Sunday, May 01, 2016

just about had it with Haddon

You'll recall my recent misadventure in trying to reach Haddon Supermarket: I got there well before the advertised closing time of 9PM, only to discover the damn place had closed at 7PM. This morning, at 11:25AM, I called Haddon again to confirm its hours of operation, and the guy at the other end (surprise—someone answered this time!) said the place was always closing (he actually used the adverb hangsang, i.e., "always") at 7PM. I thanked the man, puttered about my place for a few hours, then left for Haddon around 5PM.

The walk uphill from Oksu Station was as sweaty as I'd thought it would be, but because I've begun exercising again, the hill wasn't really all that bad. I was about five or six minutes out of the station before I even reached the beginning of the upward incline, and I was on the incline for about ten minutes. By the time I'd reached the hilltop, I was puffing a bit, but none the worse for wear. When I reached the descending staircase to Haddon's B1 level, fifteen or sixteen minutes had gone by.

But the staircase was once again dark. I recalled reading, on one of the websites about Haddon, that this was the rear entrance, so, optimistically, I headed around the side of the building to find Haddon's front entrance. I found it.

It was 5:55PM when I got to the closed-off front entrance, which was guarded by one of the most horrifying Christmas decorations I've ever seen. I had more than an hour to go before closing time, but there was no getting around the brute fact that Haddon was once again fucking closed. You'll note that the store's marquee says the place is supposed to be open until 9PM, so if I put two and two together, I conclude that Haddon, like Hannam Market, is dying. Why else would you tell customers you're closing at 7PM, then already be closed before 6PM? Lack of business, that's why. I assume the store manager's rationale was that, with no big-nosed aliens visiting, it would save money just to close up early. The risk of this strategy, of course, is that potential customers like me will just get pissed off and not want to come back.

Can't say I was completely surprised by this betrayal of trust. Korea is not a place where you take people at their literal word. Korean thinking is that you adapt to the situation. If the situation changes, then you change along with the situation. This isn't entirely irrational; something like this attitude is what they teach you in the Zen dharma hall or in the martial-arts training hall: you have to be fluid in your response to reality because reality itself is fluid.

But culturally speaking, it's a weird way of conducting oneself, from the Westerner's point of view: how do you build trust if you're constantly saying one thing but doing another? Western businesspeople in Korea have the same difficulty: Korean and Western parties sign a contract, shake hands, walk away happy... then a few months later, the Korean side apologetically says that it can't fulfill certain stipulations in the contract because the situation has changed. The idea that a promise is a promise is lost on this mindset.

The intercultural subtext of this situation aside, I grumbled my way back to Oksu Station, got on the subway, then grumbled all the way back to my place. Twice bitten, thrice shy. What a way to begin the merry month of May, eh? Happy fuckin' May Day, the day we're supposed to celebrate labor. I hope Haddon's laborers are enjoying their early closing. Fuckers.

ADDENDUM: inevitably, someone's going to comment that the early closing may have been because it was May Day and not because Haddon is dying. To that person I reply: what explains (1) the fact that someone was at the store to answer the phone, and (2) that person's conviction-filled response (hangsang!) that the store would be open—this very day—until 7PM? Others will inevitably comment that the original European May Day has ancient pagan roots that have little to do with socialism, communism, and labor movements in general. True enough, but in modern times, May Day is, more often than not, for and about laborers. (Or workers, if you're the hair-splitting type, although says laborer can legitimately be synonymous with worker.)



Charles said...

They weren't closed early because of May Day. They were closed early because someone warned them that you were on your way.

Kevin Kim said...

Probably true. I and my stomach could buy out half the store.