CLOSING TIME

I can’t remember the last time I just sat and watched people. People watching used to be a favorite activity of mine. I suppose it still is, but lately I haven’t had a chance to just sit and observe my surroundings. Waiting for a bus at Nambu Terminal in Seoul this evening finally provided the opportunity to do so. It was closing time.

I watched as an elderly couple packed up their pharmacy for the night. It was beautiful in its monotony. Like something they’ve done for years, together. Something they could probably do with their eyes closed. She straightened a few items on a shelf as her husband did most of the work. Pushing back counters. Turning off lights. Pulling down doors from the ceiling with a hook. Somehow everything fit inside their tiny space.

I often wonder how people make money in Korea. Everyone seems to be doing fairly well, but surely these elderly people with a small pharmacy in Nambu Bus Terminal don't earn much money to make a living. They sell many of the same items I could find anywhere. Vitamin drinks and tablets, toothbrushes and floss. Nothing special. They must have to pay so much to rent the space as well.

Right before they left the woman put on a fur coat. Koreans seem quite obsessed with fur, so it didn’t surprise me. But, how did she afford it? Was it real? I couldn’t help but wonder as the couple walked away. Watching people makes me ponder such things. They may be judgmental thoughts, but it’s only natural. I’m sure many people judge me by what I’m wearing all the time—especially in Korea.

They’ll be back tomorrow, and at closing time they’ll pack up everything just as I observed them doing tonight. There’s beauty in that, beauty in repetitiveness. And she’ll put on her fur coat when they’ve finished closing. Maybe she has more than one. Maybe they’re quite wealthy. Maybe they don’t even have to work, but they work just because.

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