[VIEWPOINT]For good food, follow that carMy wife went to her parents’ home recently, her first outing in a very long time, which was made possible thanks to our son’s kindergarten vacation. She had been all keyed up since a few days ago, yet perhaps she realized that she couldn’t entrust all household chores to me. She spent the days before her departure nagging me about so many things.
Yet she has grounds for her worries ― I don’t know how to do anything properly around the house. Knowing this deep down, my wife held up the white flag of surrender first.
“Just make sure you lock the doors and eat!” she told me. She knows well that eating alone is the one thing that I do not like. Sitting alone at the table is so lonesome that I prefer not to eat than eat alone.
Nevertheless, there is a solution nowadays. As I watched my worried wife leave, I smiled and looked forward to my time alone.
Why, you ask? I look forward to my time alone because of the pork cutlets of Seongbuk-dong, the pot stew of Jamsil-dong, the steamed pollack of Yeoksam-dong, the pork-bulgogi and rice of Guui-dong and the silken tofu of Mount Namsan. I am not lonesome because I have my drivers’ restaurants.
These restaurants, which are frequented by people who drive for a living, have many good points. First and most obviously, they are easy to find and have good parking spaces. As you drive your car while looking for the restaurant, employees come out to the street waving a towel, so you will easily find the location. When I enter areas full of drivers’ restaurants, like Guui-dong or Namsan, parking attendants waving all kinds of towels line up on the roadside, making me feel as if I am a triumphant general in a parade.
Second, the menus are diverse and cheap. No matter what you want to eat, all you have to do is go into any restaurant and choose. In one place, they serve everything from instant noodles to roast pork.
Of course, there are quite a few specialized drivers’ restaurants, so it is possible to have a better meal if you are willing to go through the trouble of looking. This would not, of course, apply to those who confidently shout out, “Give me anything!” upon entering the restaurant. Also, the food is served almost as soon as it is ordered. No waiting is required. On top of that, the food is not cold or dry, but is actually warm and very tasty looking, as if it has just been made.
Third, the food is delicious. As far as I can tell, people who drive for a living have very particular tastes and have discriminating palates. Drivers can even tell the difference among kimchi stews from various restaurants. For this reason, you’re not likely to go wrong no matter what you order at one of these restaurants.
Fourth and lastly, it’s so incredibly easy to eat alone. You can order roast pork for just one person. You do not have to sit in the far corner of a restaurant, embarrassed about your late supper all alone, or order something that does not take long to eat, scarf it down and leave. No matter how big a car is, two people do not drive one car. Therefore, most of the people who come here are alone.
Of course, you need to be comfortable with sitting at a table and eating with people you do not know. You cannot avoid the keen observation of the restaurant owner who grasps whether you are alone or with people and how many as soon as you enter the restaurant. It must also be noted that there is no law that says only drivers can go to drivers’ restaurants, so nearby businesspeople will be there with their colleagues in groups of three or four. However, the atmosphere of a drivers’ restaurant is definitely different from that of ordinary restaurants.
When you finish your meal, for dessert, you can also taste both the fatigue and happiness of life. In times like these, when the economy is especially bad, people talk badly of politicians as always and also worry about the future. You see people who are having difficulty in life, but I have a great affection for them.
People no longer think of the heartwarming scenes of their hometown during the holidays; instead, they think of the highways that turn into a huge parking lot. The Lunar New Year holiday, which is longer than usual this year, can be seen as a burden in light of the bad economy. I especially hope that drivers who cannot go back to their hometowns and have to eat alone can still enjoy a delicious meal.
* The writer is a movie director. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Kim Sang-jin