I was thinking about doing some travel writing while I was here in South Korea. However, I find the majority of writing from people in my position bounce uncomfortably between trying to provide advice for other ESL teachers to simply being a tourist’s diary – complete with documentation of everything they have eaten. Here, there won’t be tourist snaps (only partly because I find them obnoxious. Mainly because I don’t have a good camera.). Just things that have struck me that I don’t think anyone has made a big deal out of yet. I must work out my inner Mark Twain somehow. We all must.
This happened around a month back, about a week after I got here. A couple of friends and I were wandering around Jinhae, just doing some shopping. We shortcut down a narrow street. There’s the roar of a motorcycle behind us. Picture the coolest motorcycle you can – sleek, all-black, not even that much chrome, making just the right amount of seething engine noise before it becomes too deafening and obnoxious. The bike noise equivalent of a respectable djent tone, I guess.
It pulls right up next to us, and by this time we’ve just stopped to look at it. The rider’s helmet is very black – like, Vantablack. Light doesn’t seem to enter or even reflect off of it. Engine still going, he has a handful of what look like pink business cards. He snaps his visor up, and then starts flicking these cards around with just his right hand. Bear with me. It’s very important to me I tell you how he does this.
A small stack of the cards is tucked into his palm. He “loads” one between his index and middle fingers by pushing the top card of the stack with his thumb. His hand is gloved, I must stress. No help from a thumbnail or anything. This is the chambering mechanism, if you will. Then, he deftly snaps back just the two card-holding fingers, no extra force from the wrist or anything. He stays perfectly still. Only those two fingers and his thumb move.
Here’s the Cool Part: every single one of the cards is aimed at something. One sticks in a crack in a window sill. Some land on doormats. Others land on the outdoor tables and chairs of a nearby café across the street. No sooner do they leave his hand than they are already lodged in their target, like rectangular paper shuriken. Having distributed a good 10-15 in the space of what couldn’t have been more than the same number of seconds, he speeds off a little further down the street and keeps going.
Try doing the motion. Go on, you must have a similar-size paper loyalty card in your wallet. You’ll be lucky to get it further than a meter from you. They’re also not exactly the most aerodynamic things in existence. Like bad paper planes, their angling is easily thrown off. Also, you’re indoors with no wind to throw you off. And you’re not wearing gloves. And you’re not aiming at anything. He must have the most disproportionately strong fingers known to man.
What’s actually on the business cards? Oh, just the number and address of a new ramen place opening a few blocks down. Nothing special at all. This happens all the time.
This is incredible. Sure, motorbike-based delivery jobs are very common in Korea, and it seems like most people with their own transport do some sort of part-time stint in life for extra cash. This, on the other hand, was a finely-honed physical skill. Dude had invested time. He could probably slice your wrists at two meters if he wanted to and you’d be bleeding out before you even realise you’re going to be killed by papercuts. I’ve seen other bikers advertise like this several times since in other areas of Changwon. By this point I’m just romanticising the anecdote, but they were nowhere near as good as that first guy. Their distance and flick was down, but their aim was sloppy. There were undoubtedly getting there though. All in time.
Advertising like this is technically illegal, but it still happens. I have a great deal more respect for these people than I do for the guys who just walk up and down crowded streets littering glossy ads at night, just to get the attention of drunk people. So, kudos to you, part-time business card-advertising biker ninjas. I hope one day you can use your abilities legally, or expand into minor supervillainry. You have outfits, a gimmick, and are already breaking the law. What’s stopping you?