Waiting

A friend of mine once endeavored to calculate how many seconds, minutes, hours each day she spent idly waiting for something, someone, sometime.

Between waiting for a professor (or two) to show up for class, waiting to place a lunch order, waiting for her sandwich at the university’s deli, waiting in line to pay for that sandwich, and most significantly, waiting for the bus to and from school, the idle time amounted to something between 2 and 3 hrs a day, everyday.

Now, the second part of her self-indulgent research project was finding a way, an architectural expression, to make use of this time. While it’s widely known that we spend something like a 1/3 of our lives asleep (considerably less if you’re a doctor or architect!), we also spend a good chunk of our waking lives uselessly waiting around (regardless of your profession).

While her exact proposal slips my mind, I have no doubt that Tesco Supermarket HomePlus’ digital shopping concept – newly launched in South Korea – would fit in perfectly with my friend’s desire to cut down on wasting wasted time!

Here’s the idea: a large, wall-length billboard was installed in the station, designed to look like a series of supermarket shelves and displaying images and prices of a range of common products. Each sign also includes a QR code (the useful part of this display). Users scan the code of any product they would like to purchase, thereby adding it to their online shopping cart.

The best part is that after the web transaction is completed, the products are delivered to the user’s home within the day.

While hardly comparable in the digital sense, the idea of combining a commute with grocery shopping is certainly a concept I miss in the States.

Whilst in Prague, I routinely took the metro then tram from my university to my loft. Most days I elected to ride the tram one stop (about 200 feet further) to the teeny, local grocery store, which tirelessly stocked my favorite soy milk, bread, fresh veggies and meats.

Conversely, in the States I resign myself to a weekly shopping trip wheeling a squeaky cart up and down aisles in a mega-store, waiting for my number to be called at the deli, waiting for the crying babies to get their mom’s attention so she can move her cart out of the center of the aisle, waiting in line to check-out, waiting for the manager when the cashier cannot compute double coupons. Oh the agony. And then, at the end of the week, I no longer have fresh bananas.

Although I spent three to five days a week at this grocery store, I spent considerably less overall – week-wise, month-wise, year-wise – shopping AND waiting. So, on the whole, I like Tesco’s HomePlus idea to tack the shopping experience onto the “waiting for the metro” part of the commute, thus saving even more time!

My question is: why Seoul?

By and large, Asian cities  have been on the forefront of hyper-technology since the dotcom era came to be; however, the overcrowded metros seem like the last place anyone would have the luxury to move about and browse shelves.

While I’ve never to been to Seoul, I’ve spent more time than I could ever want on Shanghai and Beijing metros.

One year AFTER the Olympic games, the metro from the stadiums back into the city were so packed, regardless of the hour, that the only relief was my fortune of being six inches taller than the average Chinese person aboard the train. Ah to be 5’6″ in Asia!

Even before the rumbling of the train could be heard down the length of the tunnel, people were pushing. How there aren’t 100 hundred accidental deaths by metro everyday amazes me (the glass doors separating the platform from the gap must help).

The press photo, above, shows just a few people. This is either 4am on a Wednesday night (ideal time to shop?) or the Photoshoppers at Tesco are busy bees (another likely scenario is that these images are the result of a closed metro station and model shoot).

A few more points:

I like to select my veggies and fruits by touch and color – I would be upset to find any old plums on my doorstep. Same for meat.

I love the idea of home delivery. So glamourous.

Cellphone reception underground must be amazing in Seoul. There would be nothing more frustrating than trying to load carrots on your phone and after repeated failures to load, finding out there are ten pounds on your doorstep after all. Oh, technology!

HomePlus is the name of the Walmart-like chain of stores owned by the Hendrickson family in HBO’s Big Love. Hmm.

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