Yesterday, on my way to make fun of God (“my favorite fictional character”–Homer Simpson), while walking up the hill and wheezing from a minty fresh hangover, I pointed out to my wife Jina a shocking bit of graffiti someone had scrawled in black magic marker on a sign mounted on the gate surrounding a girls’ secondary school. In a world in which so many things are offensive in a low-voltage way, most of us who’ve been paying attention to what’s been going around us all these years aren’t easily offended. After all, we’re still living in the Culture of Cool, where being either goofy or overly earnest is the mark of a fruitcake in the first case and a square in the latter. Calculated indifference is expected of the mature, rational robots many of us like to pretend we are.
Still, it’s hard not to recoil in disgust when you consider that some creep took the time to write down, in between the phrases “Green Food Zone” and “Smoke-Free Zone,” the following inspired piece of perversion: “Dream Fuck Zone.”
“Can you believe that?” I said to Jina, who hadn’t seen the sign, as we were in a rush to the House of Lies.
I described the sign to her.
“What does that mean?” she asked. (Jina is Korean, so she needed some deciphering.)
“Some sick guy who fantasizes about having sex with underage girls must have written it.” I elaborated a little further to spell it out for her.
She replied in an accusatory tone: “You are a dangerous man.”
“What are you talking about? I didn’t write it.” And I also wasn’t the one who came up with it or took the time to share it with the world. I had to roll my eyes, which is a good workout for your optic nerves.
“I’ll have to go back and erase it later,” I added. “I wouldn’t want some poor kid to be traumatized by it.”
Jina said not to worry about it, that someone from the school would clean it off, but I wasn’t so sure. It also pissed me off because if enough people saw it, the automatic assumption would be that it had been written by a foreigner (even though in all likelihood it probably was). If the story got in the news, it would further color a lot of Korean people’s perception that we Westerners are all a bunch of reprobates, which would make the whole visa-securing procedure and criminal background check that much more stringent, byzantine, arcane, and idiotic.
Korea is a great place to live if you’re a foreigner from one of the more privileged countries in the world, but every time some foreign dick-head in Korea does something stupid like getting busted using illegal drugs or diddling an underaged girl or boy, suddenly you’ve got extra hoops you’ve got to jump through and tricks to perform to prove you’re as impeccable as the Pope (okay–the ex-Dalai Lama).
The situation also reminded me of a scene from The Catcher in the Rye, which I haven’t read in twenty-five years, and probably will never re-read since the main character, Holden Caulfield, is an insufferable caricature of a teenager. To his credit, however, at least he’s indignant when he spots some profane graffiti along the lines of the above filth (not that I have anything against either profanity or filth in the proper context) for the same reason I was, although what he sees was presumably a lot tamer, considering when the novel was written.
After church I was planning to go and scrub the message away with some hot water and bleach, but I couldn’t be bothered because it was so cold out and the wind was blowing like Rush Limbaugh. Later, I mentioned it to a Korean female friend who came into the cafe where Jina and I were sitting, and she shrugged it off, saying Korean girls were used to seeing “Burberry Men” (what Korean people call flashers) and were thick-skinned enough not to lose sleep over such things. She also suggested mentioning it to the security guard, and joked that he might think I’d done it.
“That’s a good idea,” I said. “Thanks.”
On the way home, Jina and I dropped by the security guard’s glass box and told him about the graffiti. He stepped out and walked around the entrance to take a look, then said something in Korean to Jina. She told me he said he’d clean it up, but when we passed by again a few hours later on our way to a small dinner party, it was still there.
I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the words remain today; they’re bound to cause a stir. Apart from all the hurt feelings and paranoia about dirty old men lurking in the shadows they’re liable to induce in some of the students or passers by, as I said, if word gets around, before you know it we foreigners will have to be getting not only fingerprinted but toe-printed, ear-printed, and maybe even nose-printed.
To whoever was gross enough to pen that piece of rubbish, either get a life or find a new hobby. Or else learn how to write better and work on a sequel to Lolita. At least then you’ll have the gift of subtlety and wit. In other words, to quote my old high school English teacher, “Don’t be crude, rude, and obvious.”