually find there, it's a simple matter of walking up to a cabbie, looking for his curt nod, then getting in the car. What the fuck was up tonight? Is there some new taxi-entering rule I'm unaware of? Had I just been lucky all those previous times?

On the upside, tonight was the first time I uttered a stream of angry (if mistake-ridden) Korean. It was a good chance for me to practice voicing my pissed-offedness in a language other than English or French. I think I'll give myself a "C+" for my effort, and an "A" for avoiding swear words.



Anonymous said...

That's not the first time there's been controversy at the Seoul Station taxi stand. Last spring, my wife and I witnessed a protracted argument among several taxi drivers there. One driver was refusing to take a lady on a short trip, and the other drivers were telling him he was wrong. Needless to say, the air was full of heated shouts ending in "ssibal" and "saeki" and the like.

Anonymous said...

I avoid taxis on principle, but I don't think I've ever had a negative experience when I have taken them (wait, I take that back... my very first taxi ride in Korea was quite negative). Usually they're just so floored that whitey speaks Korean.

Anonymous said...

The very first taxi I took in Korea was from Kimpo airport to downtown. My cab got sideswiped, lightly. My driver got in a fight with the other guy, then drove me to my hotel muttering "shipseki" and "shipparon" (sp?) the whole way. Incidentally, this was the first Korean I learned to speak in Korea as well. Nothing like a little drama to imprint new vocabulary.