Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Vicious cycles

Seoul, particularly the newish, upscale areas like Gangnam and Yangjae, where my friends and I do what we do, is a pretty modern place. Along the path where I always run and bike, for example, they've installed interactive video screens with maps, weather, and other informational info, as well as sunflowers that really are sun flowers: big flower heads on the top of the light poles that collect solar energy to power the lights at night. You can pay all your bills by feeding them along with your ATM card into a machine at the bank. And so on. Time magazine called Seoul "the most wired city on earth".


Workmen have been renovating the charming park right across the quiet street from my apartment since the first hints of spring appeared, redoing the sidewalk, resurfacing the tennis courts, installing some kind of fountain for kids to run around in, and who knows what.
Burn in the fiery furnace, Beelzebubian apparati. 

Their latest addition is a couple of installations to try to get kids (I guess) to exercise more: metal poles with electronic displays and stationary bicycles. One of the sends lights running up and down the display; the other lets riders "race" around a track as they pedal. Of course, this is irresistable to every one of the hundreds (thousands?) of kids in the neighborhood, as well as some of the adults. Great idea, yes?


One of the bike poles just makes a charming chiming noise as if an angel just had a lovely idea. The other plays, nonstop, absolutely without cessation, mind or pity, the four-second electronic bibbety-boop theme that you hear when you put your quarter into a Pac-Man arcade machine:

"Deedee deedee deedledee, deedee deedee deeddledee, deedee deedee deedledee, deedledeedeedledeedledee!"

There is not a half-second pause before the "music" starts again. The same four seconds, over and over and over and... like the Terminator, "It won't stop. It will never stop."

It's ruining my home life. On Sunday, I swear to God, the music never ever ever stopped for four hours. On every day since Saturday (except Sunday), when it was installed, it's gone on for two minutes, shuts off for five, on for three, off for thirty, on for six... when it's not playing, I'm waiting for it to play.

I can't think, can't meditate, can't relax, can't concentrate. I like having my windows open for the air and light, and they face directly toward these blasted things; they seem to effectively block all the noises that aren't directly in front of them, which has the effect of magnifying the sounds from straight ahead. Even though the Bike Machines From the Ninth Circle of Hell are a hundred feet away, they come in plenty loud and awfully clear.

Even when I close the outer clear windows and the inner frosted windows, the sound penetrates my apartment, not loudly, but how loud does a mosquito's buzz or a sink's drip have to be to get inside your head? When I'm not hearing the insipid, mindless, inane sound, I'm still hearing it. Somebody's been sending out the jingle every night around 10:30 when I go to bed; it played this morning at 7:15.

This is the sound that plays in the Joker's head every second of every day. It's why he's insane.

It really pisses me off that whatever genius in charge of the parks in Gwacheon-si of Gyeonggi-do, the area I live in just outside the city, never thought about or cared about the people living in apartments that face the park. I know no one to complain to, I don't speak the language, I doubt they'd care what a foreigner thinks (and from what I know of Koreans they're used to having their space invaded-- no video-game pun intended -- so my neighbors won't complain), and nobody's going to move or silence the bike game because of me.

I will probably stay at St. Paul next year, but I damn sure need to move. If I haven't taken a hammer to the machines, or my head, between now and August.

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