Tuesday, March 18, 2014

I had a nice trip. How about you?

After my one lone class today, I had taken my big shoulder bag to the office, but because I'd wanted to get a haircut, I left the bag where it was and made the long trek over to my scary barber's salon. A wasted trip: the salon turned out to be closed. Whether it was simply closed for lunch (it was about 1:15PM) or closed for the day, I have no clue. Suddenly needing to poop, I lumber-waddled back to my place, where I did my business and rested a few hours. Around 6PM or so, I decided to wander back to campus.

It was getting dark. I had gotten into the habit of taking a particular shortcut from our "back gate."* This shortcut took me up into a construction zone, where the finishing touches were being placed on a spanking-new centennial center. Normally, my path takes me up a dirt ramp, onto an asphalt parking lot, then onto a smooth, white concrete plaza in front of the building-to-be. Tonight, however, my foot snagged on what felt like a fishing line that had been strung across the white concrete, and I went down like a tree, slamming both knees and one hand onto the hard surface. There was more fury than pain: I imagined wrapping my fingers around the neck of the dumb motherfucker who had set up the tripwire. Part of my brain hoped against hope that the impact of my knees would re-pop my hip joint back into place, but... no dice. My hip simply hurt a lot more after my tumble.

Slowly, cumbersomely, I picked myself back up while mumbling angrily about the piece of shit who would set this trap. Meanwhile, my inner Bear Grylls was noting, unhelpfully, Never trust your footing in Korea. That insight's been true ever since I came here in 1986: there are no guarantees, in Korea, that the ground will be your friend—no guarantees that your next step will be as level as your previous step. Korean sidewalks, even in the city, are often randomly lumpy; only subway stations, with their stark Bauhaus-rapes-modernism architecture, are relentlessly smooth and geometrical. Korean mountain paths aren't always well-maintained or well-manicured; expect jutting roots and loose rocks and clumps of leaves that hide hazards. Koreans themselves, with their shorter stature and lower centers of gravity, have far less trouble navigating these dangers than bigger Westerners do. Koreans are also probably conditioned from birth to practice a sort of atavistic situational awareness that prevents them from clouting their foreheads on low-hanging objects, or from twisting their ankles in randomly buckled asphalt. I've had to train myself not to take my footing for granted, but who the fuck expects a tripwire on a well-walked path? That's complete bullshit.

Sure, sure—never attribute to malice what can be traced to incompetence. But to my mind, incompetence is as much of a sin as malice is. I'd be happy to strangle the perpetrator either way, be he deliberately nasty or innately obtuse.

I took a few more aspirin once I reached the office. It was nearly an hour before my hip stopped screaming like a little girl under a steamroller. I'm probably well into acetominophen-overdose territory at this point, and it burns me that I'm now dealing with unnecessary extra pain, all because some inbred fuckhole strung a line across my path.

*It's not really at the back, 180 degrees from the front. It's called a hu-mun ("back gate"), but it's actually more like 90 degrees from the front.


1 comment:

Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I hope you made sure to cut that tripwire!

Jeffery Hodges

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