I have been a sardine for the past fifteen minutes. A sardine shooting through underground tunnels and unwillingly smushed against knock-off designer bags and suits so shiny they would be better used as solar panels than garments. That's it-- Seoul's alternative energy plans should include harvesting the shine off businessmen's backs! We could run the subway system off Samsung employees alone.
All this is to say that the subway can be crowded, especially the green line (my line) at rush hour. Apparently there used to be professionals hired by the city by the title of "pushers." Their job was to challenge the laws of physics and the ideas of personal space to cram as many people as possible into the subway cars. They would literally push and shove people so that the cars could accommodate the max number of commuters. It was like a human girdle effect: you think your stomach can pooch out those extra inches? Nuh-uh; I will smush this teenage boy against you to push that tummy IN.
I guess pushers pissed off one too many shiny suits or something, because they don't exist anymore. As much as the neighbor-girdle promised to be the next big thing in the compression garment industry, pushers fell from favor. But, even in their official absence, I think their spirit lives on in each and every native Seoulite. They've all got a little pusher inside them. When you don't think there's even enough space to slouch, a little pusher shows you that you can indeed stand straighter. When your toes aren't touching the heels of someone else's shoes, a little pusher will find a way to change that. When you think that no one could possibly fit behind the closing doors without losing an appendage or protruding facial feature, a little pusher becomes a contortionist and shows you not to doubt.