Wednesday, May 14, 2008

We've all been there....

Fed up, maybe a despair so strong that you just want to curl up into a ball and hide... but, rarely do we let our anguish be known publicly.

A few weeks ago, a friend and I had gone on the subway and as the train pulled into the station- we noticed that the car that had stopped right in front of us-had some empty seats- not a real common event. We walked in and immediately noticed that some 'personal items' were strew about along the bench seat taking up the space that would be taken up by 4people. First of all this was pretty unusual since the subway cars are always clean and fairly quiet. Then, I looked at the items and noticed that there were some books, papers, a few toiletries/etc. I just gently shoved them to one end so that my friend and I had enough room to sit down. I then looked around and noticed that there was a weird 'vibe' in the area.

A man to my right suddenly started yelling and screaming in Korean, and then started throwing things from his backpack into the floor. This was extremely unusual and I had never encountered anything of this nature in all of the years that I had lived in Seoul. He was clearly upset and everyone in the car, except for the two 'non-Korean speaking' Americans were avoiding all eye contact.

Soon, he gets up and grabs some of the items that I had shoved to one side on the subway bench and tossed them to the floor. Then, he started tearing some things apart. I kept trying to make 'eye contact' with someone to see if I could figure out what was going on. I figured that even if I didn't speak Korean, that maybe their body language would give me a hint or a warning. Of course, we didn't dare get up and move--- we didn't want to do anything to draw any more attention to us as we were already sitting right by his abandoned possessions, that I had moved out of the way, and I was sitting right beside him too.

I was finally able to catch the lady sitting directly across from me... and raised my eyebrows, leaned my head towards him and then made the universal sign for 'crazy'... you know the one... the fingers twirling around in a circle. She nodded and quickly looked away.

When the train pulled into the next station, he got off and left his visual message on the floor. A few people got on the car and just stepped over the items in the floor, and at the next stop... a subway employee came into our car. I could tell he was asking everyone things like; "Who did this?" "Does this belong to anyone?" "What happened?" He kept posing his various questions to the small seated group.

I was so surprised that no one would answer him. Finally, and elderly Korean lady.. spoke up and gave him an explanation. The subway employee began picking up the 'useless reminders of someones pain' and no one else helped him. All averted their eyes... only the elderly lady and I offered him any assistance.

I thought about this man in such pain, distress, anger, and sorrow for days. I wondered what had caused this open display that is so unseen in the Korean culture. I wondered if he'd been fired?, Had there been a tragic unfair loss in his life?, Had he been jilted by his one true love? Had he lost his money in the stock-market? Was he mad at God because of something horrible that had happened? (There did appear to be a bible and several pages that he tore from the book.)

Upon closer inspection- there appeared to be work ID's (the little booklets that look like passports), documents of some sort, and several books. He had even tossed his comb, shampoo, and other mundane everyday items to the floor.

Whatever it was, he wanted nothing to remind him and voiced his pain and anquish, and left all reminders of his past life behind him.


Rebecca Jo said...

That's so sad! I wonder what was going on with this man - I wonder what happened as he left - was he ashamed of what he did....did he care - was he OK after he left?

It hurts to think he left his Bible & tore pages from it - ouch!

iwouldratherbeknitting said...

I'm almost positive that it was a Bible that he tore the pages from... it was written in columns and had the ribbon bookmark... just like Bibles have. This country is mostly Buddish by religion- but, there are also many Christians now.

It was so sad... I just hope he didn't do something 'rash' to himself later.

susanc said...

How sad! I guess that just goes to show you that none of us knows what is truly going on inside of someone else and what is happening in their life. I hope he was/is okay. That must have been very unsettling for you and your friend to have witnessed.