This is a story that happened on a subway in Seoul during the height of COVID-19 crisis in March. Most of the time Seoul’s subway announcement only tells you the name of the stop and whether the door to get off is on the right or left. However, since some time ago, I started hearing distinctive announcement on the subway.
In the evening rush hour, the Seoul subway line 2 was crowded as usual. For the most of the people there, taking subway itself was stressful due to the virus going around. The atmosphere on the train, full of people with expressionless faces and stiff bodies, was quite bleak and dreadful. But then suddenly, there was a different announcement on the subway than usual.
“Good evening everyone, how was your day today? It must’ve been a hard day for you, hasn’t it? There’s a line in Alice in Wonderland that goes like this: ‘I choose my own feelings. Today, I choose happiness’. Like the line in the movie, why don’t you just think about good things that happened today and let go of all the hard memories? I’ll take away all the things that made you feel exhausted or hurt so just leave them those things on this train.”
The unexpected announcement seemed to relieve the tense atmosphere on the train. Normally, most would've heard the announcement in passing only. But when simple comfort is hard to find, I think the words like ‘happiness’ carry extra meaning and weight. So, a lot of people, including myself, couldn't help but smile at it and some of them even showed tears in their eyes.
I heard announcements like this for a few more times afterward and I really appreciated all the effort they were putting, that I wanted to share them with everyone here.
So here are a few other subway announcements that I heard:
“Please put down your phone for a moment and look at the Han river through the window. If we endure this hardship together, we will come back with even greater joy and happiness. COVID-19 isn’t something that is fearful but something that we can overcome together.”
“All of you on board this Seoul metro train, please leave all the stress from COVID-19 when you get off. We will collect them all at the terminus and take care of them.”
Perhaps it is still scary to watch news and hear about what is happening, but small efforts of comfort like these have great impact on those around us, because COVID-19 isn’t something that should stay paralyze us, but something we can all beat together.
Those of you who’s read this, I hope that you put your burden and worries away at somewhere you could never find them again and hope that you will be happy today as well.
By Sue Kim