The book for last week was The Men Who Stare at Goats. This was quite a departure from my previous post about winning friends and influencing people. This was a journalistic account of what could be described as Omfg I can't believe that the U.S. government paid for this and has a hard time passing a health care bill.
The Men Who Stare at Goats, is the story of the First Earth Battalion, that was an army unit that sought to develop psychic skills to help make U.S. soldiers a kind of Jedi force. I believe that in Korea I have developed a kind of Jedi asshole power for ignoring people. It comes as second nature to me now after honing my skills by not acknowledging any stranger that says "hi, where are you from?"
I have seen how hurtful this power can be and I am trying to get over using it so casually. That is part of the reason why I read How to Win Friends and Influence People. My over use of the power hasn't made me any money, nor has it made me any friends or won me any sympathy, but more on that later.
Today I was in Jinju's E-mart. E-mart is a place that plants the seed of anger in my stomach. I usually can't stand to stay in E-mart for much more than a half hour, or else I want to start hurting people . I find E-mart to be such a problematic place because on busy days it is usually full of people who bring their children and don't pay attention to them.
And on the subject of not paying attention to other people in public I find E-mart to be the type of place that can be grating on the average non-Korean, because Koreans can seem like they don't see you if you are not someone that they know. When in E-mart or in a busy place, I still get culture shock by the way people get in the way, cut in front, or walk straight at while looking in your direction and not altering their course at all, and seemingly not even seeing a person or object in front of them.
An example of this happened to me last week in home plus. I was walking by one of those food sample kiosks. A lady and her kids were pushing a cart my direction so I got out of the way. I thought that my getting out of her way was obvious, but she decided to stop and block me in with her cart and eat one of the samples. What had happened was that she did not see me and ended up trapping me in a small cart prison for a few seconds.
These small occurrences make me want to scream when I am in a place like Home plus or E-mart, but I have to say that E-mart is the worst. I rarely go there because I hate it so much for this type of behaviour.
But today I left E-mart regretting that I had used my Jedi asshole powers on an old guy who seemed like he wanted to strike up a conversation.
I was standing in line being vigilant not to get cut in line by an old lady when an old guy approached an looked in my shopping basket. He wasn't talking very loudly but was obviously trying to engage me in a conversation. In this instance I should have been civil and talked to him, but instead I rolled my eyes and looked a different direction.
I think the First Earth Battalion would have called that projection of heightened annoyance, because the guy apologized and left, but I realized that I had hurt him and I felt bad about that. I think this type of attitude has it's place, but not always. Religious missionaries can be dealt with in this manor, kids can be dealt with in this manor. (It depends on the kids though, I don't recommend doing this often. Korean parents seem to want their kids to not be afraid of talking with people from other countries, but it seems that many don't instruct their kids in the dangers of talking to strangers. I used to ignore kids because I believed that they shouldn't talk to strangers or try to bother people on the street, but I realized after a while that I was doing it just to be mean, so I am trying to quit.)
At any rate, I think the non-Korean person in Korea can expect to be ignored in the sense that people won't see or care about them in the way that Korean people do to other Korean people. In the way that kids don't look both ways before crossing the street, or in the way that people cut in front of others without saying excuse me, (Usually I here excuse me in a piercing tone of voice that is to inform me that I'm doing something wrong, or that my back pack is unzipped, or it is a prelude to a conversation that is punctuated with the phrase "Is my speak correct," punctuated so many times with "Is my speak correct," that communication isn't achieved at all.) so when a Korean person does acknowledge a non-Korean, it may feel like they are trying to get a free English lesson, but then again, they might just be lonely old people looking for a sympathetic ear.