A Whirlwind of Mindless Activity

A lot of people say they like being busy.  I don’t.  Because it usually means being busy on other people’s terms.  That’s why I’d probably make a lousy businessman.  I hate the idea of being a team player; some yutz always has to come along and insist on managing the team.

So many ridiculous tiny events have transpired in the last week that I can’t keep track of them all.  My wife and I had a huge fight on Monday night.  Great way to start things off.  With a bang–though not the right kind.  It was about money.  As usual.  I can’t even remember what triggered the explosion.  All I know is that a few minutes later we were both screaming at each other.  She continued hectoring me when I went to the bathroom, saying I could go back to the U.S. for good if I’d ruined her life.

Then she gave me five hundred thousand won (about $500, US) in money orders and told me to get out.  She said I could come and get the rest of my stuff some time while she wasn’t at home.  I was even tempted to take her up on it for a minute, but it would have been a pain in the ass, and an expensive one at that.

Besides, she was probably bluffing.  She relented enough to say I could stay, but I’d have to pay her five hundred dollars for rent for the month and pay for all my food.  She even charged me five bucks for a glass of homemade tomato juice.  She went on to say that if we got divorced, I’d owe her money to help cover the deposit we’d made on the apartment (such deposits are astronomical here in Korea–we’re talking tens of thousands of dollars), even though she’s been hoarding nearly all the money I’ve made over the past eight years.  Since I haven’t been paying attention to what she does with our–okay, my–money and am too lazy and stupid to figure it out, I have no way of knowing if she’s telling me the truth.  She may well just be a gold-digger (make that grave-digger–meaning mine), but at least it’s in the name of the Lord.

(The following two paragraphs should go directly after the sentence above that reads:  “Besides, she was probably bluffing.  Sorry about the confusion; I just don’t have time to go back and rearrange the order.)

Despite having third degree burns running along the insides of my veins and arteries from recently boiling blood, good old fear prevailed and I did my best to placate her.  I also had a new class to teach the following morning I hadn’t prepared for, and our printer wasn’t working so I knew I’d have to go to a copy shop to type and print out a lesson.

She seemed to simmer down, and I felt it was safe to leave without her banishing me for good.  

The next day everything was fine, marriage-wise.  Unfortunately, the build-up of rage hadn’t abated, and I threw a fit in the subway station when I couldn’t find the right platform.  I didn’t want to be late on my first day, and I ended up standing in an elevator, waiting for it to go down. (I hadn’t been able to find the stairs.)  It just sat there.  I yelled at it, then pried open the doors.

When I finally found the escalator, I bounded down the corrugated steel steps, swearing in English to provide an exotic effect for innocent Korean bystanders.

After the class, which went okay, I went and had some breakfast, then retired to a bookstore, but not before changing out of my teaching duds into a pair of shorts and trading my shoes and socks for velcro rubber sandals.  I carried my shoes in a plastic bag.

A sign next to the door to the stairwell leading to the bookstore had an ambiguous message that read something like:  “The door may be opened suddenly.  Please be careful.”  Gotta love that gratuitous use of the passive voice.  (I later figured out it meant someone else coming the other way might open the door, so don’t be surprised if it hits you in the face.)

When I entered the bookstore downstairs, I paused to jot down the nebulous message, setting my shoe bag down on top of a nearby bookshelf.  Then I went further in and had a look around for about an hour and made my selection.

I thanked the cashier and left the bookstore after a perfunctory trip to the loo.  Then I trotted back down to the subway station, went through the turnstiles, waddled down the escalator, and boarded the express train, whose doors were graciously open for me, as if I were the ghost of Princess Diana, boarding the conveyance with heavenly steps, but not before wiping her angelic feet on a welcome mat provided by Mother Teresa’s shady shade.

Just as I sat down, I had a sinking feeling.

“Where are my shoes?”

Without hesitation I got up and sprang off the train, lumbering back to the bookstore.  I asked the clerk if anyone had turned in a pair of black leather shoes in a plastic bag.  She said they hadn’t, but took down my number and offered to check with the lost and found just in case.  I patrolled the premises, looking high and low at the places I’d left my scent.  No dice.  Bupkes.  Goose egg.  Nix.  Bum steer.  I checked in the men’s toilet to no avail, then went back to the bakery where I’d had a sandwich for breakfast.  The cashier there, of course, couldn’t help me.

I thought somebody might have mistaken the shoes for trash and thrown them away.  That led me back to the bookstore to ask the clerk if I could rummage through the garbage, considering the potential repercussions with my wife if I failed to find them.

Retracing my footsteps down the stairwell, I opened the door to the bookstore and saw, at eye level, the white plastic shoe bag staring at me.  It was so unexpected and so seemingly out of context that I had to close my eyes and do an exaggerated head shake and blink like Spanky on the Little Rascals.  You see, I could have sworn I’d left them on top of another bookshelf a few minutes after pausing to write down the funny English message while taking a gander at some books.

The rest of the week has contained similarly harrowing episodes.  I’ll have to tell you about them later.  The suffocating clammy summer heat and humidity continue; the ringing in my ear brought on by an ibuprofen harmonizes with the crickets singing outside, unless it’s a cicada waiting to be born to take over for them as the day replaces the night.


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