Saturday, October 15, 2011

Ever been picked up by the fuzz?

...That's the setup for a joke from the late '60s; if you want to know the punchline, email me. If you don't know what "fuzz" meant in '60s slang, I can't help you. I guess you could pick it up from context, as I'm always telling my students regarding new vocab words.

Anyway, I had a great plan for setting the trail for today's hash. Shaft (my co-hare) and I were going to set off from Topgol Park, head south a few blocks, turn west along the Chonggyecheon stream, north past the golden stretch of touristy sights: Seoul Plaza, the Admiral Yi and King Sejong statues and Gwanghwamun Gate and Gyeongbokgung Palace, east, and then south through the crowded, artsy pedestrian-friendly neighborhood of Insadong to the starting place.

As Shaft and I are collectively 110 years old (he's a mere sprout of 53), and our pursuers averaged out to their 20s, we decided to pre-lay most of the trail, so we set off at 8 a.m., chalking Xes and circles and other trail markings as we went. All seemed fine till we were running down the sidewalk opposite Seoul Plaza, approaching the monolithic US embassy.
 Left, palace. Center, Sejong. Right, embassy.

There were dozens of Korean police officers in yellow jackets along the sidewalk outside the embassy; Shaft was pretty sure we wouldn't get into any trouble; after all, we were just marking trail with chalk, not flour. (Some hashers in California were arrested for suspicion of terrorist activity a couple of years ago for dropping blogs of flour that might have been anthrax [OMG!!!!!!!!!!!] in a Lowe's parking lot.) Still, we abandoned my plan and went a couple of blocks out of our way to avoid the embassy...

...which didn't keep a passel of policemen from stopping us. Two blocks behind the embassy, first two officers stopped us, then (literally) a dozen more walked up in formation, one of them carrying a little red unit flag... it was surreal; I thought they were just out for some sort of training exercise. But they gathered round us and the one who had a smattering of English tried to find out what we were doing.

We made running motions with our arms and said "running club" over and over, and apparently we were really, really convincing, because a cop car came up, they loaded us in, and we were driven to the nearest police substation...

...where we surrendered Shaft's passport and my Alien Registration Card and waited while they investigated us. Maybe we were considered suspicious because Shaft, to the conservative Korean mindset, looks like a pirate or an outlaw biker: balding, ponytail, earrings, bandanna. And I'm overdue for a shave and way overdue for a haircut.

The guy in charge, who had 1.2 smatterings of English, talked to us, made some calls, typed us into the database, and eventually called a translator. I tried to explain over the phone who we were; she had a bit of trouble getting "Hash House Harriers"... "Harriers... H. A. R. R. I..." We turned Shaft around so they could see the map, with all the Korean hash kennels, on the back of his shirt. I called up "Hash House Harriers" on Wikipedia and our kennel's Facebook page. I showed them the Xeroxed map with my planned route.

Perhaps it's just as well that I didn't remember that, under my jeans, I was wearing running shorts with "HASH" written across the butt. I'm not sure what they would have done if I'd had the bright idea to drop trou in the police station.

The whole thing took perhaps 40 minutes, and it's kind of amusing in retrospect, but at the time... I knew we hadn't done anything wrong or illegal, but just recently there have been anti-American currents locally; some soldiers have been accused of rape and the American military people has put our people under curfew. Also, I found out just tonight that the Occupy Wall Street protests spread to Seoul today. The cops here are old hands at dealing with protesters, too... let's just say thoughts that we might actually be charged with something, anything (Ohmigod... I'm gonna get fired! Deported! I'm too pretty to go to jail!) were not far from the surface.

But finally they gave us our documents back and gave us a ride back to the park to start the hash, after which we did not lay a trail back in the direction of the embassy, or the cops, or anyone with a yellow jacket, for that matter.

We ended up laying a "live" trail, meaning that we were out there improvising the route at the same time as the hashers chasing us. Five minutes from the finish, we got snared, which is something no hare ever wants. But, believe me, having a friendly hasher tap you on the shoulder is not the worst way you can get snared.

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