3.1 Spring 2021

April 12, Driver’s License

I don’t know if the mystical bearded taxi man from last time communicated with his taxi brothers but I had another adventure at the Korean DMV.

After I got another updated form from my local office about all of my past entries to and exits from Korea since my birth to present, I scheduled a taxi with the Kakao Taxi App which isn’t much different from Uber. The DMV is thirty minutes away by car or an hour by bus… a bus that comes every 90 minutes.

It’s also located on a country road at the edge of town but I guess since many Koreans don’t drive, it wouldn’t be placed in a more accessible location for car-less plebeians like me. Or maybe it’s just Asia Time logic.

A brusque older man, sans majestic beard, picked me up. We drove through mountains and over bridges and in tunnels and finally pulled into the DMV lot.

The taxi driver, I assume not wanting to forfeit that sweet long distance fee, offered to wait in the parking lot to drive me back. He didn’t want to wait too long, however, and came inside with me to ask the DMV desk how long processing would take to decide if my fee back home would be worth it.

So I was led by a gruff taxi man through the long but fairly empty DMV situated on the side of a mountain. He explained my situation to the woman as if he were my translator rather than taxi driver and it was so truly surreal that I just accepted this strange turn of events and handed over my pile of paperwork.

Of course Asia Time struck again. The woman told me I needed to get a certificate of residency from another government office down the road since my current address and address on my physical ID don’t match.

That’s because I updated my address via the immigration website. But it really makes you wonder why that’s an option if no one uses the online system to confirm addresses…

So I hopped back in the taxi to the building down the road and was in and out in less than two minutes. I debated on getting two copies because who knows? But ultimately rushed off with just the one.

Taxi man and I repeated the process and after mass confusion about where to get my eye exam (a shack on the other side of the parking lot) I could finally sit and wait 15 minutes for my license to be printed.

And once again, Asia Time. Five minutes into waiting the woman behind booth 1 motioned at me and I picked up my shiny new license.

Level unlocked! Access to lands unknown gained!

I hoisted the license above my head when I finally got back in the taxi and the driver cheered. The way back was much looser and I asked about his grandkids and what’s the best subcompact car to buy. He asked if I was married (lol), what I do, and where I’ve been around Jinhae since he’s from the same town.

I told him how I have so many students and with the constant mask wearing I don’t know their names.

“You know, when I go to lunch they all take their masks off to eat. But when I see their faces without masks, I can’t recognize them!”

He laughed and I applauded myself for being able to tell stories in sad, intermediate Korean.

I requested he drop me off at the Lotte Mart so I could buy dinner. He seemed to have forgotten to restart the meter at some point in our treacherous journey and just charged me a flat price which I knew was slightly less than standard.

As I exited the mall with my dinner, a young guy at a booth offered me a sticker. I love stickers! And I figured he’d be too afraid to talk to me in English.

Wrong again, Abs.

Non-profit workers absolutely will grind you down in any language. I appreciate his effort even if ultimately I didn’t donate to clean water in Africa.

A speaker from training long ago told us hat Korea likes to donate to outside causes as a way to show the world it has lifted itself out of poverty. Korea is giving the money now, not receiving.

I won’t knock a non-profit but I’ve donated to a single fathers group here. Supporting people at home is important, too.

As frustrating as the day started, with antsy students and unforeseen paperwork, there was magic in the chaos. Some magic that has been sorely missed!

I look forward to exploring the countryside in my beat up little car, once I have one.

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