4.2 Fall 2022

February 20, A win

I went into The Beautiful Store (a Korean Goodwill type chain) with the intention of buying matching plates but the $4 charge per each turned me away from the dinnerware and toward the clothes.

I ended up bringing a purse, cardigan, and powder blue blazer to the cashier, a tall young woman with bleached hair styled like 1950s Barbie.

While she was calling for her manager, I noticed a cut in the shape of a ring on her finger.

A much older man appeared and the three of us stared at each other.

“Is… there a problem?” I asked in Korean.

The young woman let out an impressed gasp.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t know you spoke Korean so I called my manager over because he speaks English. I’ll go ahead and check you out.” She said, the kindly grandpa manager having already melted into the background.

“Even though I’m a graduate student I can’t speak English.” She added apologetically. I didn’t have the vocabulary to explain why she shouldn’t be embarrassed. It’s her country, I should be speaking Korean.

“Do you need a bag?”

I hesitated. Usually at checkout the cashier will give you a locally stamped garbage bag. Here you pay for garbage service by your personal volume of trash. You can buy plastic garbage bags of varying sizes from local supermarkets and convenience stores. Garbage is collected by district so you have to buy the bags from your area.

“I don’t live in Busan so I can’t use the bag.” I decided. I’d be paying taxes for a garbage bag that can’t use.

“Wow,” she sighed. “Your Korean is so good.”

“No, no, it’s not that great.” I contested.

“Her Korean is really good,” she commented anyway to an older woman who had commented to the cashier earlier that my purse was nice.

The cashier and I loaded my impulse purchases into my new (used) purse instead.

The older woman with a thumbs up said “멋있어요”. Cool.

“가방이요?” The bag?

“아니, 쌤은요.” No, you.

Wow, what an encouraging team! I felt really touched.

I spend a lot of time bumbling through interactions and fighting to be understood. It’s nice to get encouragement from a low stakes situation.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: