A Canadian writer teaches English and finds out what it's like to be a foreigner.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Wonkanomics

I've written at length about the Pirates of the Caribbean theme music and how it has a habit of popping up in the least expected places in Korea. Whenever you need to emphasize the heroism or swashbucklery of a particular event or product, then look no further.

Another, far more bizarre and seemingly random piece of music that I've now seen in enough commercials to bear repeating, is the theme music from Tim Burton's whacked-out Willy Wonka.

I heard it first back in November on a home shopping channel, and thought nothing of it. They're known (at least by me) as having no discriminating taste when it comes to what western music they'll hawk their wares to. Shortly after the Wonka theme leaped out at me from periphery, I saw a pin-stripe suit being modelled by a svelte Korean man to the tune of Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take it." Have English, will sell.

So that was fine, and I heard the song in passing flicking through a few more infomercials over the months. It became just another part of the din of Korean commercials, including the Sunkist "lemonadu" jingle which featured pastel-vested metrosexuals in a duelling serenade for the affections of a fickle babe, apparently hot for citrus. "Le-le-lemonadu." That bit of charming Konglish was bouncing around in my skull for way too long.

I digress. On to Wonkagate.

I was watching TV last night and was surprised to again hear the chorus of: "Willy Wonka/ Willy Wonka/ The amazing chocolatier."

It was a commercial for Hyundai... life insurance maybe? I don't know, but when one of the country's most prominent corporate entities is using bastardized Oompa Loompas to sell their, well, anything, it's a point of concern at least.

The common denominator? Johnny Depp it would seem. As the star of both movies bearing the versatile (read: baffling) theme songs appropriated by Korean ad culture, I can't help but feel that there is something more than coincidence at work.

I suppose only time will tell.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Totalitarianism

"Total" is a word that Korean marketing hinges on.

"Shoes & Shoes: Total Shoes Shop."

"Total Fashion."

"Total Well Being."

It stands to reason that if you are selling something in the highly competitive realm of Korean commerce, you might as well market yourself with the finality of the bottom line.

"There is nothing about this shop that doesn't involve shoes. We take our shit seriously."

"Free lunch, final wisdom, total coverage... why not?" In the words of Raoul Duke.

In any case, the word has taken hold in the popular English domain and it springs up in surprising places.

Tonight I walked into my last class only to see the kids crowded around something or other.

As I got closer and parted the mob, I saw it was a plastic tray with about 4 leaky paint tubes.

"What's this?" I asked.

"I don't know..." they said.

I think I saw the paints floating around the same classroom earlier in the day, so they must have been abandoned and left to bleed out.

The mingling of the painty carnage was what had the kids interested.

Ugly punctures in three of the tubes had leaked a chunky white like cottage cheese, and purple with a runny moat of red. The remaining glitter paint was unmolested.

It looked like a Care Bear's bowel movement, and I wasn't alone in my estimation.

"Teacher!" one student said, catching my brain wave, "Dung!"

"Total Dung!"

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Cancer My Friend, is Blowing in the Wind...

Any pun on health problems brought on by yellow dust storms from China would be in obvious bad taste, so I'll let this photo do the talking:


This is a shot of Seoul, last April during a particularly nasty stretch of "yellow dust" sandstorms. Here's the bird's eye view:


With the fairly tame Korean winter on the out, and with this announcement in today's paper, it puts our seasonal ratio of heavy snows to cancer-causing, chrome yellow pollution and desert dust cocktails raining from the heavens at a solid 2:1 for snow. You can take them figures to the bank and cash 'em...

I've been warned about the "yellow dust" by other expats who've been through it before. The seasonal dust storms are caused by factory smog from China that mixes with sands from Mongolia's Gobi Desert and goes on a little adventure down Korea way.

The story in the Herald does little to allay my concern, citing the carcinogenic chemical dioxin as one of the ingredients in the yellow dust. Other problems can include eye infections, as well as skin and respiratory problems.

Mung beans, sprouts and garlic are apparently beneficial at neutralizing the "heavy metals" present in the yellow dust once they enter the body, according to this Chosun report. Although there's no science to back it up, many people seem to think eating pork also help expel the toxins.

With 11 days of yellow dust alert last year, the prediction is that this year will be even worse (essentially a global mantra for all environmental concerns, big and small right?). I don't know how bad things will be in the relatively sheltered Siheung area, but I suppose I will when I start counting the face-masks.

