If in doubt, just get up (or pretend to be asleep)“Who does this kid think he is?”
The blood in my veins began to boil. There I stood on a Seoul subway train with my 75-year-old grandfather while this punk, no older than I, just sat in his seat. It was like a slap to my grandfather’s face.
I asked myself, “Should I kick this little snot’s teeth in now, or fire a warning shot off first?” I chose the latter.
After a firm tap on the leg and a nasty glare, the kid got up and my grandfather took his place. Justice was served. But I was left shaking my head. Hadn’t this kid’s parents taught him manners? Wasn’t he familiar with the “Guide Explaining the Ushering Procedure” or GETUP?
That’s unlikely since this guide only existed in my head and I had just made it up the night before. Even so, some things just seem like common sense.
But for those who lack any sense, GETUP is a simple etiquette guide dictating when to rise and give your seat to someone more deserving. The city where I grew up in America had no subway, so most of my research in this area has come from my tenure in Seoul.
I can’t count the number of times that I’ve sat down and then, almost immediately, gotten up to give my seat away. Usually, it’s the omnipresent ajumma that moves me. When she notices that an able-bodied young man - me - has a seat, she’ll predictably stand right in front of me and stare until the guilt becomes unbearable. Normally, I dutifully bolt out of my seat, but I admit there have been times when I’ve hesitated.
So to prevent any further confusion and clear up any lingering ambiguities, I’ve created GETUP. There are only four rules, but they should be all-inclusive.
1. A seat must be immediately be yielded to a person whose hair is over 45 percent gray or white.
2. A seat must be yielded to anyone with a cane or a limp as long as their hair is more than 25 percent gray or white. The gray-hair clause is to prevent seats from being yielded to gaudy pimps, for whom a cane is a fashion accessory, much like a gold chain.
3. A seat must be given to anyone who’s balding and has gray hair, unless he combs his hair over his bald spot. If a person insists on looking younger, treat him that way.
4. Yield your seat to pregnant women.
So, unless the person meets one of these criteria, feel free to kick back and relax. And if you want to avoid this hassle altogether, just do what I do: pretend to be asleep.
by Steven Lee
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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