Senior Section

On the subways here, there’s a full section, at either end of the car, that’s reserved for the elderly. No one really checks who sits there. There’s no age restriction, just an image of a stick figure with a cane. The rest is left up to personal judgment and public shaming, if you don’t match the picture and choose to sit there that is.

Some of them do. Some of them don’t, but I’m not gonna be the one to call them out. Frankly, I couldn’t and it isn’t my place. It isn’t my culture.

They deserve the fucking seat. They earned it. Hell, anyone above 50 in Korea helped carry this peninsula out of deep poverty.

But, without a phone plan to provide that pacifying 5G internet, while riding the green line, this is what I tend to focus on. It’s much easier to get lost in social theory than it is to engage the cocktail of anxiety, or that sense of claustrophobic drowning crawling up my spine. It doesn’t matter that everyone on the train is staring at their phones either, I can feel their buzzing presence.

Funny enough, if it wasn’t for the lumens emitted from the blinding fluorescent tubes I’d be invisible to them anyway. No one’s watching. No one cares. Why should they? They have their Samsung phone so close to their face, they can probably count the number of fucking pixels it has.   

And this is where my thought train arrives, right on time, to whisk me away from my anger tumor slowly swelling my amygdala; the emotional center of my brain.

The anger switches off and I’m left investigating why the man sitting in the senior section chose that fate.

I’m not saying that we have a choice in whether or not we get old and die, we don’t. However, we do choose our inner dialogue. And on this day, the car was only a third full. He didn’t need to sit in the senior section, he could’ve easily sat with everyone else, but instead he’d chosen to broadcast his inner dialogue. He’d chosen to tell the rest of the subway car that he’s accepted his one foot in the grave.

Now, I can’t speak for his history. I don’t know him, nor will I ever, so it isn’t fair to make these sweeping judgement calls. And if I ever get that old, I’m sure I’ll be happy as hell to call the senior section all my own, but before you start coming to your own judgments on my cynicism, here’s the catch, my stories always have silver linings.

In all my time here, on every subway ride, the oldest and feeblest looking halmeoni, which is Korean for grandma, will refuse to sit in that section. Even if you offer them your seat, you have to fight them on taking it. So you have to stand, uncomfortably smile, and gesture to the seat. Eventually they sit, but they’d rather have their feet hurt than look weak in front of you, so you have to be forcefully polite. They want you to know that they’re the ones doing you a favor by accepting your offer. Not the other way around.

I guess what I’m saying is that you choose your fate.

You choose if life is too hard. You choose if you can’t do it. You choose how you carry yourself.

It’s up to you, so be like one of those curly headed, leopard print wearing, steel eye’d dynamos. They’ve seen more shit than you can imagine. They’re strong as hell and they know it.

Don’t be perfect, just be tenacious. Be like that.

Be like a Korean grandma.