Friday, September 27, 2013

on the brink

I left my office around 7:40PM after another long day of waiting for—and not seeing—a few students who needed tutoring. (Correction: one intrepid student did show up. Praise be upon her. She's a good egg.) I decided en route that I'd go find out how much a cell phone would cost me. Along the way, I met another student on the street; he seemed pleasantly surprised to meet me. When I told him I was thinking about getting a cell phone, he said, "Why?"

"Because I don't have one."


"Because I didn't get one when I first arrived in Hayang."


"Just because, dude."

We waved and went our separate ways.

At the edge of town was a huge cell-phone store with the unappetizing name Pon Gap Ddong Gap (폰값똥값), i.e., "Phone Price Dung Price." The interior of the store was cavernous and way too well-lit, the ambiance reminiscent of a bright ballet studio or a beauty salon. I went in.

Dung Price was being managed by three twenty-something guys when I entered. I told them roughly what I was looking for: a good Samsung 4G phone with plenty of data and bandwidth. They cracked open a bible of possible options—page after page of rates and phone types, all listed in bewildering detail. When I asked for an unlimited data plan, they said that unlimited this-or-that didn't exist at the 4G level of service: I'd have to select how many gigabytes I wanted. One guy asked me whether I'd be on the Internet a lot; I said yes, so he pointed to a 9GB option. I shrugged and went with it. The other guys asked me for my alien registration card; they made some calls to unknown parties to determine whether someone in my situation—a foreigner with an E-1 visa—could go through with this purchase. The invisible person on the other end said yes, I could get a phone.

I was then handed a sheaf of papers on which I had to repeatedly (1) print my name, (2) put down my signature, (3) write my office phone number, (4) check "agree," and (5) write down my alien registration number. I also had to write my residential address twice. While I labored over these sheets, all three guys ended up crowding around me, watching, occasionally commenting, and sometimes pointing at pink-highlighted blanks that I had missed. I felt almost as if I were at a bar, given our drunken-looking huddle. I finished signing the final form; the huddle broke up, and one guy gave me a lengthy explanation about the policy and benefits I had signed up for. I doubt I understood half of what he said, so I interrupted him and asked whether I could have a copy of the contract that I had just signed fifty-eight thousand times. He said yes. I did catch a few things from his spiel, though:

1. My first bill will be less than W10,000, as it will cover only the tail-end of this billing cycle.

2. The phone won't be activated until Monday. No activation after 8PM on Friday, and no activation over the weekend. Weird.

3. My regular monthly bill will be around W88,000, which is a bit steep, but I did ask for a lot of bandwidth.

4. The contract is for 24 months.

All I care about is having a functioning phone on Monday. I'm finally on the brink of being reconnected to civilization.



Charles said...

Finally, dude.

John from Daejeon said...

Before you see "Gravity," you might want to watch Europa Report. The multinational cast can be used as a fantastic teaching tool for your students in class. The lead actor (ship's captain/pilot) is a not-so famous in the U.S., American actor. However, he is wildy famous in Hong Kong/Chinese films and married to a famous, American-born and raised, International Hong Kong model. This can show students that life can take them anywhere on this planet if they have the drive and desire to do so.

For you personally though, you might not want to dwell on the part one actress played opposite Hugh Laurie in "House," or else it will be a bit hard to buy her portrayal as a specialized scientist. Yet, she was good at her job on "House." Well, good enough to marry House.