Friday, December 31, 1999

the case of little Pester

[Originally published at 12:48 a.m. on Tuesday, May 26, 2020.]

We'll call her Pester. That's pretty close to her real name (no guessing aloud in the comments, please). She's the topic of today's post, but we need a bit of background first.

I moved from the Classia building to the Mido building this past March; I had worked with an R&D team in Classia from March 2019 to March of this year, so that stint lasted about twelve months. While I was working in the Classia building, I took time off to take a little walk from Incheon down to Busan (read all about it). That was one of the best times of my life. But a couple months before that time, back during the July/August period when summer was at its nastiest, Pester came into our world, firing hot shit in all directions.

Pester was a twenty-something ex-gyopo, i.e., a Korean national who had spent most of her life in the States as the daughter of two Korean parents who, as far as I can tell, never got their US citizenship but nevertheless started up a Stateside business (a laundromat, I think... or am I engaging in stereotyping?). The term gyopo is rather vaguely defined; the Naver online dictionary unhelpfully defines it as "overseas Korean" or "Korean resident abroad." There may or may not be an implication that a gyopo is generally born in Korea, but my understanding is that it's enough to be ethnically Korean and born in the States (or some other non-Korean country) to qualify as a gyopo. I was once told that, technically, I'm a gyopo, too, thanks to my Korean heritage.* Pester, meanwhile, is an ex-gyopo because she's now back in Korea; she's a Korean national who's no longer an "overseas Korean."

Before Pester arrived at our office, one of our number told the rest of us that he'd heard about her: she had been hired at our company only a week before, but complaints about her erupted immediately: she wasn't punctual, she didn't get along with the students, she fought with her Korean (and maybe even Western) coworkers, and she was insubordinate to her immediate supervisors. In short: a bitch with severe attitude issues, if that's not a redundancy. Pester didn't look all that impressive: she was obviously trying for a pixie-ish, grinning approach when she first appeared among us, but it didn't take long for her true colors to show. She had been kicked out of her teaching job within a week of being hired, and she'd been given a 30-day notice to find a new job, so yes: she had basically been fired, and now, she was running down the clock. Her time in R&D would be spent (1) helping us generate teaching material, and (2) finding work elsewhere, with or without the help of her new, unwilling coworkers. Her presence reinforced my impression that R&D was essentially becoming a dumping ground for employees the top brass didn't know how to handle.

Pester proved to be a moocher right away, constantly asking to borrow things, up to and including $70 for bus fare to and from Busan once she had a lead on a possible job down south. Her US bank account was empty; she had pissed away her savings. Her Korean bank account, only recently established, was also empty. The $1000 credit card that her parents had given her was maxed out. The woman had no fucking clue when it came to money, and as I got to know her, I discovered that, while she'd been in grad school in the US, her parents had been giving her an allowance of $5000 every three months. That's an income of $20,000 a year—money she didn't have to work for at all. Astounding. But I grasped that this was why Pester was so bad with money: not only was she a grabby, mooching bitch—she was a spoiled bitch.

My coworkers did what they could to shrink away from Pester whenever she was in a mooching mood. I made the mistake of helping her out with one or two things, including buying her a $5 pair of hi-tech earphones so she could stop watching YouTube at high volume in our tiny office. Pester promptly snapped the earphones' cord, which was unsurprising by the time I'd gotten to know her. The woman couldn't be trusted to be responsible for anything.

Give Pester an inch, and she'd take a mile. Pester started opening our office windows up to let in the summer heat and humidity, this despite the fact that we had air conditioning churning away. She would allow the office door to hang open as well, letting all of our cold air out in a different direction. I was the only one to complain about these things, and Pester soon began adopting a passive-aggressive attitude, haughtily ignoring requests to close doors and windows. Tension between her and me grew.

I was starting to get sick of Pester after three weeks with her, and she and I finally had a verbal altercation. I basically told her to stop blaming everyone around her and starting looking in the damn mirror to see the source of her problems; she didn't want to hear that, and now that I think about it, that was one of the things our coworkers had warned us about before Pester arrived: she had a tendency to blame others instead of taking responsibility for her own words and deeds. So she and I sat in the office after our spat, fuming, when one of my coworkers popped in and started jabbering away, completely unaware that Pester and I were furious at each other. The next day, I swallowed my pride and offered Pester an apology, to which she replied with a delighted grin and a condescending "That was very mature of you!"—which made me want to twist her fucking head right off her fucking neck. Murdering her would have been a favor to the world, I think. And did she apologize for her own cuntery? Of course not.