If you need me, I'll be hiding inside sucking garlic and pig bellies.

Business as usual.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Drift in, then out, like breathing— sometimes laboured

I just stumbled across an interesting read at Slate about a writer, once English teacher, and his reminiscence on the transient, often self-destructive expat life in Korea.
If I was in a big city, and had some friends, I'd probably face the same malaise. That said, I've known enough guys at King's pretending to be Jack Kerouac/Henry Miller beautiful bastard balls of phony, neurotic and self-indulgent fire, that I'd willingly choke on my own tongue (and maybe a few hookers' for good measure...) before I sunk into a pithy swamp of cheap self-loathing and assholery for the sake of "art."

Anyway, I look forward to visiting Busan sometime soon.

Edit: I did some homework and this Rolf Potts is something of a travel writing superstar. Definitely worth checking out.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The perfect drink

Most of my affairs with Korean-style Western products (read: bread, pizza, cake, sandwiches...) has as best left me wanting, and at worst left me with nightmares.

The one thing that I've found that I enjoyed back home, but have discovered that the Koreans do 1000x better is grape juice:


I was initially hooked on my first subway expedition. They have a red grape juice that seems to only be available in subway vending machines. Anyway, it is so cold and refreshing and as an added bonus it comes with the peeled, crushed grapes still inside the can. It might not be everyone's cup of tea having little grape wads sluicing through the "drink hole" (for lack of a finer term... or maybe in spite of one...) and into their mouths, but I was always a fan of bubble tea, so welcome particles in my beverages has never been an issue.

Anyway, the green grape stuff pictured above is available at most convenience stores, and I've come to enjoy it even more than my initial addiction. The cans are a bit squat, but for 700 won you can't go wrong. I can't really describe what makes it so much better than Western grape juice. You can tell there is no added sugar, and it doesn't have that thick, syrupy way of Welch's, which tends to leave your mouth feeling like fingertips in a prolonged bath.

It's just so light and refreshing, that I'm sure it will be one of the things I'll lament leaving behind in September, unless I end up moving to Toronto's Bloor Street West...

Monday, February 19, 2007

Seollal that ends well

Sorry that was weak.

This was a long weekend because of the Korean lunar New Year Seollal. For millions of Koreans, that means the trek back to your hometown to visit with grandparents and relatives. For us expats it means wandering the significantly less bustling streets, and marveling at the fact that for a short time in Korea, it's difficult to find a place to eat, or things to buy. Don't misunderstand, the crush of progress still rages on, you just have to look a little harder.

On my way down into the subway in Bucheon it was like walking into a tomb. What is usually a busy nest of walkways selling clothes, watches, cell-phones and shoes was now a gallery of horizontal metal sliding doors. Every shop in Korea seems to have the same metal garage-like security door with red, yellow and blue racing stripes across the middle. Forget the tomb comparison— this was more like the hallowed hall of an underground Formula 1 cult.

Anyway, I made my way to Sadang Station to meet Shane, where we embarked on a relatively aimless journey to find some lunch and wander... ah... did I already say aimlessly?

We headed north, across the river and took to the streets. There were still lots of people about, but it was much less manic than your typical Sunday in Seoul. While we were wandering (I have no idea where exactly) we came across a quiet street with a welcoming temple arch which begged investigation.


The grounds consisted of about 6 large buildings, 4 of them temple pavilions, and what looked sort of like a Plexiglas bus shelter, but was full of white candles people were lighting ceremoniously. There was such a wonderful calm to the place. Then I saw this:


There were several of these huge Buddha statues in the main temple, but I didn't want to get too close for a shot since there were lots of people praying inside. In front of the statues there were small wooden bowls full of fruit, and people knelt on grey mats and bowed their heads. It was just completely transfixing. There is something about the majesty of these statues that just sucks me in. Back in September when Edison and Shane and I saw the national treasure "Contemplative Buddha" statue at the National Museum, we just sat and stared at it for close to 10 minutes. I've never been a religious person but there is something about the grandeur of temples and churches and iconography which is just so captivating.


That said, when I first arrived here I was surprised when I saw my first "swastika" on a sign or temple front. It's sometimes hard to remember that it was their symbol first. We're so exposed to the symbol only in Nazi regalia in Western movies and history that you sort of feel uncomfortable just looking at it, even here on display in it's righteous, natural context. I think that's really unfortunate.


