neighborhood fried chicken joint. And it’s not just in the neighborhood, it is literally next door to my apartment. Side Note: On my second day, I announced to my boyfriend that I would be losing weight because everything was so much healthier here. He laughed and said that wasn’t going to happen as long as I lived across from Dunkin’ Donuts. His comment was strangely prescient, considering he didn’t know that I was next door to a fried chicken joint. And a few doors down from “Lotteria” – Korea’s version of McDonalds.
And, back to the chicken story. Not much of a story except that I saw fried chicken in the window (they have a pile of it), I craved it (Bathsheba?), and noticed that there were young Koreans in charge of the place. Young people! Finally I would communicate with one of theoneswhosupposedlyspeakEnglishbecausethey’vebeenlearningsinceamuchyoungeragethantheoldergeneration. Nope. Whoever tells you that is lying. These young people couldn’t even respond to my “Do you speak English?” question, which is something that you should be able to guess at. I know I know, it’s their country, I should learn some of their language. But English is the lingua franca – it’s the new Latin (educated people everywhere speak it, not just Roman citizens), etc. etc. etc. OK, no really, I’m not a cultural imperialist; I’m just bummed that I alienated the neighborhood fried chicken joint.
After establishing that we had, in fact, no common language other than our youthful good looks, I began an elaborate mime of what I wanted – pointing at the pile of chicken and holding up two fingers.
“Two.” I smiled. This is how I say please because I’m scared to pronounce “Joosayak”.
“Two #$%$*&^%$ ?” One of the (young!) guys behind the counter said. No, he was not swearing. It was a complicated Korean word that I hoped meant chicken.
“Ummm. Two pieces?” I tried. At this point a younger girlwhocouldalsospeaknoenglish came over and helped add to the confusion.
“Two @#$#!%$%(^*$()@?” she asked.
I pointed at the chicken (about three feet away), jabbing the air twice. Two pieces of chicken.
They conversed amongst themselves. I decided we had communicated well. He pulled out a few pieces of chicken to put in the deep fryer. And a few more. And more. 16. There was only one other customer whose chicken was already cooking.
“Oh! I just want two pieces!” I tried to find a cheap price on the menu. “What is that?” This, apparently, was not a phrase they had learned in the excessiveEnglishclassestheyhadbeentakingsincetheyweresix. I pointed again at the photo of chicken pieces on the menu. “Two.”
She nodded. “Two pieces.” She was typical Korean cute with her shiny dark hair (I haven’t seen anyone with thin or frizzy hair here), and black mini skirt. Ladies, it’s winter. I was freezing in my jeans, undershirt, shirt, sweater, and jacket. Baring your legs is ridiculous. (Yes, I’ve done the same thing – started dressing for Spring way too early thinking that it’ll spur things along. It doesn’t.)
“Yes! Two pieces!” I cover up all the chicken pieces in the photo except for two. This throws her.
“#$$%(*)()# )@#$@#* ($*%$%#( ($#*%(#$%*” I’m not sure why she keeps speaking Korean to me when it’s obvious I don’t know any. Probably the same reason I keep speaking English with her. We like to make our noises.
It finally becomes apparent that I don’t want two boxes of eight pieces (??!!), but simply two pieces. They show me their box sizes – they only go down to four, and I willingly accept the compromise. They are left with 12 freshly fried pieces. I apologize several times (does it count if they don’t understand?) Happily, two new customers walk in and a few of the pieces are sold as I am paying. (The dude behind the counter is a bit passive-aggressive and serves them/accepts their money first.)
Yes. So now I’m not sure how welcome I am at my neighborhood fried chicken joint. The problem with being the only white person in my neighborhood is that when I make mistakes, I will be recognized.