Sunday, December 19, 2004

Be Quiet!

On the bus an old man (a harrahbohjee) squirmed around in his seat, and put a gnarled finger severely to his lips.

You know when you hear someone talking in another language, it's quite irritating right? If I applied the same philosophy as this guy, to his fellow countrymen, that would be interesting.
I said to Corneli, "Just ignore him."

Once on the subway I was having a conversation with Bernard and Andrew and a guy approached us and told us to be quiet. He even said please. Please be quiet.
What makes this a bit absurd is that we are not exactly in the serene silence of a cancer ward. Buses and subways make a lot of background noise. There are also announcements and people who come and sell stuff, shouting prices and doing the the spin, and the doors SWISSSSSHHHH open and closed. That's loud. So when someone comes up to you and asks you to be quiet, in the scheme of noise, our conversation is really at the lower decibel range. So this is fickle. Yes, you can be culurally sensitive, but this is straying quite far into personal space. It's really a matter of personal preference. It's like saying: "Hmmm. I don't like those shoes. Will you wear a different pair next time?"
"Um, I don't think so."
"Will you be quiet?"
"You first."

Interestingly enough, on the subway (this was on a different day), as in the bus, we didn't obey, we didn't stop at go (but we didn't collect 200 either). The subway guy made a phone call, and we made out with our grasp of Korean that he was identifying the coach we were sitting on, and who and where we are.
A few minutes later he stepped off the coach and at the next stop, two police officers, or train security guards stepped on.
Did I bite my lip and saying nothing?

I said to Bernard: "Watch this. If they come and arrest us for talking on a subway I'll eat my bicycle wheel."
The police glanced at us for a few moments (we continued talking, glancing at each other and at them). They looked at each other, and then stepped out at the next station.
We weren't drunk, waving our arms, or doing The Loud American Showboat. We were just having a calm conversation.

Korea was once a police state, but it's moved beyond that now. I think.

I also think you've got to have a sense of humor about it. If you take it personally eventually it will come to blows. That's a good rule of thumb for being in any foreign country I suppose.

If you're a South African and someone says "Be Quiet," just switch languages (Ek verstaan nie Engels nie/I don't understand English) and smile.
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