This small shrine was dotted with offerings of bottled water, bags of rice, and small Buddha statues which you can't see on the opposite side. In front, people burned sticks of incense on a small pyre. There was some particular significance to this structure, but I can't remember what the plaque in front of it said. It contained the ashes of a significant spiritual leader, but I'm embarrassed to say I don't remember who. I need to start taking notes, I'm getting rusty!


This was the smaller of the 3 pavilions, and the only unpainted one. The only flourish are those gold Chinese letters. It's interesting the way the Chinese alphabet mixes into Korean Buddhist since I suppose many of these temples out-date the written Korean language (hangul). It's sort of like the Latin of Buddhism I guess... Pie Iesu Domine. Dona Eis Requiem *thunk*


"Hey Buddha! Where d'ya keep ya boxes?"

"'round back."

***

Next stop was Insadong market, which was still bustling with activity. I noticed this interesting motivational message on the side of a building:


"Okay," I was compelled to respond.

We found a awesome restaurant tucked away in an artsy little alley, to finally have that lunch we'd been thinking about all afternoon. It was a neat little three floor building with warm bare wood floors and walls, and cozy booths. It was sort of a cross between a tree-fort and a traditional Korean house. I ordered dukmanduguk (rice cake and dumpling soup) which is a traditional food to eat on Seollal. It was delicious and filling and looked like this:


After lunch, and later coffee and later still beer, Shane and I parted ways and I began the long subway ride home. While I was waiting in Seoul Station, an older gentleman came up to me and offered me his hand. I shook it and politely said hello, and he started speaking in Korean I couldn't understand and kept making a circular gesture with his hands, like making an imaginary globe in the space between our heads. I shrugged my shoulders and smiled to indicate I didn't understand him. He laughed and took my hand to shake again and then pressed it against his cheek for a moment and smiled and walked on his merry way.

I was kind of confused, but I guess he was happy to have me in his country. Or maybe he just like the cut of my jib, whatever he may have perceived that to be. It was nonetheless nicer than a sour look and muttering "Migugin" (American person) with disdain. Not that that happens often...

Let the Year of the Golden Pig properly commence!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Bye-Bye Bushey?

"Teacher! You know Bushey?"

She was referring to the US President by the moniker most Korean kids seem to know him.

"Yes," I told the 13-year-old student, somewhat surprised by the question, as I was leaving the last class of the day on a Friday.

"You know he is die?" she said with a ghoulish look.

"I don't think Bush is dead."

"YEEE-EEEES!" the twofold whine came affirmative.

"Who told you he was dead?"

"I was in video store, and ahh... see the video, and on the back and Bushey is die!"

I knew right away she was referring to this movie, and that while presented as a documentary of the plausible assassination of Bush, it is indeed a total fiction.

"Oh, I know what you mean, but the movie isn't real," I said.

"Teacher, is real! I see it!" she replied, slightly affronted I might call her a liar.

"Yes, I know the movie is real, but Bush isn't really dead— the movie was fake."

"Nooo-oooo!" came the same whine now negative.

"Bushey is die!"

I didn't know what else to say to shake her conviction. She was probably just having a good time with it now.

"Teacher, is true, Bushey is my friend say!"

"Bush is your friend?"

This prompted riotous laughter from the stragglers who had stayed to hear our debate play out.

"Teacher! Noooo-ooo! My friend too say he is die."

"But the movie wasn't true," I said again.

"Teacher! You have 10 million?"

Huh?

"No, I don't have 10 million."

"Oh! I mean 10 thousand. Teacher!? (it's hard to punctuate the way they say this as a combo question/announcement) We say Bushey is die real, and you give me 10 thousand, OKAY???"

"I don't think so," I said, not a betting man.

"10 thousand bread."

Huh?

"Huh?"

"10 thousand money, or 10 thousand bread," she said, sweetening the pot— depending on your point of view.

"No," I said with finality, "Bush is not dead and I'm not giving you 10 thousand anything."

"INTERNET!" she said, with twice the finality, calling on the ultimate decider (despite claims to the contrary).

"Okay, to the internet!"

The tubes provided us with decisive evidence that Bush was alive, and in fact had addressed the American Enterprise Institute on the state of Iraq naught yesterday.

Not convinced at the authenticity of my crafty English websites, the spunky girl insisted I search "Death of a President" on the Korean search engine Naver, which only provided a trailer for the movie which further convinced her she was right, and deserving of 10 thousand bread.

