I dislike video games. Well, truthfully, I dislike World of Warcraft, Starcraft, or any game that resembles them. The narration behind the games is too fantastical, and among its players there are a disproportionately large number of social outliers. At least addicts to the various titles released by EA Sports have some semblance of interest in athletics.
In Korea those who need a daily fix of role-playing head to what is known as a “PC Bang,” or “PC Room.” As one might expect, these places consist of nothing more than row after row of computers, equipped with quick broadband connections and the latest video-game technology. Admittedly, they are in a league of their own when compared with the computer game lairs one might find stateside.
Yet while the technology is pristine, its users are, as one might expect, not quite so hygienic. They aren’t obese and smelly in the way that American computer addicts usually are, but they certainly aren’t the most well bathed elements of society. A large portion of the clientele consists of middle and high school boys who have not yet come to appreciate shampoo, deodorant, and shaving. Their female counterparts appear to be better dressed and groomed, but clearly they haven’t attended any etiquette classes. They smoke and curse enough to make a pirate blush.
Knowing this, one might reasonably ask, ‘why did I ever go to PC Bang’s?’ The main reason was that I didn’t have internet access in my boarding house, and the second was that going to these places gave me a much-needed opportunity to leave my room. It is better to be surrounded by nerdy, acned strangers than nobody at all.
However, there is one PC Bang, which shall go unnamed, that I have sworn to never enter again. While working on a paper there one afternoon I began to feel the after effects of my lunch, and headed to the men’s bathroom. I sat down in one of the stalls, which seemed relatively clean for a place frequented by computer nerds.
One of the disadvantages of having a penis is that it moves around, often seemingly of its own volition. In particular, while sitting on a toilet the penis has a terrible habit of smacking up against the edge of the bowl. It does not matter how much care one takes to avoid this; the penis does as it pleases.
This instance was not unique in this respect; my penis smacked up against the bowl. But whereas usually the penis merely taps the bowl, this time it stayed attached to the bowl for a second. “Odd,” I thought, “I didn’t realize that my penis was adhesive.”
Looking at the tip of my penis there certainly did appear to be some sort of adhesive material present. Reaching my hand down I stuck my index finger out to probe the area of the bowl to my penis had grazed. Sadly, it became clear that while the adhesive material had come from somebody’s penis, it had not been mine. As a friend eloquently remarked, “Dude got wazoo on your wazoo maker!” I ran home and took a shower, followed by another shower, and yet another shower. I still feel dirty.
I wonder what type of person would jerk off in a PC Bang. But even more, I wonder what kind of weirdo would have to presence of mind to aim with such precision for the rim of the toilet while doing so. Couldn’t they have at least finished up in toilet tissue and disposed of it? On the one hand I’m impressed that their aim was so accurate, but on the other hand I would like to wring their neck mercilessly.
Bathrooms in general seem to be an area where the cultural divide between the western world and the Korean one cannot be overcome. I always have to be careful when pulling my pants down that I don’t drop the cuffs in a pile of spit left by an ajosshi who, astonishingly, did not realize that the toilet bowl would have been an appropriate place for his drool. My favorite bathroom behavior of Koreans, though, is what I like to call the “smoke and shit.” In an effort to increase efficiency, many ajosshi have combined the bathroom break and the smoke break. Once, while opening the stall door in the bathroom at my gym I came across a little man, about five feet tall, squatting over the hole in the ground that passes for a toilet. A cigarette trailing out the side his mouth, he looked up at me, smiled, and gave a nodding grunt as I quickly tried to erase from my memory what I had just seen.
I’m not sure that there’s a satisfactory explanation for this behavior; people tend to act in inexplicable ways. I do wonder, however, if some of this can’t be explained by Korea’s tendency to view their world as their neighborhood and their fellow citizens as their relatives. Really until half of a century ago most Koreans spent the majority of their lives living in a small village with their family, doing whatever their family had done for generations, and doing so with the understanding that their families would probably continue in such an existence for the foreseeable future. I suppose that if one wants to they should be more than welcome to take a “smoke and shit” break on their own rice paddy (though as a rice consumer I might have to take issue with the practice).
Much like visiting the washroom, walking on the crowded streets of Seoul is inherently dangerous. Delivery boys on motorcycles, couples blissfully unaware of their surroundings, and ajumma on a mission to get somewhere before everyone else are just a few of the numerous hazards that await Korean pedestrians. Try as one might, these obstacles cannot be avoided. An ajumma will at some point push you out of the way, a couple will at some point obstruct your path for what seems to be an eternity, and a delivery boy’s weaving motorcycle will at some point cause you to reexamine your life insurance policy.
The best course of action is to simply remain nonplussed by the various forms of misbehavior in the street. Pushing the ajumma back might break her ankle, but it probably won’t change her attitude. Yelling at the couple will only convince those around you that you are an asshole bent on ruining the mood set by their matching outfits. And as for the delivery boy, do keep in mind that the big boat rule applies: when motorcycle fights pedestrian, pedestrian tends to lose. Should one’s attempts to remain calm fail, remember that there are far worse fates than bearing the brunt of rudeness in the streets. You could be shot. You could be hit by a bus. Or perhaps worst of all, you could find your penis in someone else’s adhesive material.