Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Red Coat is the Coat on Fire

I know, most of you think of Katniss Everdeen as the Girl on Fire. But on Friday the 13th, my four year old, shapely red wool peacoat, complemented by me and a chintzy bit of Korean, was the Coat on Fire.

It always stuns me when I have had an article of clothing, be in shoes or a coat or a sweater, for a prolonged period of time, and then I have a day of compliments directed toward that old article. On the day before Valentine’s Day, this flurry of compliments might have had something to do with the color of my coat.

The evening of Friday the 13th started with a coworker, who honestly must have seen this coat 20 or 30 times by now, saying, “Oh. That’s a really nice coat,” like it was the first time he had ever seen it. I shook my head at this lack of observation skills, and said, “Thanks. It's 100% Korea.”

After work, I headed out to barbecue with one of my coworker turned friends, and proceeded to impress the new waiter at my regular barbecue place with my functional but limited Korean. I tend to have just enough of this language to get myself into a position where the other person assumes my Korean is a lot more extensive than it actually is.

At the end of the meal, when we went to the cash register to pay, and I communicated that we wanted to split the bill, the cashier looked at me and said, “Something something pretty something something.” I just looked at him with a question mark on my face. Previously at this barbecue place I have been told I am beautiful by the wait staff (maybe one of the reasons I keep going back), but this guy had never been involved. The question mark may have turned into a, “Really? That’s nice, but come on,” look.

He recovered quickly, and said the same phrase but gestured to my coat. Ah! Ok. Second compliment on a four-year-old coat in one day. This old girl (the coat) must be building some confidence and putting some swing in her skirt. Of course I said thank you in Korean as politely as I could muster under pressure, which mostly just includes the regular thank you and a slight bow.

On my way home, I decided to stop by the new 7-11 and grab a drink. It was still early, and it was my last Friday at work anyway. Why not celebrate? When I went to the cash register, the old man behind the counter went to grab a bag. I had a bag with me, so I told him in Korean, “It’s ok.” He looked at me a bit surprised, repeated the phrase I had said and kind of chuckled. Then told me how much my drinks were.

When he saw that I did not have to look at the numbers on the screen and was repeating the numbers in Korean to get correct change, he got a little flustered. He asked me in rapid fire Korean where I was from. This is a question I usually understand, so I knew the speed was a bit too fast because I did not understand. I told him, “I don’t know,” in Korean because I haven’t bothered to learn, “I don’t understand.” He said some of the few words he knew in English to communicate he wanted to know where I was from. This use of English probably increased his adrenaline. I did not have exact change. So I gave him 7,000 won for something that cost 6,800, and I told him in Korean that I was from America. He said something in an approving tone and went to grab my change. I could see his hands were visibly shaking, and then he tried to give me all my money back plus the change I was due. I shook my head, and that confused him. He then tried to give me a different amount. I finally told him as best I could, "I gave you 7,000 won" … really just "7,000 won" is all I know how to say in Korean. He understood. His wife, who had been standing by making sure her new employee did not mess up the till, shook her head at him and smiled at me. Then we all kind of laughed, and I walked out the door.

I could not help but wonder if it was more than just my fragmented Korean that threw him off. I wondered if my coat had been possessed somehow.

On my walk home, I laughed a bit more and was thankful that I had decided to go home rather than out on a night when I was wearing the Coat on Fire.

The Coat on Fire as it was in 2011.
The Coat on Fire as it is today.

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