Pester seemed to be the type to forget conflicts instantly, despite the fact that she was the source of so much conflict. Not long after our argument, she was back to chirping about how she wanted to start up her own clothing business. I bit my tongue. First learn to manage your own finances, bitch, THEN try running a business. I'd decided, though, that further open conflict would simply stress me out too much, so I elected to let Pester's foul emanations simply wash over me. I tolerated her presence until she left us around the first week of August 2019: she had indeed secured work at a language institute in Busan. I even gifted her with a few spare bags of couscous as a fuck-off-and-die gift. I tried cooking a small batch for her at the office, but she became wildly neurotic when it was time to clean the glass container I'd used: "No! Don't wipe it with a paper towel! You'll get little fibers everywhere!" she yelled. So even my attempt at being nice and serving her some food backfired. Kindness was wasted on her; she was immune to introspection and to reason. She was Murphy's Law incarnate when it came to all forms of human relationships. Anything positive, once brought near her, would curdle, shrivel, and die. I began to see Pester as a sulfurous lump of pure demonic malice.

She told us that her contract with the Busan hagweon was for ten or eleven months. I and my coworkers immediately suspected why the hagweon wasn't giving her the full twelve months: shorting her was a way to avoid having to pay her severance (according to South Korean labor law, you're legally entitled to one month's severance pay per year worked at a given job). But I didn't care; let Pester learn her own lessons about life, assuming she had the brains to learn (which wasn't obvious).

So Pester—the obnoxious, self-righteous bitch**—left us after nearly a month of hell. Some of us R&Ders jokingly bet that Pester wouldn't even make it halfway through her truncated contract at the Busan hagweon: she was a loser at our company, and she'd be a loser everywhere else. I forgot to mention: she had come to Korea after dropping out of her Master's program in California, with only a couple more courses to go. All that money her parents had spent on her—down the goddamn drain. What a waste of atoms Pester was.

Another thing I forgot to mention: she was obsessed with chasing down a young pastor she had dated, but then things got weird: she and the pastor broke up, but Pester said the pastor might have been quietly stalking her online. She bluntly texted him about his sneaky ways, and he went quiet. I told Pester that the pastor sounded both creepy and confused about what he wanted, which made him an unworthy object of pursuit. Did Pester listen to me? Of course not. She also said she felt that God was telling her to go down to Busan because that was her hometown way back in the day.

So that's the person who left our R&D team: a spoiled bitch with no money-management skills, no idea of her own gaping personal flaws thanks to an utter lack of introspection, and bizarre fantasies of chasing down a pervy pastor and starting up her own clothing business.

But at least she was gone. Peace once again returned to R&D.

Until this past week.

Around last Tuesday, my Kakao app flagged me and showed that I'd received a "Hello?" message from someone. As an introvert, I approach most of my unfamiliar messages with dread, but when I opened this particular message, my heart sank. It was Pester, happily declaring, "I'm back in Seoul! Can we meet over coffee?" My memories of Pester were all bad, but as I said above, she seemed to have the ability to block out the negatives in her life and soldier on. My father, another person who is not of sterling character, also has this ability; it's what prevents him from ever learning any moral lessons about life. He and Pester would make quite a pair, but I admit there are moments when I wish that I too could be so jolly and forgetful of past trauma and stress and conflict. But I can't. I have a long memory when it comes to things that are hurtful or traumatic, and I focus on the negatives much more than on the positives. Maybe for Pester, it was as if a reset button had been pushed: coming back to Seoul represented a new start, so the Kevin she wanted to meet would be a totally new Kevin.

I sighed and replied to Pester, committing myself to one meeting with her, and wondering all the while whether she wanted to meet because she wanted something more from me. I told Pester that I was super busy (not a lie), so we'd have to meet on Saturday. She was fine with that, and we ended up meeting at a Starbucks Reserve not far from where I work. I hadn't seen her for ten months, but Pester hadn't changed: she still had that same pockmarked face and that same attempt-at-a-pixie smile. I told her that this meet-up would be my treat (it would be gauche, in Korea, for an older person to make a younger person pay for coffee or a meal), and I cavalierly handed Pester my credit card, telling her I only wanted a hot chocolate, which is my usual coffee-house fare. Pester lit up and immediately asked me whether she could get a coffee... plus other things. I tiredly nodded yes, realizing that she hadn't changed a bit: she was still a moocher, still a taker. She ended up ordering a coffee, an expensive bottle of juice, and a slice of cheesecake for herself. I'm not a miser, but I realized I should've been prepared for Pester to be a spendthrift once she got hold of my card. Fortunately, she gave me back my card, so I guess I should be thankful for the small things.

