Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hurricane Fire Drill

When I was growing up in Seoul, the city would coordinate all sorts of regular fire drills against a potential North Korean invasion. My favorite drill involved turning off all the lights of Seoul to make it harder for the North Koreans fighter planes to bomb us.

I only saw the emergency raid alarms put into effect once when a lone North Korean fighter pilot flew into the South in a MIG-19.  The South Korean gov't assumed it was the start of "The Invasion" and there was a brief period of mayhem.  My mother and I were at the neighborhood markets and just as I was about to work up the courage to ask my mother if we could maybe try some squid leg tempura, I was unfortunately thwarted by the sirens.  My mother was very strict about the insanitary evils of street food back then and would have most certainly denied my small request.  We quickly ran underground into the evacuation centers.

My sister who was home alone at the time heard the dreadful sirens and didn't know what to do. She said she was anxiously looking for us from the veranda and she saw distinctly that the hot sweet potato vendor had hunkered down continuing to sell sweet potatoes as everyone else were scurrying around him.  Some rich people actually fled south with their hoard of gold.

The pilot was only a defector.  His story begins with finding a fancy South Korean ramen wrapper washed up on the banks of a river. When he read the satisfaction guarantee on the back of the wrapper, the concept of consumer satisfaction so shocked him that he knew the North Korean propaganda to be all lies.  My sister heard this tale first hand from the defector who did a national school tour. You can only imagine the unspeakable hardship which must have befallen his family back North.

It's been 63 years without the dreaded North Korean invasion but everywhere I go there's been plenty other emergencies to plan against.  I hope those of you in the East Coast are faring well in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.   I remember stocking up on beef jerky and such necessities as part of preparing for yearly hurricane season back East- always feeling lucky to get away with nothing more serious than power outages.  Emergencies in life are inevitable and when things are only half as bad as you were fearing, you realize fate gave you a gift of an unexpected fire drill. You had better get ready for the real thing.

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