Sunday, February 05, 2012

Assigned Standing

The train was early. Nine-in-the-morning early, but I got up and got on it. I spent the rest of the day working on the train or working in a coffee shop in Seoul. Around three I decided I’d head over to the area and see if I could find a place to stay for the night, finish work, and get some dinner.

I got around to the area for the concert hall by telling the taxi driver the subway stop. I won’t take the subway in Seoul. I’m spoiled, and frankly, I don’t mind paying a little bit more not to ride the subway with 10,000,000 Koreans. As we approached my destination I noticed a motel across the street and a large funny-looking building that I was pretty sure was the location of the show.


I walked out, got a room at the hotel, finished working, and around six decided it was time to deal with the ticket issue and get food. The ticket issue came first. Bundled up in a scarf and coat I hit Ax Hall. It was early enough, but there some Korean girls there at the ticket booth. A few signs for the band let me know that I was in the right place. I walked up and started my tale of woe. I woed.

“You see,” I showed them my KTX ticket, “I came from Daegu. I got here at 9 a.m., but the train was very crowded. I had my concert ticket with my train ticket. It must have fallen out on the train. But I have the receipt,” I showed the receipt, “and I am really sorry I just want to get it, and can you print me a new ticket that is all I need.” I stopped.

My breath was frosting up the booth. I told the tale in a mix of Korean and English. Finally one of the girls walked over and asks again. This time I told the whole thing in Korean. She stopped me and asked me in English what happened, so I told the whole thing again in English.

“I don’t think we can do anything.” This was not the answer I was hoping for. I don’t want to have to buy the ticket again, although I know that was a real possibility. I whipped out the phone and called Hyun, who I had prepared on speed dial and he played his role in the story.  She then goes over and talked to a manager. He came up to me.

“So you lost your ticket?” I hated looking like the idiot foreigner, but I did it anyway. He finally agreed.

“We can give you a new ticket, but the number will be much higher. Not so good. But maybe you can get closer to the stage.”

I was confused.

“Is it seating or general audience?”

“It’s general audience.”

“But my number will be higher?”


I was thinking in the back of my brain you have to be fucking kidding me. Only in Korea (or perhaps Asia) would you have assigned seating for a general-audience show. I played along, thinking this had to be somehow wrong.

“Okay, that’s fine.” I got the ticket and some vague directions for dinner and I was off. I ended up in a Chinese place as it was the only place I was fairly sure I could get food without too much sugar. I forgot to ask for sauce on the side, and the restraint owners gave me sort of amused looks as I wiped sauce off my food, but it’s my life and I will do what I want.

I get back to the hall around 7:20 a few minutes before they opened the doors.  It was then that I realized that, yes, in fact, the general audience show did indeed have assigned seating. Outside of the show doors several flag areas had been set up. Each flag area represented a variety of the numbers of the tickets from 1 to 900, which was about the number they expected to sell. I was in the 800s now, where before I would have been in the 200s. I watched the line for a few minutes, headed to the bathroom, got a coffee, and went over to stand in the line for the 800s. The Electrician was on my phone so I tried to explain it to him.

“Assigned Seating?”

“Yes, I’m in line for it now.”

“What, do they paint little boxes on the floor with your number on it?” His guess was as good as mine, I signed off as the lines started to move. There were security people calling out numbers. I realized that even in the line they were trying to get people to stand in the correct order. Since the people are at the top of the 800 line were actually 850, and I was 817 I got to cut in front of all of them as the guard tried to order us correctly by number. I was giggling at the hilarity of it as I got pushed in front of the people who had been standing at the top of the line for 45 minutes and then entered the concert hall.

Upon getting into my position I sent the Electrician a cryptic “AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH” and told him I would explain later.

The laughter was warranted.

Inside the doors I had waited twenty minutes to enter was indeed a general-audience floor show. On the floor there were eight sections that were set off by metal bars. Obviously I was expected, because of the assigned numbers, to stay back in the 800 area.

I took one look at the arrangement and said, “Fuck. That.” And walked blithely right up to the stage. I found a nice spot, practically on the rail off on the right side. There were a couple of short Korean girls in front of me, but it was perfect. And once the show actually started the crowd pressed moved them down just enough that I was on the rail with no one in front of me. Perfect spot, perfect location, for a great show. I was very pleased with myself. And the band did not disappoint.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Train Tickets and Concert Tickets

Hyun called me on Tuesday evening and asked me about the train ticket.

“You said you could get me a later ticket,” I explained.

“The trains are all sold out man.”

“I know that.”

“I’m going to the station now.”


Fifteen minutes later my phone rang again.

“Oh Sara…”


“My darling.”


“You will be very happy.”

“Did you get it?”

“I got it,” Hyun sang songs to me. I smiled. “I’ll tell you about it at the Lonely Hearts.”

The arrangement was to see Hyun later that evening and pick up my tickets.

It was the last day of New Year and many had already returned home; however, there were still a number of travelers as many companies gave an extra day off for the return trip because of the five-day weekend, making it a solid six-day weekend for some people. Lonely Hearts was much like I last left it, only with  a table of Korean college students drinking together.

As I sat there a few more people walked in. Before Hyun arrived there were about twenty Koreans drinking at the bar. I sat by myself and enjoyed my small corner of bar.

Hyun walked in and came up to me “What the hell?”

“I need to get the tickets.”

“Why did you call me so late?”

“I didn’t. Your phone was turned off. I left a message.”

“Yeah, but it was so late.”

“Yeah, but if I had sent it sooner you might not have gotten the ticket.”

“Oh, come on man.” We laughed. He explained how he badgered a railway teller to keep pushing the button until a ticket magically came up and then he snatched it up for me. This was all good.

And for all the good there must be some bad.

After the drama that was my last showand I still don’t want to talk about thatI was looking forward to a drama-free show in Seoul to see Beirut, who I deeply desired. I had missed the Beirut show in Chicago due  to some unforeseen circumstances and was looking forward to a chance to see them at all.

“Okay, here is the thing,” Hyun  began to explain. “My father, he’s old, you know. He has like, what do you call it, dementia, you know? So he got the mail with the ticket and he lost it.”

“What now?”

“But don’t worry, cause I have the receipt. So you just need to be a really good actress and then it will all be no problem.”


Hyun’s elderly and aging father had misplaced the concert ticket and since a new ticket could not be issued, Hyun had given me the receipt. With this I was to cajole my way into a show by pretending to have lost my ticket, silly foreigner, and then I would beg for a new ticket, and worse case I would just buy a new one.

I was getting less amused.

“No, man, it will be okay. Trust me. Just, you have to be a really good actress, okay?”

“Keep your phone on, I will be calling you,” I told him. We agreed and with that I took my real train ticket and my fake concert ticket and head home to get some sleep for the busy day of work, travel, work, and music show.