Saturday, September 08, 2007

the umbrella lady

I'm doing lesson plans these days, so I'm at the office until rather late. Tonight, I ducked out a bit after midnight* and lumber-waddled into the local mini-grocery near my dorm. It's usually open until 1AM, so I knew I had time. I had my umbrella with me, but left it outside before entering the store because I had bought my umbrella at this very store about a week earlier. I didn't want to risk looking as though I were buying it a second time. I grabbed what supplies I needed and headed over to the cashier, whose station was right by the exit.

When I looked outside, I saw that a 50-something ajumma had picked up my umbrella and extended the handle in an appraising manner. She saw me staring; I gave her a wolfish smile and tapped my chest: That's mine. She laughed, embarrassed at being caught, and put the umbrella back down.

In America, it's bicycles that suffer abuse and theft from random assholes. In Korea, it's umbrellas. A couple years back, I mentioned on this blog that I'd had two or three umbrellas stolen from me while working at my previous job, EC in Kangnam. Umbrellas are cheap here (I have no clue what they cost in the States); replacing one is about as expensive as buying a plate of street food. It's not tragic to lose an umbrella, but it is annoying.

Koreans often smile or laugh when embarrassed. I admit I got some fiendish pleasure from catching this woman red-handed and watching her giggle. I doubt she learned her lesson, though; people so rarely do.

*Rest assured that I wasn't slaving away the entire time. I took frequent breaks, including a long visit to TV Links to watch "Ratatouille."


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