Our stalemate understood, we called it a night.

Good luck Bushey.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

"We've quips and quibbles heard in flocks..."

"Teacher! Minwoo is everyday speaking lies!"

This line has become part of Joseph's repertoire, not because he genuinely thinks Minwoo is a liar, but because he thinks it's funny to have a catch-phrase.

Today, in Joseph's absence we had something of a paradox on our hands.

"Teacher!" Minwoo himself hijacked the routine, "Minwoo is everyday speaking lies!"

Everyone laughed. I stood up and paced thoughtfully.

"Think about this," I said.

"If Joseph says Minwoo lies everyday, and then Minwoo himself says he is telling lies, that must mean he's always telling the truth... right?"

"Ahhhhhh!" they said with wonderment.

"Is opposite!"

"A most amusing paradox!" I said with respect to Gilbert & Sullivan.

They laughed, finding opposites one of the funniest things imaginable. That is one of the great things about being a kid. You can find such asinine things as saying "Goodbye!" in place of "Hello!" as unrivaled hilarious shtick.

Today was also Valentine's Day which I barely even registered, since I haven't been obligated to by the greeting card industry, and for lack of a significant other for a good many years.

A few students brought me chocolate so that was very sweet.

Anne gave me a little bag of Korean knock-off M&Ms, unappetizingly called "TP." She also made me two little cut-out drawings of a boy and a girl, and wrote on the back: "Minju [sic] is you (Sam teacher) give chocolate 2007.2.14 Valentine day."

Much better than the tragic V-tine's where the Wardroom canteen lady at King's gave me a chocolate which ended up melting in my pocket. That was a real Charlie Brown moment.

It seems this year the tables have turned, and I'm as popular as Schroeder.

So, happy Valentine's to those who deserve it and/or give a shit. I'm off to play toy piano while doing irreparable damage to my neck...

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Fecal Manna

"Teacher! There will be a miracle!" Judy announced matter-of-factly.

"A miracle? What kind of miracle?" I asked, always surprised with the words the kids pick up and retain (read: arse, quadrillion).

Before she had a chance to elucidate, Paul burst out:

"A dung miracle!"

"A dung miracle?"

"Oh yes. Many dungs will fall from the sky." He said it with a tone that suggested I really ought to know this by now. Had I been hiding under a rock for the last 23 years?

I would have taken this opportunity to correct his use of plural to "much dung will fall from the sky" but that would only skew his image of dung existing only as individual and perfectly formed piles (with a soft-serve swirl), and probably cause a total meltdown of reality. I dare not be the one to ruin his romantic dream...

"Choco miracle!" Dave was quick to jump on the bandwagon, and steer it in a more palatable direction.

Didn't Tom Waits do a song called Chocolate Jesus? Maybe he had the same thought...

Judy never did end up explaining her miracle.

I'd better keep an umbrella handy.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Ceci n'est pas une post

Today Shane and I went to the Seoul Museum of Art to see their René Magritte exhibit "Empire of Dreams" (which I learned of through a fellow Korea blogger).

Contrary to coincidence, the exhibit was not held at this location:


Though I feel it bears further investigation.

While en route to the museum, I passed a humorous condom vending machine I thought I should share.


While this purple anthropomorphic keyhole with its one white boot, perplexing shovel and condom tip sombrero don't exactly evoke thoughts of safe sex— they don't entirely thwart the idea either. I'm not sure whether the little beige guy is eating a hot dog, or if those are his lips... but the imagery is a little unsettling.

The walk to the museum was strange, if only for a road we went down that had extremely tight security. It's been my experience to see large numbers of armed police visible outside government complexes and museums in Korea. They look like the type who don't mess around. Not from their build, expression, or particularly menacing gestures, but because these guys carry really severe sticks. If Crocodile Dundee tried to out-stick these guys, his trademark bravado would deflate faster than a bowie-knifed balloon. Imagine a 3/4's man-sized black night-stick, more like a Scotch Claymore than a blunt instrument, and it suddenly evokes images of North American police twirling toothpicks in their hands. This unsettling stretch of road was I think between a temple and some sort of police facility. One guard made a gesture to me to put away my camera when I tried to take a picture of a tree rising over the shingles on the wall.

I quickly obliged, remembering hearing something once about speaking softly and big sticks...

