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I have this bad habit of judging a book by its cover. I’ll see someone walking down the street and immediately my brain goes, “By the power vested in me, I hate you. I hate everything about you.” This increases exponentially when I travel and I travel quite a lot.
This is my first attempt at recapping some of the encounters I’ve had along my merry way.
Me: 24 years old in the second year of a shitty sales job in Chicago, on my way to a shitty sales conference in NYC. Sitting in the first row of coach. This pumps me up way more than it should.
Casual Encounter: Mid-twenties Korean male sitting in the seat next to me. It’s important to this story to establish that he was Korean. I’m just stating that as a fact. Like the sky is blue, my hair is brown and this guy was Korean. He was wearing a lime green tee, pink skinny jeans and combat boots. Again, simple facts.
Me: Fighting back that tight feeling in my chest where all of my judgment is stored.
Flight attendant: “Gentlemen, please fasten your seatbelts as we’re about to take off.”
Casual Encounter: (sniffles) “Uhhh…can I get a water?”
Me: Dude, what type of man gets on a plane and immediately asks for a water? He knows the beverage cart is coming around! Calm down, John (I wasn’t JR yet, just John). Maybe he has medication he has to take before flying. Read your Spirit magazine.
Casual Encounter: Takes out a handheld video game, pops in a pair of ear buds and goes to town.
(One hour later)
Flight attendant: “Ladies and gentlemen, I’m sorry to disturb you but we have a passenger, an elderly gentleman in the back of the plane who is experiencing some chest pains… ”
“Does anybody on this flight speak Korean?”
Casual Encounter: Snaps his head up, takes out his headphones, turns slowly and looks down the aisle towards the back of the plane. He then turns his head back slowly and locks eyes with me.
Me: Oh shit.
Casual Encounter: Puts his headphones back in and faces forward!
Me: A feeling of warmth and familiarity washes over me, because this motherfucker speaks Korean. And I hate him now.
I couldn’t do the one thing I wanted to do, which was to say, “Hey man, I’m sorry to bother you, but do you speak Korean? Based upon the way you just reacted, it seems like you might speak Korean. If you speak Korean, there’s a guy in the back of the plane who would loooove to talk to you.”
But I can’t, because I already look enough like a racist asshole, and if I’m wrong, I don’t need to confirm that fact.
Let’s say I’m in another country. For example’s sake, let’s say, I dunno, Korea. And I’m walking through the streets of downtown Korea and a white guy riding his bicycle past me gets hit by a truck. The Korean paramedics come, and through a game of Korean charades, they communicate to me that I have to help them save him. I’d look at the guy, bleeding on the ground in front of me, and I’d realize that his life is in my hands. And I’d feel the weight of that, and I’d say…nothing at all and hail a cab.
Because fuck that, I’m not taking responsibility for somebody I don’t know. I was just walking to the Korean market to get some fruit! Now I totally get why the guy next to me on the plane didn’t say anything. I’m just going to continue to keep being selfish thank you very much.
The guy on the plane died, by the way. .