2.2 Winter 2020-2021

February 26, Cursed

I woke up on the wrong side of the bed in the sense that I turned my head to look at the clock, heard a loud crack, and essentially incapicated myself with a neck tweak.

Regardless of mangled necks, I had various appointments to attend to starting with my usual eyelash perm so the pain had to be ignored.

I experienced a “no glue” eyelash perm which had minimal poking and prodding and exchanged glue for delicate medical tape, the kind I imagine a plastic surgeon uses.

The technician mentioned the price would be 40,000 won but 32,000 with their season discount. I was confused since the website listed eyelash perms at 30,000 won.

Helplessly I felt the spirit of my mother overtake me and I pointed to the posted sign that said 30,000. She delicately explained that a traditional perm, the acidic poking and prodding kind I’m used to, is the one in reference but a no-glue perm costs more. She gestured to a placard with the event. I asked for a receipt, too, so I could check and the poor woman and another technician spent several minutes firing up the receipt printer which was clearly not in demand for the average customer.

I felt like a bit of a jerk and made sure to leave a glowing review. It was a good experience, I just happen to be overly aware of potential rip off schemes because I’m obviously not a local.

En route to Korean class on the other side of Busan, my bad luck continued. I was in the process of scribbling an essay about misuse of English idioms by Koreans when the bus jerked to a stop, more abruptly than usual. One woman hit her head on a pole, another fell out of her chair into the aisle, and a few elderly were tossed to the ground.

The bus driver stayed stopped in the turn lane, opened the door, and joined the driver of the sideswiping car in the road to yell at each other. Korea…? No information seemed to be exchanged after their argument which appeared to mostly be done out of habit rather than necessity.

It was really only a matter of time. I saw this same accident from the outside just a few weeks ago, and the same posturing happened. My teacher later explained that insurance doesn’t need to be exchanged in the case of fender benders which shocked me: the first and only accident I got into was a fender bender at 10mph in rush hour traffic and even then I had to pull off into an abandoned parking lot where the bald mid-life crisis man yelled at me to call the police. He later billed his insurance 700 dollars to repaint the scratch I had so horribly bestowed upon his precious baby.

The driver did pull over again a block later to get the statements of people who were hurt. I have no idea who they call or what they do, it seemed to be very quick and casual.

I relayed all this to my teacher before we jumped into grammar review.

Since I’m learning various ways to say “seems like, looks like” she prompted me about plastic surgery and if I can tell who has had it (I can). She followed up with an anecdote of yet another terrible male student:

“He said, ‘teacher, I don’t think you’ve had plastic surgery, right?’ I thought it was a compliment so I said ‘You’re right, I haven’t. Thank you.’ But then he started snickering all of a sudden! ‘That wasn’t a compliment.’ He said.”

I was aghast. An adult man actually made fun of his female teacher for not having plastic surgery and also implied she should get plastic surgery to be more appealing (to him)?

If she says I’m a freak magnet, then so must she be. I simply cannot comprehend the level of immaturity for a foreign man to say this 1. to a real woman 2. who is his teacher. This is something my fifth grade male students might tell me in jest, and then I would pretend to beat them up.

The bus ride back miraculously did not have an accident but the day of mischief was not over. Yesterday, I found out I need to get a COVID test before I start my job next week. Uh, no problem except that the centers are closed on the weekend and Monday is a holiday.

I raced to my local health center but the man and woman there explained I would actually have to go to city hall since I didn’t have symptoms. At least, I think that’s what she meant; I always ask for clarification and then forget that I actually don’t know enough Korean to understand the answer.

The man handed me a paper with the address and the woman started to explain in English, “take subway line, what line is it, 3? And then… um…” I told her in Korean that I would search for directions online and she sagged in relief. “Sorry,” she said in Korean. They waved me off and I felt a little happy since even thought they essentially denied me, they remained kind and helpful.

I can’t say that was the case at city hall.

After a hurried Naver map search, I found a perfect bus route to take me straight there but I had to cross the street. There was no cross walk and the bus was due in two minutes so I made a snap decision to use the underground metro station. I ran down four flights of stairs then up four to get to the other side and made it just in time. I could see the bus coming.

Except the bus stopped fifty feet early. Huh? I stood there stupidly watching people get on and off bus 131. Maybe the driver was lenient? I continued to think that until the bus pulled away and back into traffic, right past my shocked face.

I was at the wrong bus stop. The people around me probably heard my cries of frustration as I looked helplessly at the bus stop not even a block away. Why??

No matter, deeds had to be done. I ran down the subway steps again, past the same cleaning lady from two minutes ago, realizing too late that the doctor told me not to get sweaty for a week lest I deactivate my new underarm Botox. I managed to wedge myself onto a train at last.

The fifteen story city hall building loomed in front of me and I wandered around like a lost grandma until I made confused eye contact with a woman behind a desk.

“Follow… yellow” she told me in English. Yellow? What yellow?

She gestured to wait a moment and came out from behind the desk to guide me to a series of yellow arrows on the floor, not unlike the yellow brick road in spirit. I followed the yellow arrow road out of the building, around a parking lot, and into a park. The sign pointed me to turn right at the roundabout and several booths were laid around the circle with various people in masks and hazmat suits.

At the first, a woman who definitely needed a snack had me fill out a paper. She asked if I could read Korean, I said a little, and she snipped at me in single word English.

“Birthdate!” Okay.

“Relation!” What?

“Nation, your nation!!” She said in a huff. I almost told her in Korean not to be angry but couldn’t think of a polite way to do so. You have to understand that Korean forms usually use polite or academic or convoluted terms for “address, country of origin, birth date” so I’m perpetually unprepared.

She then said something about two days or three days. I get to choose which test and therefore how speedy the results will be? Okay, then two days. She repeated again “two days three days” and looked close to tears so I just said okay.

She shooed me on to the next station where I exchanged my paper for a q-tip and tube. At the final station a grumpy young man swabbed my mouth and then nose, and not once was he wowed by my face– the face that few people have the opportunity to see thanks to COVID.

Suddenly, I was done and he gestured that I should throw away the plastic gloves given to me at station zero in a large cardboard box. When I think about it now, the box was full. Everyone must be very diligent about getting tested.

In all it took less than three minutes and even with grumpy staff, I’m very lucky to be in a place with rigorous and accessible testing. I should mention that it was free, and I didn’t have to even show my ID. They will text results in two to three days.

After that, I was finally free of obligations!

Well, not really. Now I have to pack because life begins again starting next week!

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