This guy has got to have one of the worst jobs in Korea, I thought to myself.
I woke up this morning full of the vigour and optimism of youth. Happens to me once in a while, unexpectedly. The light of morning seems energizing, rather than withering. I look forward to the day ahead, and the morning cup is a sacrament rather than just a stimulant.
This was the mood in which I left the house. Even the chronic pain in my achilles tendons was barely noticeable, thanks perhaps to my recent acupuncture treatments. I was downright jaunty, and those who know me know that ‘jaunty’ isn’t an adjective that often pops up in descriptions of me. Although the sun was filtering through brownish clouds of toxic haze, there was at least some sun, and it was already fairly high in the sky, and warming me pleasantly on my way to the subway station. Zip-a-dee doo-dah, motherf–ker.
The usual reeking pile of garbage in front of the next apartment building — whose parking lot I normally cut through as a minor shortcut — did little to diminish my jaunty outlook. There was a slight breeze, and I neatly managed to avoid the worst of the stink. I accidentally stepped in a little of it, but it wasn’t terribly viscous, and didn’t adhere to my shoe.
Naturally, the dawn chorus was in full throat, the old sniff-backhaul-and-hork orchestra all around me, tuning up for another day of mucous mining. This annoyed me mildly, as it always does, but I skipped lightly through the multitudes of already-deposited oysters, treating it as a game. Although the scent of the flowering trees that had somehow struggled up through the broken pavement every few blocks was masked by the cloud of diesel fumes from the buses and dump trucks, the colour and shape of them was undeniably appealing.
Outside the station, I was nearly run down by a utility vehicle. It was being driven by a fellow who had perhaps overindulged in the soju last night, judging by the rosiness of his cheeks and eyes as he swivelled to stare at me, bug-eyed and expressionless. I forgave him, as I too have survived many a hangover, even if I may not often have operated motor vehicles under their influence, or nearly run down briefcase-toting professors in the street as a result. My mood was still quite bouyant at this point, inexplicably, perhaps.
As I sat on one of the broken plastic benches on the train platform, trying in vain to see the nearest mountain through the photochemical haze, an old man in coveralls shuffled up, and began pulling the refuse from the garbage can beside me. I actually was quite pleased about this, as more often than not, the very few garbage cans one actually sees for public use are overflowing, and with the warm weather approaching, this means more Stench Zones to avoid on the urban hazard course. Then, with a shudder, I remembered that one of the primary uses for those garbage cans was as throat-oyster receptacles for the smallish percentage of men in my neighbourhood who have apparently been well-brought up, and rather than deposit their little glistening bundles of goo on the train platform, instead wander over and let them dangle and drop into the cans. There are no bags in these cans. This guy’s job was to bend over, reach in, and pull out the slime-coated trash within.
Poor bastard.
The air went out of my balloon. And it wasn’t even 8:00 am yet.

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Korea-related, Uncrappy