Friday, June 20, 2014

deliver us from evil

I had bad luck ordering delivery on the phone today. Triumphant after having finished my paperwork on campus, I lumbered out our back gate, swung by the computer-repair place to pick up my hard drive (the only thing that could be salvaged from my dead Mac), and tromped home, hungry for a late lunch.

Upon checking my mail, I discovered the monthly gas bill and a little rectangular slip of printed, glossy card stock: an ad for a new donggaseu (fried pork cutlet—Jpn. donkatsu) restaurant. I carried my mail up to my studio, turned on the A/C, and called the donggaseu place. The conversation went something like this:

PORK LADY: This is Fuck You Donggaseu. How may I help you? (Names changed or hidden to protect the guilty.)

ME: Hello, this is Healing Town Room 302. I'd like a pizza donggaseu...

PORK: I'm sorry—where are you?

ME: Healing Town, Room—

PORK: I'm sorry, but I don't know where that is.

ME: It's on Munhwaro Fourth Street.

PORK: I don't know where that is, either.

ME: How can you not know? Don't your delivery people have GPS or maps or anything?

PORK: The person who knows those neighborhoods isn't here today. Look, you need to give me your building's name.

ME: I told you: Healing Town. It's a studio building.

PORK: Ah—Healing Town. ...I still don't know where that is.

ME: Should I give you the complete address? (At this point, I'm fumbling around for a loose gas or electric bill because, even after a year, I haven't memorized the confusing mass of digits and doodads on my own address, but the address is listed on my bills.)

PORK: I don't know if that's going to help.

ME: OK, I understand.

At that point, I hung up in disgust and ripped up the restaurant's ad, swearing never to order from them again. What sort of eatery drops advertisements about itself—inviting you to call and order—then admits it has no idea where you are? Unimaginable, and a piss-poor way to run a business. Also, there's this: Hayang is a small town. It's got its nooks and crannies, true, but for Christ's sake, it's not that complicated to find your way around! Munhwaro Fourth Street is just off a major T-intersection, that of Hayangno and Munhwaro. Easy.

So I called a Chinese restaurant that was also serving naengmyeon (cold-noodle soup) and ordered a Sino-Korean mix of tangsuyuk (sweet-and-sour pork) and naengmyeon. This went fairly smoothly... until the guy called me back a few minutes later to ask, "What'd you order, again?" After the house-of-idiots conversation I'd just had with the donggaseu troglodyte, there wasn't anything this guy could have said or done that would have been more shocking, surprising, or off-putting. So I smiled and re-placed my order.

Nothing in Korea moves in straight lines. If you expect a procedure to go smoothly from A to Z, you're very naive.

Confident, now, that some sort of food would be on its way to my place, I got on my laptop and waited for the chow to arrive. Then my phone rang.

"This is the donggaseu restaurant," said a male voice. "You placed an order with us, yes?"

"Yes, but I canceled it," I said.

"You ordered pizza donggaseu today, didn't you?"

"I said I'd canceled it. The lady told me she didn't know where my building was."

"But you ordered this today, right?"

"Yes, but I—canceled—it. The lady said she didn't know where my building was, so I said 'I understand' and that was that. I didn't order."

"We're going to have to—"

"No, please just cancel my order."

I hung up, feeling as if I'd run afoul of the donggaseu Mafia or something. Would they show up at my door with baseball bats, ready to powder my kneecaps because I'd refused their pork? Luckily, no further calls came from Fuck You Donggaseu, and the Chinese-food guy arrived the way he was supposed to, so at least that much order had been restored to the cosmos.

Something like this problem has plagued me since I moved here last year. Hayang seems to have more than its share of slow-witted bumpkins, and because my neighborhood was spanking new when I arrived, many delivery people have no idea where "Healing Town" or "Munhwaro Fourth Street" is. On several occasions, I've had to explain to the delivery folks how to get to my place. In the majority of these cases, the delivery person has access to a map and is thus able to visualize the proper path. But every once in a while, a situation like today's fruitless exchange will occur, and the delivery folks will prove to be bereft of both maps and brains. On the bright side, such exchanges help me improve my Korean, but this isn't a bright side that my stomach can appreciate.



King Baeksu said...

Koreans do not seem inclined to give directions using addresses, that would be too logical (especially up in Seoul, where there often seem to be at least two addresses per building, as if that even makes sense).

You need to give directions via landmarks. For example: "You know that cheesy-ass Angel-in-Us Cafe on Hayang Street, the one full of kids on dates not actually talking to each other but just gaping into their smartphones like mindless zombies? OK, good, go up the little side street next to it, until you see a pile of garbage the size of Mt. Halla at the end and spilling out into the middle of the road. If you can't find that, just follow your ears: A bunch up alcoholic ajosshis are throwing up another Cracker-Jack box building right next to it and making so much noise that everyone in the neighborhood hates them, especially when they start banging away at 7am on a Saturday or Sunday morning. Now, turn left and be sure to hold your nose, because between that mountain of trash and all the road pizza lining the road, you may find it hard not to pass out otherwise. "Healing Town" will be your third building on the left, next to "Super-duper Palace of Versailles Crappy-Ass One-Rooms" and "Double Noblest Buckingham Palace Shoe-Box One-and-Two Rooms." The reason it's called "Healing Town" is because it's a joke by the owner on all the poor suckers who actually have to live there. Got it? Good! Balli Balli!"

See how easy it is?

KimcheeGI said...

I feel your pain. Down here in neigboring Gyeongnamdo, the cities are trying to change thier addressing system to the same street/house address in your post. If one tries to use it w/any delivery service, you will be doomed, unless you revert quickly back to the old dong/bonji/ho code for you bldg: "Oh, XXX-dong ###-#bonji ###-ho, why didn't you say that in the first place..."

Kevin Kim said...


I normally do give directions via landmarks.


Yeah, I've heard about changes in the address system. They seem to be causing a lot of confusion. This isn't going as smoothly as the changeover in Seoul's bus system.