When we finally arrived at the museum, it looked like this:


It was a big change from the modern, sprawling grounds of the National Museum and the War Memorial. Plus, inside in the lobby was this:


This is a single frame of a constantly shifting video-image canvas on the wall in the foyer of the museum. The images changed every blink, except for the single-screen in the middle...

See it?

Look closer...

Closer...

Closer still...

Aha! A naked woman! How subversive. The boob tube indeed...

The Magritte exhibit itself was two-floors and a fascinating look at an artist I knew very little about. I studied his seminal "Ceci n'est pas une pipe" painting in a visual culture/semiotics class at King's, but I didn't know about too much of his other work.

The exhibit was 3 years in the making, and featured 270 pieces of art, personal letters as well as 8mm personal films. The film room was one of the most interesting, with a collection of Magritte's films looped on giant, black-framed screens on the floor. They were mostly a collection of whimsical scenes of Magritte's friends exchanging hats, performing slights of hand, and his wife eating a banana in reverse. There was no shortage of hats throughout the exhibit, since bowlers are as ubiquitous in Magritte's work as dreams are in the titular hall. It flared up Shane's long-held desire to own one himself. One day, man... one day...

Since I couldn't take pictures of the works themselves, I thought I'd eschew reality as well and offer you this cyclopped, reverse flag rendition of Magritte's "Good Faith."


~fin

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Birds of Effluvia... Flock Toguthia?

"Teacher! Follow me!"

This is usually a foreboding statement coming from the kids. It doesn't mean literally follow me to some strange cavern or something, but rather "do what I do" like say a word in Korean or make a silly gesture.

Sometimes I play along, and today it was a strange lead.

"Teacher! Follow me!" The girl said, and rubbed her hands together furiously.

"Like this?" I did it very slowly and mock lazy on purpose.

"Noooooo-oooooooo!" she laughed. "Fast!"

So I gave'er and rubbed as if to start a fire that my merit badge depended on.

"Now smell!"

"Huh?"

"Smell!" and she pressed her palms to her nose and took an impassioned whiff.

Then she almost horked.

"Teacher! Hand-dung!" the sweet little 8-year-old girl cried with her tongue sticking out through a smile.

"Hand... dung?" I questioned.

"Dung friend!" came the reply.

I guess unwashed hands + sweat + friction = a more literal l'eau de toilette.

I find this a kind of endearing way to explain gross things that the kids use often. While fishing for the word for snot, it was explained to me first as "nose-dung" then again as "dung-friend." I like the idea of a camaraderie between bodily substances they seem to imagine. There's a touch of nicely profane magic-realism in thinking of the body one big social network, and all of its respective wastes being thick as thieves.

So there stood the 3 girls rubbing their hands together like B-movie ghouls and gagging at the smell.

I think I'll be reconsidering congratulatory high-fives...

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Patience & The Poker

The teaching process is taxing at the best of times, but unless you maintain a calm attitude you will be reduced to a quavering pile of "sugah sugah dung" (as one of my kinder kids coined today) within a few weeks.

Those who know me, know that I don't have a tyrannical bone in my body and I'm somewhat failing to present myself as an authority figure.

I have a vital device made out of an 8-inch tube that was once filled with chocolate-coated sunflower seeds. The key feature is a green, rubber hand used to stop up the end. They come in 4 varieties: rock, paper, scissors, and a pointing index finger which I can only assume is designed for dung-chipping. I use it to point out things on the white-board, and to wave theatrically in the air in the hopes of lending a bit of excitement to otherwise dull subject matter; much the same principal behind the chocolate-coated sunflower seeds.

After I had used the device, to much acclaim, for a few days, one of the students brought me a clenched "rock" fist to put on the other end. Her intent, she explained, was for me to use it to whack students on the head if they acted out. Corporal punishment, I think, is still kicking around in Korean public school, so coming to a private academy where you are spared the rod is something of a vacation. Especially when your teacher is a mild-mannered Canadian.

Today the same student asked me: "Teacher, why you not use the other end?"

"I don't want to hit anybody," I said. "No matter how you act, you don't deserve to be hit."

They sort of looked at each other with puzzled faces.

"Whaaaaaa!" Anne (one of my favorites; can you tell from the name?) let out the generic Korean expression of amazement.

"Teacher is very kind!"

"Martin say!" another chimed in. "Martin say Teacher is very kind."

Martin is the director of our Academy.

