Sunday, May 15, 2005

search for pissoir leads to windfall

Ever had one of those days where it seems like the weirdest shit is happening to you? I dug my spoon into some ice cream the other day, and the damn thing farted. That's right: the pressure of my spoon caused a buried air pocket to rush to the surface with a distinct farting noise, and I found myself lightly spattered by chocolate ice cream. Fuck you, asshole ice cream!

Today's incident trumps that.


Interlaken, Switzerland, 1991.

I'm hiking with my brother David around the perimeter of the Brienzersee (Lac Brienz in French). As usual, I'm sweating buckets. We started our hike at the Interlaken Ost train station, went uphill a bit, then walked parallel to the lakeshore. At some point hours later, we noticed the clouds rolling in, marking a storm system about to be channelled and magnified inside the valley. We needed to reach our campsite quickly, so we started downhill at a steady clip to the lakeshore.

It dawned on me, as I was hiking, that I hadn't had the urge to take a piss all day, despite having drunk a couple liters of water. After a few moments of thought, I realized why this was the case: I had been sweating so profusely that there was nothing for my kidneys to do.

Lesson learned: If the activity is intense enough, you can sweat the piss out of yourself.


Here in Seoul, it's a bright, pleasantly warm Sunday. Forsaking my usual nocturnal hike, I decided to tromp up the mountain in broad daylight, knowing full well I'd be a conversation piece in someone's "damn sweaty foreigners" narrative. I'd taken along my t'ong-jang, or bankbook, because I was hoping to swing by an ATM and check one of my accounts to see whether a transaction had processed through yesterday. No such luck, as it turned out. I pocketed my bankbook and started on my hike.

About ten minutes into the hike, I realized I needed to piss like a racehorse. Remembering Interlaken, I thought that I might be able to sweat everything out, thereby diminishing the urge.

This was, as you can imagine, one of mankind's most retarded thoughts.

Lesson learned: Once the piss has formed in the bladder, it's highly unlikely to be sweated out, no matter how hard your fat ass walks.

What started off as a hike had quickly morphed into "Raiders of the Lost Ark," starring My Piss as Indiana Jones, and Bladder as the Well of Souls. The urine wanted out, and it was fighting hard with my autonomic nervous system for control of crucial sphincters.

God, the divine author of Murphy's Law, usually gets comical at this point. I needed a bathroom, so the Good Lord made every potential bathroom in my path disappear. Many Korean buildings have bathrooms located between floors in their stairwells; I checked three buildings-- nothing. As I got close to Sookdae-ipgu Station, I thought, "All subway stations have bathrooms," and went underground.

The bathroom was located 75 meters away. Beyond the turnstiles. I'd have to get a ticket to use the shortcut over.


With my bladder now pulsating and writhing like a trapped devil, I made my way back toward Smoo's campus. Within a minute, I'd found a lovely young urinal, and I poured my warm affection gratefully into it, gasping and whispering post-coital promises I had no intention of keeping.

On the way out, I was struck by a strange thought, and I hurried over to a Joheung Bank ATM. Joheung (a.k.a. CHB) is where I keep my second bank account. I have two bank accounts only because EC had set me up with Ki-eop Bank (a.k.a. Finebank in English) last year. I wanted to withdraw some money, so I took out my Joheung ATM card and hit "check balance." These days, I'm pretty poor as I wait for my first real payday, so I check my balance a lot.

The balance read over 2.5 million won.

That's not normal.

I was expecting to have only a few dollars in my account, not $2500. I'm beginning to think someone made a colossal mistake. Either that, or I haven't completely understood how Smoo pays us.

This is what I understood when I signed my contract:

1. Payday is the 15th of the month unless that day falls on a weekend, then it's the first available business day after.

2. My gross salary is 1.9 million won. My net salary is 1.7 million won.

3. Payment is always for the previous calendar month's work. This is May. I began my tenure at Smoo in the final week of April. By all rights, my May payment should be less than a fourth of 1.7 million.

Today is the 15th, but it's Sunday. I have no fucking idea why I have 2.5 million won in the bank. At most, I should've had only about 600,000 won in there. I'm going to have to talk to the Smoo office tomorrow, and will probably talk to Joheung Bank as well. I'm convinced this is a big mistake. If it's not-- cool.

Shit that I am, and fully aware I might be doing something illegal, I ended up withdrawing W50,000. Whether I use it is another matter. If the whole thing turns out to be a huge snafu, of course I'll give the money back to the bank. But right now, my wallet's happier than it's been in a long time.

I still haven't gone to Namsan. Will go now.


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