I complain a lot, but…

It’s true, the real reason I write on this blog is therapy to complain about stuff that I don’t like. That doesn’t mean I don’t like living in Korea. I like living here, but it’s like this…

I once had a job at the mall in college at the Hallmark greeting card shop. We also sold beanie babies which were all the rage at that time, with people marking down on their calendars the exact days that we were getting beanie baby shipments so that they could storm the store when it opened and buy their allotted limit (five per person, I believe) before they all sold out. The funny thing was that only the early beanie babies were worth anything, and by now, everyone was trying to strike it rich by buying new ones as soon as they came out, but since they were so popular, the company that made them (Ty, I think) made so many more of the later ones. With more of a particular thing in existence, the less valuable it is to collectors. Ever wonder why the first Batman comic is worth so much? It’s because your grandpa’s mom lined the dog house with it or wrapped your great-grandpappy’s sandwich in it, and there are probably only 10 copies left in existence.

Well how’s that for a tangent, let’s start playing the wakeup song like in inception and move back up a level.

The point is, there is this one fat lady who came in with her two children bright and early on beanie baby day and tried to buy 15 of each type of new beanie baby, and I told her she could only have five total (so instead of buying 75 beanie babies, I was only going to let her have five). This of course pissed her off and she kept bitching and complaining over and over that she and her children constituted three humans and were therefore entitled to fifteen of each kind. If it were MY store, I would have sold her every beanie baby in the place because honestly I’d be more interested in getting a whole buttload of money than making sure that other moronic customers would have the fair opportunity to purchase a plastic bead filled useless piece of cloth made in a Chinese sweatshop. But it wasn’t my money or my store, and I figured it was in my best interest to follow the rules because for my slightly over minimum wage salary, it would be better to deal with one pissed off customer than the 100 that didn’t get a chance to waste their money on useless crap.

So this lady didn’t just complain, she begged, she pleaded, she yelled, she screamed, and she called me an anti-semite even though I had no idea that she was Jewish. (And she had no idea that I wasn’t.) I called for my assistant manager who kept trying to explain to her politely that she could only have five because it was store policy. Finally when the angry mom realized that she wasn’t going to get her way, she bought her allotted five and threw the other seventy on the ground and walked away very briskly saying that she was going to go to the OTHER Hallmark store in the mall where they treat her like a person. (Even though that one was owned by the same guy, as well as practically all other Hallmark stores in the state. )

The point of this story is that she is the customer that I will ALWAYS remember from that job (other than the few celebrities that came into the store, perhaps I’ll save that story for another time). Even though thousands upon thousands of people came in, found what they wanted, paid for it, and left without causing any trouble, I won’t ever have any recollection of any of them. I still remember this lady and if you put her in front of me today in a lineup, I could probably pick her out to you.

Now this blog seems to be about things that annoy me and that I am always annoyed. The thing is, I’m not telling you a lot of the GOOD things that I’ve been going through on this blog, because I don’t need therapy to cope with the good things. The bad things are more memorable and provide an impetus to write. The good things that are much more common stand out less and I don’t need therapy to cope with them, which is one of the functions this blog serves. But anyway I’ll share something nice with you that happened the other day because it made me feel awesome.

This is what the back tire of my scooter looked like.

I’ll explain it after the jump.

Okay, so I was driving on my scooter when suddenly I noticed that it was having trouble going straight. It started leaning left and right. Luckily I wasn’t in a situation where I had to maintain any speed, so I jumped off the bike and pushed it to the side of the road. The kind drivers were patient enough to let me do this instead of speeding by and honking. (I still don’t see why expats say that people can’t drive here… I don’t really notice any difference.)

It became apparent. I had a flat. The nearest bike shop was about a kilometer and a half away… and that’s a long way to push. So I spent the next hour or so pushing it there. Man, I was beat. But I was at least happy that I would be able to fix the tire, pay the guy, and quickly ride to my weekly radio gig. When I got to the bike shop it was closed because it was Sunday! This made me somewhat angry, because I was now in a situation where I couldn’t just push it back home, so I would have to leave the bike there overnight and hope that nobody (including the owner of the shop) would steal it. To make sure I called the owner (his number was listed on the storefront) to inform him that my bike had a flat and that I was going to leave it in front of his shop. He agreed.

The next day I went to the shop pretty early in the morning and knocked on the door. The old man who owned the shop smiled and asked me politely what the problem was. I explained that I had a flat tire. He told me to have a seat in the shop and gave me a cup of instant coffee, and started to work. His first task was to pump air back into the tire. He then began spraying something (probably soap or glycerin) on it. I guess if there were any holes in the tire, there would be bubbles forming where the holes were. There were no bubbles, so there was no flat. He called over to me to say that he was finished. I began to reach for my wallet, and he said.. no no. No need.

Wait, what? Is that possible? A mechanic who worked on my bike for 15 minutes doesn’t want to be paid? He probably could have asked me for 10 bucks and I would have gladly given it to him. I don’t have my own pump to put air in my tire and he does. I don’t have glycerin to make sure it’s not flat, but he does. I didn’t get my hands dirty, and he did! I was helpless basically, because there was no way that I would have been able to push my bike to a competing shop, so if he were to tell me that he wanted 100 bucks, I’d have no recourse other than to pay or abandon my bike.

I asked him with a confused look if it was really okay that I didn’t pay anything.

He laughed. “What, do you think I’m gonna charge you for air?”

I thanked him and told him I’d be back if I had another problem, and rode away with the conviction that maybe not everyone in this world is out to make a buck at the expense of their humanity, but if you read a lot of other expat blogs, you’d think this entire country is full of people who worship money, and who have a goal of making as much money as possible by any means possible. Not so, my friends…not so.

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7 Responses to “I complain a lot, but…”

  1. What a sweet man! Also, this story reminded me of the 1st episode of Golden Boy.

  2. Your explanation of why blog always seem to have a negative tone is one of the best I’ve seen.

    Meanwhile, I wish you were a little angrier, so that you’d post here more often. :)

    • Well the thing is, I don’t get angry easily, and I am not able to publicly discuss some things that make me angry the most often, plus I’ve been a bit busy lately, so that’s why I have not posted a lot recently. Thanks for your support and readership as always!

  3. I love your writing. :) It’s interesting and relateable.

    I’ve also been given a lot of freebies by people that really didn’t have to do that, and who probably make pennies compared to what I make. It makes me want to give them money even more, haha! But especially in situations where I’ll probably never see that person again, like when I was trying to just buy some washers from a tool shop in a maze of tool shops…there’s no, like, ‘customer service’ angle of trying to get me to come back in. I think they’re just genuinely good people, who are maybe too comfortable in their chairs to get up and fiddle with money. :P

    Even though writing about bad stuff is therapeutic for sure, I do try to document the good things too. What you focus on is what you remember in your life, and influences how you feel on a daily basis. And I want to be able to look back on my blog some day and remember all the things that made me fall in love with Korean

  4. Gina Joy Says:

    FYI most air pumps in gas stations these days are no longer free.

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