One day, I was sitting in the teacher's room wringing my hands after a particularly frustrating class. He came in and asked me what was wrong and I explained the whole situation to him.

"You can yell at the students," he reminded me, but I said I thought they would probably laugh before they fell in line.

"Sometimes I see the students in your class and I think if I was their teacher I would be very angry. I don't understand how you carry it. You are very kind person and that is your strength," he told me with a smile.

"It is much easier to be kind and learn to be strict than it is to be harsh and learn patience."

Monday, February 05, 2007

February sucks


See above.



















Seriously though. February is a bullshit month with no purpose. I wish there was a universal switch that could be flipped to skip it or do away with it entirely.

Take my grievances to the heavens, Internet, for I am a blogger and mine word is self-important (not really, but one must keep up appearances).

I wish the universe had a suggestion box. I suppose there is one, and it's called free will, but balls to that for the moment. I wish there was a big mother suggestion box—perhaps teak with a nice finish— that appeared in a cloud of pleasant smelling smoke whenever you wanted to offer input to the balance of the cosmos. That way I could lick the nib of a Waterman pen, and in studied handwriting suggest:


"Dear Universe,

F**k February.
I'm done with February.
Seriously, we'd be better off without it.
An odd number of months would probably keep us on our toes for some reason.
Pluck it from the calender like a frozen wort and make our lives that much better.
That's how much f**k February.

Respectfully Yours,
S.D.B Worthington"


This is my dream.

That said, if there was a cosmic suggestion box, it would probably be filled with viral messages like: "I love farts."

This would seriously discredit the Front for the Litigious Undoing of February and all that we stand for.

We will prevail, in the spirit of human endeavor; our cry grander than any folded paper, languid behind the teak walls of fate:

Sic Semper Februarus.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

A minor grievance

What's worse than feeling like a ridiculed extra in Batman & Robin? Not much. Except maybe feeling so in the subway in Korea.

You deserve an explanation.

I'm seriously sick of being gawked at, especially by children who are old enough to have been told to know better. I got on the subway today and was lucky enough to score a seat. Pity it was across from two sisters, of I'd guess seven, in matching purple duffel coats.

One of the boons of coming from a multi-cultural society is that when I see a Korean-Canadian or a Korean tourist walking down the street, I've never felt the urge to dare my friends to see which one has the guts to say "annyong haseyo!" and run away squealing. Similarly, I've never walked into a bagel shop in Quebec and snickered when the clerk at the counter said "bonjour." It may sound snide to put it like that, but seriously, these are the things we don't consider being from a country that is not ethnically homogeneous, and going to one to that almost exclusively is.

Anyway, the insincere "hellos" are not what bugs me. What I find irritating is when kids think it's hilarious to speak English near you, but not directly to you, and in a tone insinuating: "Look at this, I'm speaking English— isn't that ridiculous! I'm Korean, I shouldn't be speaking your language. It sounds like I have a mouthful of cheese! How absurd!"

Again, I'm not trying to be a jerk here, but this really gets on my nerves. If you think a white dude with curly hair is the most ridiculous thing you've ever seen— fine— just have the decency not to mock me openly. That's all I ask.

So the two sisters sat, across the subway car, in their matching purple jackets like two overripe plums in a discount fruit bin. They had been staring and giggling for awhile by now.

"Hello my name is blah blah blah..." one said to the other with that special rise-and-fall tone children reserve for discussing the especially lame.

"I am 7 years old."

Snicker snicker snicker. (Remember? This isn't my language, that's why it's so funny!)

"Ice to meet you."

This is where I rolled my eyes and pretended to try and sleep when I really wanted to say:

"Nice! It's nice to meet you... what, are you channeling Arnold Schwarzenegger's Mr. Freeze? If this subway ride was the Batman movie franchise, you are Joel Schumacher and you almost ruined it. But there is hope. Because if this subway ride is the Batman movie franchise as previously established, then all I have to do is hold on for a little longer because at the end of the ride I get to enjoy the day with Shane who is every bit as cool as Michael Caine's Alfred in Batman Begins, and that means I get to be Christian Bale as Batman, and that means that both the grueling subway ride and the ill-fated movie franchise are saved, yet this metaphor is crumbling so by the time I open my eyes in 3... 2... 1 I expect you to piss off and learn some respect."

By the time I opened my eyes, they had gone; now walking across the subway platform; a precocious and duffel-coated plum in each of their mother's hands.