Decided to withdraw from the Gwanju Challenger in Korea today. Woke up with a stiff neck on the last day of Davis Cup and was not able to turn my head to the left. I tried my best to prepare and see if I could play this week, but just not 100% there. If there’s one thing I learned from my injury last year, staying healthy is one of the most important if not the most important in a tennis career.
After withdrawing from the tournament just a few hours before I was supposed to play I had to decide about my travel plans. Gwanju being about 340 km south of the Seoul airport. I was looking at a really long travel day. I quickly bought a flight for the evening on my phone (thank god for phones these days) and began looking for the best way to get to the airport. The bullet train only takes 2 hours, but runs twice a day. That wasn’t going to work. The other option was, bus. That would take 3 hours and 30 minutes. I was told the best way to get the bus ticket was to go to the bus station and being that it was Tuesday I didn’t think seats would be sold out. I got to the bus station at 2:20 pm wanting to take the 3pm bus. I would arrive before 7pm and have enough time for my 8:45pm flight. Well….that didn’t work out as planned.
I tried my best to get a seat on that 3pm bus, but the lady couldn’t do anything. If I took the 4pm bus I would be cutting it really close and maybe not make my flight. I had to act quick! I went outside and flagged down a taxi cab, asking him if he wanted to go to Incheon Airport (340km away). And mind you this is all lost in translation. This cab driver does not speak a lick of english. He agreed and we were on our way. Well actually the cab driver had to fill up some gas and he told me the price of the journey, 400,000 KRW local currency. Bargaining wasn’t really an option since I didn’t know how to communicate with him and I didn’t really know the going rate for a 4 hour taxi ride. I asked him if he took credit card and he kept saying, “Yes, Yes, Yes” that was until he said, “NO.” We went to an ATM that spit my card back out. Luckily the 2nd ATM we went to gave me the cash I needed. Finally, we were on our way!
About 40 minutes in, the cab driver had to take a toilet break. Another 40 minutes he stopped again. This time as we were getting back into the car he told me (from what I could understand through hand signals) he didn’t want to continue anymore and was going to look for another driver to take me to the airport. I’m starting to get angry and frustrated at this point because I can’t communicate with him and it feels like he’s playing me. He finds another cab driver that agrees to take me. His taxi cab meter says 50,000 KRW and I tell him I’ll pay him that much. He counters my payment with 200,000 KRW to cover the cost of going halfway. And I ask him, “How much am I supposed to pay the new cab driver.” This is all getting too ridiculous now. As we are haggling over the price and taking way too long to do this, I yell at him and show him all the money I took out of the bank and say, “You are not getting any of this money until you take me all the way! (hand signals and weird noises, mostly)”
Another hour passes and he decides to stop again. This time after the toilet break he buys the both of us strawberry milk. I’m thinking this was a really nice gesture. Shortly after he tells me he needs more money. Money for the tolls. He asks me to go to the ATM again. I’ve had it! The cab driver said 100,000 KRW more for tolls. I told him there’s no way. So then he lowers it to 80,000 KRW. But we are wasting so much time again I decided to give him $80 US dollars. At first, he’s reluctant to take it because he doesn’t know the conversion. I tell him it’s a better deal for him, but he calls someone on the phone to ask and they can barely speak english as well.
We are finally on our way again. Only to hit traffic. Time is not looking good for me now. At 6:30pm there was still 50km to go with traffic. I was starting to panic. Here I was stuck in a cab for almost 4 hours already, so helpless, paying over $400 for the ride and I was going to miss my flight. I couldn’t even listen to music to try and calm myself down. I can’t remember the last time I felt this helpless.
Luckily, by some miracle the traffic started to dissipate. We made it to the airport at 7:30pm. I quickly got my things and started running. And yes, I ended up being dropped off at the other end of the terminal and had to run from counter A to counter J.
Today ended in good news though. I checked in with enough time to spare to buy a nice ham and cheese sandwich. That’s my story today.
Time to rest up now! See you in Taiwan!