Certain people may be a part of just a fleeting moment of your life and yet have a meaningful effect on you. I was lucky to encounter such a person at a subway station in Busan. I had just taken a bus to the subway and then a subway train to the station that was supposed to be the transfer point for the light rail to the airport. Timing to get to my flight was getting tight.
I was looking frantically around the station for the light rail entrance. There were absolutely no signs for it anywhere. I knew I was in the right place, at least according to the subway map, so where was it?! I walked around the station asking people how to get to the light rail, but I couldn’t get anyone to understand me. I was starting to get pretty freaked out. How was I going to get to the airport? All of a sudden, a young guy who overheard my disgruntled questioning came over and asked me if I needed help. He spoke enough English to understand me but didn’t know where the light rail was. So he walked around the station with me, asking several people how to get to it (I think that’s what he was asking, I actually had no idea what was going on). Finally, someone had an answer, and he pointed me in the direction of the entrance. I was expecting him to go on his merry way after that, but to my surprise, he accompanied me to the entrance (which was quite a long walk) to make sure I got there okay. We finally reached the entrance to the light rail and found it … CLOSED! At this point, I really had no idea how I was going to get to the airport. I didn’t have enough cash to take a cab. I was sure I wasn’t going to make my flight.
Again, I thought my new friend would just leave me to fend for myself, but instead, he pulled out his cell phone and started belting Korean into the mouthpiece. I don’t know who he called – a friend perhaps or maybe the bus info line – but when he hung up, he had a solution for me. I had to take the subway to one stop, transfer to another line, get off at a certain station and get on a bus outside that station that would take me to the airport. It sounded very difficult, but he was really clear in his directions even with his limited English and wanted to make sure I understood completely. I was overwhelmingly thankful and downright shocked that this young guy had spent so much time helping me, a stranger who he’d never see again. It really made me feel guilty about all the times I’ve pointed tourists in one direction or another in San Francisco, not even making sure (and frankly, not really caring) that they’re going in the right direction. Upon my return to the states, I vow to be much more understanding of visitors and to stop focusing so much on go, go, going to where I need to that I can’t take a few minutes to help out those who are lost in my city.
A mere thirty minutes after saying goodbye to my Korean life-saver, I was handing off my luggage to the guy at the Air China counter and heading to security. Without this serendipitous friend, I would likely have still been at the subway station trying to figure out what to do, going crazy about missing my flight.