Pester caught me up on her life, and I smirked inwardly: she had been fired four times since I'd last seen her. The R&D team's cynical prediction about her and her failing track record had come true in spades. When I asked her why she'd been fired (I was actually surprised she even admitted to having been fired), she shrugged and claimed not to understand any of it. From her perspective, her bosses and coworkers were too demanding, and because this is Korea, they "pulled rank," so to speak, and used Korean social hierarchy to make her do things she didn't want to do, e.g., clean up around the office and so on. I reminded Pester that she had Americanized after twenty-two years in the States, and that this was the Korean way when it came to the least senior member of the staff. You have to eat a lot of shit while you put in your time and work your way up the ladder, and in Korea, seniority is more important than merit. Anyway, Pester rattled on about her series of jobs, and she filled me in about her pursuit of the weird pastor: the pastor's mother basically intervened and told Pester that "you're not a good match for my son." Pester said she was pissed off to hear such a thing, but I secretly sided with the mother: Pester, evil as she is, isn't a good match for any man.

So the conversation turned to Pester's current job, which began with an offer to work in Seoul again, this time at an up-and-coming financial agency that helps people sort out their insurance policies. Pester said this was commission-based work, but she had failed to build up any sort of client network yet. She had been at her newest job for only a couple of months; I suspect she's going to get fired again if she fails to build up a client base. Pester, in talking about insurance, mentioned cancer, and then she used her knowledge of my mother's brain cancer to suggest that I should become one of her clients. "Because, well, excuse me for saying this, but your mother died of brain cancer, so there's a good chance you might die of cancer, too. You need your insurance to be in order!" I think Pester needs to work on her salesmanship. Using fear as a tactic to nab a client is not the way to go. Not only was Pester offensive in that moment, but she was also reminding me of the intense, intense distaste I'd had for her the previous year. The bitch was indeed back.

We had met at 3 p.m. Luckily, I had set a 4 p.m. limit on our talk: I had told Pester I was planning to walk out to the Jamshil Bridge and back to my place, and I wanted to do it before it got rainy (again, not a lie). At 4:05, I did my best "Oh, look at the time!" and told Pester I had to go. She said she wanted to sit for a bit longer, which was fucking fine by me, so I left her there. As I was leaving, she called out that I should consider becoming her client. Without even facing her, I gave a tight grin and said I'd think about it. And with that, I left.

Aftermath: very early this past Monday morning, around dawn, I sleepily pawed at my cell phone, called up the Kakao app, opened up Pester's text-message dialogue, and hit "BLOCK." Later that same morning, I went over to my computer, scrolled through my Gmail account to the "Filters" section, and created a "trash all emails from this person" filter—just for Pester. I don't think Pester knows where I live, and I don't think she has my phone number, so that ought to be the last of her. When a guy and a girl break up, and the guy breaks up by doing what I did, it's called "ghosting": the guy simply disappears from cyberspace without a word. In breakup situations, this is considered one of the most cowardly ways to end a relationship. But in my situation, I don't consider this cowardice because my relationship with Pester isn't a true relationship, per se: it's what comedian Dane Cook has called a relationshit.

Good fucking riddance, bitch.

*It turns out that gyopo is an anagram for goopy. I think I'd rather be known as goopy.

**She constantly talked about God and Jesus, by the way; she loudly made it clear she was a practicing Christian—one who did nothing but take-take-take, and who never once gave the way Christians are taught to give of their time, talents, and effort. In Korea, many of the worst people you'll meet are self-proclaimed Christians. True, there are many good eggs in the church, but God protect us, there are so many bad eggs.


John Mac said...

Wow! That was like reading a Stephen King story, scary! I'm actually surprised you even agreed to meet her. Glad you escaped unscathed except for the price of a cheesecake. Good riddance!

I can't help but wonder how people like this don't learn from experience (says the man who has been married four times) and change their ways. Amongst all her personality flaws the lack of self-awareness is what dooms her. I would not be surprised that if you ever see her again she will be a homeless beggar.

Thanks for sharing the story of your great escape!

Charles said...

Why did you even bother meeting her in the first place? Was it just morbid curiosity? You certainly didn't owe her anything.

Kevin Kim said...


I wavered over whether to simply ignore her request for a meet-up. Couldn't bring myself to do it. An almost British sense of politesse took hold of me. And maybe I was morbidly curious to know what had befallen her since her departure from our R&D team. Thinking like a spy for a moment: I now have info that I can relay back to my old team-- to inform, but also to warn.