Saturday, December 24, 2011

Show me the money

     Speaking of bus rides, there's another lesson I learned.  During my earliest years in South Korea, my dad keeps mentioning that bus drivers are the "king of the road."  I bet there's another meaning to that expression, but my dad simply means bus drivers have many unreasonable claims and no one dares to oppose.

     I think that's true to some aspects during that time.  They can freely over-charge a fare and use whatever excuse, should a passenger complains-- which is very rare.  And as mentioned on my last blog, they can ignore certain passengers or stops, perhaps to catch up with the schedule.  They can freely run through red light (even until now) and go up to dangerous speeds.  They may also unload passengers even quite far from their designated bus stops or even in the middle of the road.  Passengers eager to get out of the bus even want them to.  After hitting the buzzer, and perhaps they didn't notice, they have the nerve to scold at a passenger for not calling them out when they passed by your stop.  It happened to me many times.  If a small vehicle causes the bus to stop, the bus driver could pull out the other car's driver and punch him in the face with a lot of shouting.  I have to emphasize here that these either happened to me, or I saw them done to others with my own eyes.  I don't have to mention what other stories I've heard in this regard.  But sufficed to say, I agree with my dad.

     At this time, there's a bus that goes straight from Yuram Sam Go-Ri to Geumcheon.  That relieves me from taxi rides from our dormitory to another town, good for shopping and grocery.  It was about 9 pm so there's not a lot of passengers.  As the bus is nearing, I dug into my pocket for my fare.  I got 2 bills of 1,000 won each.  Fare was about 750 won that time (I think) so I separated the two.  One bill for one hand and another for the other hand.  As I climbed up the bus, I immediately slid my fare in the box and told the driver where I was going.  I assumed I won't get any change but was just hoping for better luck, so sat on the nearest seat to the driver.

     But then the driver started scolding at me with Korean words I still couldn't understand.  A couple of seconds later, I realized he was accusing me of stealing money from the box instead of paying my fare.  His proof was the other 1,000 won bill on my other hand.  I told him I payed and the one I'm holding was mine.  But with such language barrier, I couldn't explain much.  There were less than 5 passengers in the bus and they started to complain 'cause the driver won't budge until I pay, and according to all of them, I'm at fault.  I had no choice but to give my other bill.  But then the driver won't give me my change and just kept murmuring when I asked for it.  I spent 30 minutes in this bus with such dense air, and finally I came to my stop.  For the last time, I asked for my change and guess what?  He charged me 950 won.

     I was angry.  Really angry.  Angry enough to stand on my stop and just stare at the driver as he goes (pretty much there's nothing else I could do).  The driver stared back.  On my mind I was praying he'd hit something or someone while he's staring back at me.  But nothing happened that night.

     The time I told this story to my dad, I was advised that I show the money for approval before putting it in the box.  It doesn't matter whether it's a bunch of change or a single bill.  I guess that makes sense. But even during my earlier months, when I show the bill and wait for the driver's approval, I got scolded for not moving quickly enough.  Nevertheless, I'd rather be called slow than a thief and pay twice... and charged even more.

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