Seoul Taxis in the Rain

Ok, so what is it with Seoul taxi drivers and rain? How do they get off the roads so fast, and where do they go? More than a few times I’ve had taxi drivers wag their fingers dismissively before gesturing toward the heavens to inform me it was raining, just in case I hadn’t noticed feeling rather wet on account of all the water falling from the sky. Then they simply vanish.

Personally I quite enjoy a relaxing walk on a nice smoggy day, but why on Earth, at the exact moment when so many more people would appreciate the services of one of Seoul’s 17 million taxis, would they suddenly choose to warp into that secret extra dimension only Seoul taxi drivers know about (perhaps with all those cops that are never around when you actually need one).

Ok, so the stereotype about Asian drivers… yep, I’m gonna go there (thank god nobody actually reads this blog), but stay with me here people – I’m going somewhere with this.

I was taught to drive by my father, who in turn was taught to drive by his father. South Korea is very different however. 50 years ago, when this starving nation was eating the bark off trees (instead of selling us flat-screen TVs), there were probably only a handful of motor vehicles in the entire country.

At a university north of Seoul sits an old car. It looks about 60 years old. Sitting proudly on a red carpet at the covered entrance to one of the faculty buildings, with a velvet-rope style barrier around it (and a sign, written in English that says, “Old Car”), it is one of the university’s proudest acquisitions.

Basically, what we have here is a nation comprised almost entirely of first generation drivers, which kind of explains why they still seem to be making up the road rules as they go. At least in Seoul these days most red lights are a signal to stop (unlike out in the country areas where red lights are still considered more of a suggestion than a rule).

This taxi driver thing though… if they don’t feel comfortable driving in the rain, is this some kind of personal admission that they don’t feel entirely capable as drivers? It’s kind of worrying and doesn’t make much sense… they do this for a living, and they don’t seem to have much of a problem swerving from lane to lane at 90km/hour while they watch the fucking baseball on their dashboard TV.

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