There’s a Chair in the Middle of the Parking Lot and Other Existential Dilemmas

There was a chair in the middle of a parking lot and for a brief second I wanted to sit down. Absurdity held it’s breath until an elderly gentleman sauntered to the chair and beat me to the spot. My legs were tired.

A car wheeled around the corner and swerved to avoid the old man sitting in the chair. I wonder, would they be so courteous if I was sitting there?

Faced with unfamiliar cultural circumstances I have taken to simply saying “Korea,” and leaving it at that. Existential quandaries, like a chair in the middle of a parking lot, have no place here in Korea and similar to a drunken Greek oracle that word explains all. The mind of the foreigner can not safely harbor randomness.

Some friends of mine have a hobby of lying face down in the middle of odd places. Places such as subways, or palaces or whatever. They call this “Assin out” or something like that. I don’t get it but they seem amused by it so who really cares. I suppose that there are Koreans walking by saying things like “Foreigners” as though my friends’ actions were representative of the entire foreigner population. I mean, it’s not as culturally revealing as a chair in the middle of a parking lot or anything, is it?

At what point does one stop questioning a culture and simply deciding it’s impossible to understand? Is it when they first step off the plane or do we at least wait a day or so?

Why is there a chair in the middle of the parking lot you ask? Why shouldn’t there be a chair in the middle of the parking lot? I suppose the second answer has many more potential answers than the first question, but that’s not the point.  “Why” and “Why Not” are natural enemies the same way Tom doesn’t really like Jerry.

As I walked past the chair in the middle of the parking lot I gazed through a window to my right. Inside were people eating and laughing. Further down the road I could hear the sound of a soccer match. I closed my eyes and imagined I was home. Had there been a second chair in the middle of the parking lot I might have bumped into it.

Why is there a chair in the middle of the parking lot?

“Korea”

And that was that

Once Tom thought he had killed Jerry and he was sad. I doubt the series would have continued without Jerry. He was important.

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3 Comments

Filed under Culture, Narratives, The foreigner experience

3 responses to “There’s a Chair in the Middle of the Parking Lot and Other Existential Dilemmas

  1. A month or so after I first got here, I was walking down the street with the other FT at my school. (A very…stereotypical fresh-out-of-college Canadian woman.)

    We spotted a chair in the street and both looked at each other. She decided to sit in the chair, bounce on the chair, make LOUD and obnoxious comments about the stupidity of a chair in the street, and so on.

    And then the ticket ajosshi came over. The look on his face scared the hell out of her. She jumped out of the chair and started mumbling apologies and ran off.

    He rearranged his chair, sat down, and went back to watching the parked cars so he’d know which one to ticket next.

  2. Thats a perfectly reasonable explanation for there being a chair in the middle of a parking lot. What I find many foreigners, at least my friends, doing is simply not trying to answer these things. Instead we assume we won’t understand it. Really, Korean culture isn’t that alien when you get down to it.

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