It’s The Little Things

I’m currently in Seoul, South Korea, on the tail end of a three-week trip. Melissa and I spent two wonderful weeks in Thailand and Cambodia on a long-planned frequent flier mile cash-in bonanza, followed by a trip to South Korea for work. It’s all been fantastic, but I’m just about ready for it to be over. The only thing keeping me from wanting to go home more than I already do is the fact that I have nearly 24 hours of travel ahead of me. Actually, that’s not true – there are a few things that I’m going to have a hard time saying goodbye to.

First up, this:


Just look at that, will you? What? Did you call it a toilet? How dare you? I don’t know what to call it yet, but it’s not a toilet. How do I know? Because toilets don’t have heated seats. They don’t have bidets (with adjustable water temperature and pressure). They don’t have warm air dryers (with adjustable air temperatures and speed). Toilets don’t have control panels. Toilets don’t make you happy.



Big deal, we have GPS monitors in the US. Yes, we do. But that’s not a GPS monitor (or it is, but it’s not just that). It’s a TV. For watching TV. In the car. Seoul has terrible traffic, and somewhere along the way someone decided, “You know what would make driving in traffic much more enjoyable? TV!” I’m assuming now that the TV/traffic thing is a vicious cycle, wherein people get in accidents because they’re watching TV, which makes traffic worse, which makes watching TV while driving even more important. Question: What is the highest number of human lives would you be willing to sacrifice every year so you could watch TV in your car? Everyone is different, but if the number you thought of is below 5,000 you’re lying.

When I lived in New York I often thought of how absolutely hosed I would be if a fire or other disaster were to strike while I was in a skyscraper. Sure, you go through the motions of a civilized fire drill twice a year, and you all nod as the receptionist they’ve saddled with fire marshal duties drones on about making sure you make way for the elderly and disabled. But we all know the minute smoke starts pouring in all bets are off. Thunderdome at the office. You’ve got two minutes to get down 33 flights of stairs, and if Jerry from Accounts Receivable is slowing things down on account of his gout you’re going to do what you have to do. And that’s if you can even get to the stairwell.

One day a co-worker and I wondered aloud why they didn’t just provide some rope for everyone who sat by the window of our building. It was one of those ideas that at first seems ridiculous but on closer examination makes a great deal of sense – “Yeah, actually, why don’t they provide ropes for everyone?” Usually the answer to such questions boils down to the fact that we’re just too lazy or someone doesn’t want to spend the money. Well, the Koreans are neither lazy nor cheap.


Can you believe that? That kit contains a hammer for breaking glass, a belt, and a long spool of rope. (I assume the hammer is also there in case your rope is defective and you have to clear out some people in the stairwell?)

Oh, and one more I can’t really take a picture of: the elevators here? They let you un-press a button to rescind your command to go to a certain floor. You accidentally hit “7” when you wanted to hit “8?” No problem. Hit it again, and take it back and go straight to “8.” Tell me that wouldn’t make a difference in your life.

Really the only thing I don’t like about South Korea is this:


Yep, parking stalls that only women can use. Which isn’t actually that big of a deal, since finding a parking space isn’t really that annoying when you can watch TV while doing it.

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12 Responses to It’s The Little Things

  1. Troy says:

    Wow, that sounds like an awesome trip! Good for you guys.

    Well I loved all these things. Especially the kit with the rope in it. I did notice from the photo that the kit contains some some emergency essentials you didn’t mention: a can of Pringles, some spare change for the vending machine, and a shot glass of Cheongju. They thought of everything.

    On the parking stall for women, can a man actually get a ticket for parking there? Unless the cop sees you pull in, how does the cop know a man’s car is parked there? Especially if that man happens to drive a Prius or a Jetta?

  2. Ryan says:

    Wow. That unpunchable elevator button is genius. Those people are going to rule the world some day. What a great idea.

    I love being in other countries for that reason- it’s so much fun to see how other intelligent rational people have built up their own systems and customs in the same contexts that we’ve built our own.

  3. maweesa says:

    i think that toilet would improve your life more than any other purchase… no more wipes? no more cold runs to the bathroom in the morning? no more boredom in there?… the more i think about it i realize you better not get one or i would never see you.

  4. Landon says:

    I agree with Ryan. I love the elevator button. Why does it have to be a “final answer” situation here. Although I’ve never had the pleasure to use a “toilet” like that, I have been sold on the idea of bidet since my days in Chile and will own one someday. You have just opened my eyes to many more options I will need to consider. It sounds delightful.

  5. Ryan says:

    If only we could combine the technological conveniences of living in South Korea with the rustic charm of living in North Korea. Now that would be a perfect place to live.

  6. Loved it! So sad I didn’t get the Pringles joke in first, dang it.

  7. Wade says:

    Landon, I’m not sure what part of aristocratic Chile you lived, but where I lived they still hadn’t figured out how to discard TP into the toilet. A “special” waste basket (cleaned and emptied by the youngest or weakest sibling in the house) sat next to the toilet for that purpose.

    Here is one of my favorite inventions of another overcrowded Asian country: The white-gloved subway assistants (was this posted here before?)

  8. Andrea W. says:

    So are those “toilets” standard issue or were you just in some crazy swanky accomadations? I’m loving the parking stalls, just mostly because who doesn’t need a little more pink in parking garages? Great stuff.

  9. craftyashley says:

    S. Korea is now on the list for places I would move to in a heartbeat. Although to be honest, that list is rather long. Basically, anywhere but here, Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico.

  10. Braden says:

    Grandpa Barker and Bell just called and told me they are pretty sad that one of their descendants has used a bidet. There’s no call for that foreign foolishness when we have perfectly good plumbing in the US of A. That’s not why Grandpa built the Al-Can Highway.

  11. Braden says:

    Meant to say, that’s not the reason they fought the Hun and beat the Japanese by building the Al-Can highway.

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