After coming back from Seoul, New York seemed even dinkier than the last time I returned from a trip. As I was boarding the plane at Incheon, I picked up a copy of the Wall Street Journal (Asian edition). I had enough time to read almost all of it, as KAL arrived into Narita early, but Continental was six hours late. It might as well have been called “The GM Journal”, since about two thirds of the stories were about GM and Chrysler, and how the US government is trying to save them from doom due to chronic mis-management and exorbitant legacy costs.
My wife, who has a far more sensitive nose than me, jokes that the first thing you smell upon disembarking the plane is cigarette smoke in Greece, and garlic in Korea. Upon arriving at Newark (or any NYC airport, for that matter), even I can smell the mouldy carpets. Getting on the subway the next morning, the smell was even worse and the signs of age everywhere. I sat down, right across a poster ad by NYC Department of Consumer Affairs that read “Debt Stress? You’re not alone”. Someone had plastered a makeshift sticker on top, reading “Kill Your Boss”. After a ride on Metro North, I got into a taxi to work. It was one of those Ford relics, with a severely dented right side, a cracked windshield and a barely functioning transmission, but still street-legal. As the cab ended up triple-booked and I was the last one to get off, I got a 35-minute scenic tour through backstreets and pothole-riddled roads before finally arriving to the office.
The experience was enough to make me look up the definition of “developing country” in Wikipedia. Honestly, I don’t get why South Korea is sometimes still listed as such (e.g., in WSJ and, if memory serves me right, in the Economist), while the US isn’t. Something tells me it’s more than GM that needs patching up. Anyway, welcome back home!