Memory Lane, Gwangju

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Lunch with my hit-and-run driver

I spent lunch chauffeuring an oleaginous real estate agent around my area of Gwangju in search of a body shop for my freshly remodeled car door.  This unctuous creature of substandard spatial awareness started by inviting me into his office for tea.  Foreseeing this, I bought a coffee beforehand and simply brandished it, suggesting we begin our search for a repair shop instead.  Slimy salesman that he was, he took this premeditated rejection in stride.  We didn’t even get into my car before he made his second offer, namely to buy some spray that matched my car’s color and—I didn’t even let him finish his sentence.

We didn’t last five minutes at the nearest repair shop before he and the head repair man got into a heated shouting match over the repair man’s proposed methods.  This smarmy poikilothermic salesman somehow managed to shout and smile at the same time.  I was kind of enjoying it all.  Overall, the price was ridiculously high and the repair would take an entire day, which I thought was excessive.  The second shop wasn’t any different, save that there wasn’t a shouting match this time.  Just a mass of shoulder-height ajeossis pacing confusedly around my car for 25 minutes.  It was at this point that my empty stomach and all the second-hand smoke from the buttery con artist’s cigarettes began to wear on me.

By the way, isn’t it fucking bizarre that I’m chauffeuring the guy who hit my car and ran?  Isn’t this utterly fuckingly retardedly bizarre?  My insurance company suggested that we settle things off the record like this because the damage wasn’t all that significant.  I can’t say that this was wrong, but to have to spend an hour with a thickset grifter resembling a certain North Korean autocrat, who half succeeded in a hit-and-run against me only the day before, was almost too much to bear.  Hell, his taste in fashion was reason enough to call the whole thing off for the inhuman ocular assault it engendered.

To give you a taste, imagine resurrecting The Dear Leader, smearing chalk all over his face, and unironically dressing him in red, white and violet checkered Miami Vice slacks that stopped short of sockless ankles.  Now give him a T-shirt so gay it could be used as a gay pride photo filter equal to the one used by all those people who gay rainbowed their Facebook pics.  Don’t forget a pair of black and white loafers so fashionable that only a colorblind 40-something ajeossi fitting the above description would wear them.  Lastly, imagine oozing through every thread of such an outfit the nose hair-searing confluence of garlic and tobacco resin.  This is the caliber of humanity I’m sharing the road with.

It’s terrifying.

Our last stop was at a simple dent shop that offered to do the job in an hour for only 50,000 won.  That was good for the oleaginous ajeossi’s wallet and for my schedule.  While dropping this sartorially-challenged solicitor back off at his office, he went too far and spuriously invited me to a nice dinner so that he could make things right and—I didn’t even let him finish that sentence.  My bullshit detector cut him short again.  One benefit of living abroad is that you focus less on the words people say and more on how they act.  I read this guy like a book from the instant he drove off after hitting my car.  After meeting him in person, I had no doubt that he was indeed a shady son of a bitch.  The insurance agent assigned on my behalf confirmed this, too, though in more diplomatic terms.

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The Car Chase

I just wrote a post two weeks ago about my car getting hit and already, again, I’m writing another post about my car getting hit.  This time it was very personal because the ajeossi who hit me (black sedan, nach) was so fucking stupid he said he “didn’t even realize” he hit me.  Now, like the rest of us, this guy is human, so I understand that mistakes happen.  We all deserve at least one get-out-of-jail-free card for innocuous ignorance.  But dude fucked up on multiple levels, so I had nothing but seething hatred for his permed, leathery self.

He had left his unfathomably long black sedan to idle in front of a convenience store (blocking a third of the intersection) while he ran in to get cigarettes that he no doubt cut in line to buy.  He ran out and jumped into his angular ajeossi vessel right as I was turning ever so gingerly around it.  I was being all nice, giving him a wide berth, turning at a crawl, and using my signal like thoughtful white people do, but without even buckling our ajeossi in black threw it in reverse and smashed right into my door.  By this point he’d already used multiple idiot cards, mind you.

The worst part is that after hitting my car, the fucker pulled away and merged into traffic to get on the highway.  Luckily, the light was red, which gave me enough time to chase the fucker down—CHASE THE FUCKER DOWN—and tell him he hit my car.  When I pulled up, he immediately rolled his window down, which shows he knew something was wrong, but he pleaded ignorance to it all.  This is the kind of shit that passes for driver awareness in this country.  When he finally pulled over he got out smiling and laughing, slapping me on the back like my boss tried to do a few weeks ago after he fired me.  It’s rare for me to shake with rage like I did then; I tend to be a very level-headed person.

I immediately got on the phone with my insurance company, something he discouraged me from doing.  He said to just call him tomorrow and we’d get things sorted out.  He had a prior engagement, you see, and was a very busy man with permed hair and leathery skin.  But my Korean is pretty good when I’m either drunk or angry, so I told him that based on the fact that I had to chase his either lying or inattentive ass down, he wasn’t a person who could be trusted.  So the insurance agent showed up and yada, yada.  As fate would have it, today is my first day off after getting fired unceremoniously last month.  What timing!

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Abandoned Arcades, Gwangju

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What Korean Drivers Fear Most

Eye contact.  I’m talking direct, windows-down, seething eye contact after they’ve done something terribly wrong.  That’s all it takes for them to wither.

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Obligatory Abandoned Erotica

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Daily Damage Report

Every day before getting in the car, I walk around it and look for new dings and dents.  It’s one of the habits I’ve picked up while living alongside this particularly spatially unaware breed of homo sapiens.  All the external damage done to my car has been done by ham-handed locals who either struggle with the concept of inviolable personal space or are just careless.

Just today, for example, someone whose unique culture it is my lifelong burden to understand backed into my parked car as I was at home watching raw battle footage from the Donbass.  “They’re wasting ammo with all this spray-and-pray shooting” I thought at the time.  “Must be Chechen mercenaries for hire.  They shoot like Middle Easterners…”

Later, as I was making my daily damage report rounds before leaving to work, I discovered a dented license plate that appeared to have been adjusted by one of the millions of pray-and-park aborigines who call this resource vacuum home.  Fortunately, a few moments of bending it over my knee brought it back into shape and no more serious harm had been done.  This is how most of the damage comes about—bit by bit.

The same can’t be said for what happened last year, when a neon sign for some featureless math academy fell off the side of a building and smashed through my windshield.  The guy who had hung the sign up had to pay for that, so it was the exception.  The rest of the damage is the result of the indigenous custom of using other people’s cars as doorstops when exiting the vehicle.  But this is a small price to pay for front-row seats to all the dynamic Koreanness this place has to offer.

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