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A Minor Delay In Meonjido


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Lae Hung-Jun watched blankly as the scenery passed by. Crowds of people, small market accumulations, signs, and advertisements alike. The typical visual constants of the urban reality that is Meonjido: the second-most populous city in Kacheru. Compared to the serenity of countryside it would appear shockingly bright and fast, but Lae had grown quite accustomed through the years.

The interior of the Jongman light rail was comparatively stagnant. The silence only broken by the occasional stop wherein the loud reality of the external wurld could pour into the car as the doors opened with the brief exchange of passengers. Otherwise, most commuters kept to themselves, preferring instead to scroll through Wittier or listen to headphones. Everyone had a place to be and there was no need to cause any unnecessary disturbances.

The road around the railcar dropped away suddenly, leaving the Jongman on an elevated track. It afforded a more complete view of the nearby area. Varying skyscrapers peppered the cityscape at large, some reached up higher than the car windows could show. A host of cranes surrounded the structure of the buildings’ next-of-kin. Lae could recognize his own apartment building he had left just some five minutes prior. A reddish-brown affair that looked quite dull relative to the sleek glassy shapes of some neighboring commercial towers. Across the way was the Gyeotang building where Lae worked. He could make it out for just a few moments before the Jongman returned to Eurth.

After a few moments reunited with the bustling Meonjido streets, the car began gently easing into the next stop. Lae Hung-Jun afforded a mild exhale and looked habitually to his phone: seven thirty-eight. Still quite early. Though he was making good time, it would still be eight more stops until his own at Gyeotang. Then came the typical quick scramble of people coming and leaving. It was relatively easy to access the rail, as there was no upfront fee like what existed in some other countries. Lae had experienced this first-hand when he unwittingly boarded a tram in Grootwaterflakte while neglecting to pay. The embarrassing situation was resolved courteously by the operator, but just the thought made Lae flinch. At this point the doors to the car closed. There were now enough commuters now to where some were standing. A younger man offered his seat to an elderly woman. Meanwhile, the driver waited patiently for her to sit before the Jongman started again.

As the light rail picked up speed, Lae Hung-Jun observed the phone screen of a younger woman directly in front of his seat. She was playing some video which flashed quite intensely with different colors. Various characters appeared to be engaging in some sort of battle on horseback. It was reminiscent of old cartoons Lae had seen in his own childhood, but with much more intensity and speed than he had remembered.

I do not understand what captures the focus of today’s youth. Lae thought to himself. His children had already grown up, so he did not have nearly the same grasp on youth culture that he had ten years prior. Perhaps if he had grandchildren this knowledge would return to him. He considered when his kids would have children of their own. They are only in their twenties, still plenty of time for them to settle down properly.

Lae finished this thought and looked outside: the blur of the bustling cityscape was coming clearer into focus. The Jongman was slowing down. Odd, given there was not a stop for at least seven more blocks. Yet apparently there was some reason for this disturbance as the light rail continued decelerating. Other commuters had taken notice as well. Some looked around the car, others outside to perceive some external cause for the interruption. After a couple seconds, the intercom within the light rail car pop-crackled and the voice of the conductor sounded out:

“Attention passengers if I can have your attention for a moment. The Jongman light rail sixteen has encountered a system error related to the connection between the cars three and four. Unfortunately, due to company policy this requires an immediate maintenance check. If you would like to wait, the team is expected to arrive within twenty minutes, otherwise you may leave if you wish. My sincerest apologies as well as apologies from Jongman for this unexpected delay today.”

End part I

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A small chorus of grumbles from the passengers as most all disembarked. Lae Hung-Jun was among the last. Quickly, he reached for the phone and dialled his supervisor:

Rmmmm…

The call was quickly picked up:

"Hello? Lae? What are you calling for? Is everything alright?"

"Yes, I am okay. Unfortunately the Jongman I usually take has had a technical issue. I am very sorry I will likely be late to work today."

"Hm. I'm sorry to hear that. Can you get a taxi or some other ride here?"

Lae glanced at the group of people who had got off before him. Like sharks, they circled around the nearest couple of taxis, crowded hands raised in attempt to draw attention. Others were already striding down the street.

"I can try, but there are a lot of people getting rides, too. I will notify you once I am able to start making progress again. Otherwise, I can try to get on the Eighteen…"

"However you manage. If that's all I am going to get back to that order issue from yesterday."

"Yes, of course. Sorry again."

"It happens. Just try to be here as soon as you can. Goodbye."

There was a small army of disgruntled commuters flagging down taxis. Odds were it would take a while to be able to get back on track here. Lae opted instead to begin walking toward the station for the light rail eighteen. He closed the phone app and paged to Boogaloo maps: it was an eight-minute walk to the station. Exhaling, Lae began brusquely striding in the direction of the map tick.

It was grossly hot today, even in the morning. The mountain breeze provided no respite through Lae's suit. He tugged at it. Damn this thing, I am going to sweat through before I get there, aren't I? Lae frowned. Hopefully I can find some taxi on the way there…

While taxi fees were unfortunate, arriving to work late and sweaty would be considerably worse. It would make the long day feel much longer.

After crossing to the next street over, Lae took a moment to scan for any form of salvation from his predicament. Hordes of pedestrians flowed across the street level. Advertisements for FastNet, some new action movie, and Kertic instant rice loomed overhead. A nearby street performer was playing a gayageum. He sounded awful.

Then he saw them: the distinctive neon-blue vehicles. Two taxis lurking outside a hotel entrance, perhaps only twenty meters away.

Lae lowered his phone and rushed to the parked taxis just as a woman exited the building and flagged one down. In an attempt to indicate his own interest, Lae raised his own arm. Through the darkened window he could see the vague form of the taxi driver inside twist toward him. Success.

Lae slowed down but kept his arm raised as he approached the remaining taxi. Finally, a stroke of good fortune amid this mess. The time on the FastNet billboard read seven forty-four; there might still be a chance to get to work without too much delay.

Lae opened the backdoor and scrambled inside. Immediately, he was greeted with a choking cloud of cigarette smoke. The driver grinned as he extinguished the cigarette on some homemade ashtray he had inserted into the passenger cup-holder. Lae looked toward the backseat window: a sign said No Smoking in Cab.

"So where can I get you?"

"The Gyeotang building, please. And quickly, I'm running late."

The driver's smile faded as he cranked the key into the transmission. The car started with a jerk. The distance tracker blinked on and began counting as the driver pulled out and toward the destination. It appeared Lae might just get to the office on time, but it would depend on traffic.

End part II

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