Nearly an 'It Boy'
Martin Buber wrote of I and Thou. Yesterday afternoon, I nearly became an 'it'.
I was riding the 273 Bus from Kyung Hee University at around 3:15, on my way to pick up my son, En-Uk, from his piano lesson, and the driver proved himself one of those 'Drivers from Hell' -- as my kids and I like to call them.
In short, a typical bus driver in Seoul -- the Polar Express engineer has nothing on these Korean Big City Drivers!
Yet . . . I no longer really notice the abrupt stops, the sudden accelerations, the unpredictable lane changes. I just brace myself, knee against the seat in front of me, and read my International Herald Tribune, experienced enough in my Han-Kookily urbanized life to ignore my surroundings and still avoid being thrown unceremoniously from my seat.
At some point, however, I became aware that we were backing up . . . s l o w l y. I looked up from my paper just as the bus's retrograde motion halted. A uniformed man was rushing across an open space toward the front of my bus, his head twisting quickly first right, then left, as he ran. Another man, also in uniform, stood beside the bus, to my right, frantically waving a red flashlight and ordering traffic behind the bus to back up.
At that moment, my eyes focused on a railway crossing's half-barrier bar, which was leaning fixed against the bus's front door. Red lights were flashing, bells were clanging, and the bus's engine portion was thrust across the subway tracks.
I'll say this for the driver -- he didn't abandon his passengers (unlike the subway train driver in the Daegu Subway Fire) but sat firmly in his seat and waited for the cars behind to back up, upon which, he did the same. Our bus had just slipped back behind the half-barrier bar, allowing it to descend completely, as the train rushed past.
My newspaper forgotten, neglected on my lap, I sat there staring at the driver's reflection in his rearview mirror, wondering if he had tried to beat the train, or if the half-barrier, flashing lights, and clanging bell had all simultaneously, if temporarily, malfunctioned.
The former seemed more likely, for after the train had safely passed, then another had rushed in the opposite direction, the bus lunged forward as the 'Driver from Hell' hurried on to meet what I took to be his urgent, pressing, schedule . . . having, apparently, learned absolutely nothing from his close encounter with nothingness.
I rode home thinking of Malcolm Pollack's own close encounter with mortality and had a cold beer to celebrate my continued subjectivity...