Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The trouble with public transportation


One of the things I LOVE about Korea is its public transportation. Not only is it pretty efficient, but it's also incredibly cheap.  Its a Godsend to any expat trying to save money. Subways, trains, buses are such a blessing.  Not only do I not pay car insurance, gas or the added expenses when my car breaks down, it helps to cut down on emissions which just happen to be choking our world to death.  Public transportation gets me just about anywhere I want to go and as an added bonus, I don't have to worry about parking.  I wish it were something that Texas would invest in.

But, sadly, its not all smiles and butterflies. Public transportation has its pitfalls as well. For example, I can't get EVERYWHERE I want to go. Exploring unknown territory is pretty much impossible.  We have a friend with a car here at English Village, and a couple of times he's taken us around Yongmun in his car.  We saw areas of Yongmun, we would have NEVER seen if it hadn't been for his car.  I can't just jump in a taxi and say, "just drive, just explore for a while" like you can when you own a car.

Public transportation has limits including it's timetables. The subways in Seoul stop running at 12ish on a Saturday night.  Which doesn't sound too late, but that means that I have to be on a subway by 10:30pm if I want to get home at all on Saturday night, which pretty much puts a damper on going out on the town. ( I live 1 hr and a half from Seoul)

For example, this past weekend, I was going out to dinner with a dear friend for her last weekend before she heads off to Thailand. She was late to dinner, so we were paying the bill at 10:00pm. We had also told some friends that we'd meet them in the foreigner area called Itaewon at a pub.  I didn't want to make it an all-nighter.  I wanted to make it a shorter night in fact, but I also wanted to spend time with my friend who I might never see again. And here in lies the rub. If I choose not to go home by 10:30pm, I cannot go home AT ALL until the morning. Jimjilbangs (bathhouses) provide floor mats to sleep on in communal rooms for under $10 a night which is an option, or a hotel for $40. This past weekend however, I really wanted to sleep in my own bed, so instead of getting a hotel or jimjilbang, I decided to wait up for the first subway at 6am.

Which leads me to my next point about the weakness of public transportation; subways and most buses don't have bathrooms.  Picture if you will three sleep-deprived English teachers curled up on a cold bench waiting for the subway. Kyle, Lisa (our friend/co-worker) and myself  are those characters snoring away. I wake up at 5:52 and realize that I should go to the bathroom before the subway comes.  However, I don't think I'll make it before the it comes.  The bell rings, the subway swishes in and I hesitantly step inside.  My bladder is full and there isn't a bathroom on the subway.  If I get off the subway, I'll have to wait another 40 minutes before the next one comes, and all I really want is my bed.

 Luckily, I fell asleep, but there were moments I was sure I wouldn't make it. I had nightmares about peeing on myself on the subway because I was too stubborn to get off.  I clenched my teeth and willed the pee to remain in my bladder. The cost of peeing was 40 more minutes I wouldn't be in my bed and the price was just too high.

As soon as the subway slid into the station, I yanked off my high heel boots (which I no longer could effectively walk in, only hobble like a distorted walking dead creature) and ran to the bathroom. It was glorious.  I had made it.  But the journey had been incredibly painful.  There are aspects of public transportation I'll miss, but there are definitely others I'll be glad to be rid of.

1 comment:

kshawnedgar said...

Well, reading this wasn't incredibly painful. Glad you made it through all the walking dead creatures. I ride the bus (or MAX) occasionally, and it's always interesting.