Saturday, January 12, 2013

So, I didn’t recognize you without the handcuffs

No, I won’t light your candle. Well, actually I probably will. I am really bad at peer pressure. I mean, Mom, I am an upstanding citizen and do things only in the most moral and holy way.

Alright, so last week Friday, I posted this status: “Well, I certainly didn't plan on being in the back seat of a Korean police car at 4:05 in the afternoon...”

For those of you who don’t know, (and, frankly, for those of you who do), the Korean Police system is quite lax, and the idea of a foreigner, such as myself being slapped in a paddy wagon seemed comical to me at the time. But, as the time passed on, it was clear that there was genuine and actual worry. So, I posted what every kind and compassionate person would: “I am fine, but really I want you to tell me how you think I got here.” Personally, I think it would be a great writing exercise.

My buddy, K, ruined the fun and told everyone the story. But, I am here to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God. (There might be a few embellishments; I am Irish afterall… “No, Grandpa, I swear, the fish was really this ^-----------------------------------------------------------^ big! It just about tore my head right off.”)

So, I had to go to FedEx to drop off some document. And, there is only ONE FedEx in the entirety of Busan. I mean, really? This is a city of 4.5 million people and there is ONE FedEx? What the nuts?! It is located in an industrial district about 1.5 hours away from my house (Busan people: It is in Modeok, just north of Sasang). Now, folks, yes, I am a suburban girl, nestled away in the plains of Waukesha, Wisconsin, BUT I do love photographing and being a part of the industrial scene. I think it is the bones of society, and I find it quite beautiful. However, when lost and late, industrial areas suck and they’re scary.

Alright, I get out of the subway stop, and I know that at some point I have to turn right and walk four blocks. But, I don’t know where that right was.  I decide I should cab it, and he will take me directly there. So, I show my cabbie the address, and he looks at it, makes it bigger, looks at it again, types it into his GPS and grunts. In Ajeossi language, that means either, “Alright, I will take you;” “Please, may I have more so ju;” or “Get the hell outta my way! I’m hiking here.” I assume since he starts to drive, he means, “Alright, I will take you.”

So, the cab driver drops me off in the middle of a creeptastic alleyway, and I bow and hand him money. I get out, and try to take in my surroundings. There are schools directly to my left and directly to my right, which is a good sign, because according to the shittiest FedEx map known to humankind, my destination is right in between two schools.

But, I don’t see it anywhere. Tricky, Korea, tricky. So, I ask a gentleman loitering on the school grounds. He looks at the map and says, “FedEx…FedEx, okay, okay. Go, eh [motions forward] one block, then right-uh one block then back one block.” (AKA directly catty-corner to where I am now.)

Okay, cool. Sounds good. I follow homeboy’s directions, and I find a steel mill, a pipe cutter, and some dudes hanging around. Clearly, this is not it. So, I ask one of the workers, and he directs me to the guy on the forklift—a terrifying moment because I am directly tangent to bajillion pounds of something heavy. He says, “FedEx…FedEx, okay, okay. Go, eh [motions forward] one block, then right-uh one block then back one block.”

Sound familiar? Yep. So, essentially, go back to where I started. However, on THIS side of the block, there is  a sneaky half street cul de sac thing, so obviously, this dude means that it is in there.

So, I turn into the cul de sac, and that assumption is incorrect. However, what is there, is a police station. So, I walk up to it, and the officer standing outside of the doors to welcome in guests, shuffles inside, in hopes to avoid the strange foreigner walking towards him.

I walk in the door, probably with an exasperated look on my face akin to the moment I realized what Rocky MountainOysters really are. The lady officer asks me what I need.  I show her the map, and ask, “Where is the FedEx?” She whips her head around hoping that someone else would come to her rescue. She frantically types in the address into her computer, and it isn’t there. Then, one of the older male officers saunters over and inquires, “jfhijfefkjadkfcjhadofhadlfk,” which is to say, “What seems to be the problem, little lady?” They speak in rapid Korean, while I am awkward turtling in the corner.

The lady officer asks me to sit down, and that they will help me in one moment.  There are three officers in this station anxiously searching on their phones, while I am just sitting there. I felt like the naughty kid sitting on the hard, scratchy wooden chair outside of the principal’s office, or like Sister Mary Veronica was going to beat me upside the head with the Catechism during Sunday school.

After some time, they call up their buddies, and 20 minutes later a man and a woman in their driving-police-iform pull into the station. They wander up to the station house, and interact with the other officers, look at me, laugh and say, “Come with us. We will ride you to the station.” Curious… So, I walk toward the police car with one of the officers from the station. We all pile into the paddy-wagon, and I just thought how silly this whole thing is.

This FedEx is honestly within blocks, and here I am in the back of a police car. So, I post the status, and then put my phone away to focus on what was happening. The police officers wander around a bit of the neighborhood, realize that they don’t know where they’re going, and, then they put it in their GPS. They bluster about, and stop in the middle of an intersection, as you do in Korea. They find where the FedEx is, toss the car in reverse, DRIVE THUSLY for 100 meters, then take a right. They pull into the alley, and take me to the door.

I reach for my handle to get out, and whoops, guess who is in the back of a police car? This girl. The officer gets out and starts talking to the FedEx man, points to the car, and laughingly looks at me.  Then, he stands outside of my door, and smiles down at me. He taps the door in a rhythm, and I tap back, as if there was a secret code. He finally opens the door, and he gives me his hand to pull me out of the car. Then, shit you not, this officer pulls me into a GIANT BEAR HUG, and says, “Have safety.” My response, in true awkward turtle form, “Will do, buckaroo.”

I look around me, and I see that I am exactly twenty meters behind where the cab driver initially dropped me off. The FedEx was a hidden like a diamond in the rough. Palm directly to the face.

And that, dear friends, is how I found myself in the back of a police car. Although, I still want to hear how YOU thought I came to be there.

I think the morals of this story are:
1. Learn Korean
2. Don’t find yourself in creepy back alleys with dudes who don’t know their asses from their tea kettles
3. Trust your cab driver, unless he has been drinking so ju, then trust yourself.
4. Don’t get lost in the middle of East Jesus Nowhere, Busan, South Korea

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