Most words that end in ‘ism’ are really bad. Racism. Alcoholism. Terrorism. Sadism. Masochism.
A couple weeks ago, my school informed me that all teachers in Seoul had to attend a mandatory training that would be held on a Saturday morning at 9 AM. “I can do it!” I told myself, in a ‘go get ‘em’ kind of way. Last year the idea of making an early Saturday morning training would’ve seemed as hopeless as trying to get a dog to pee without raising its leg. Why would anyone want a dog to pee without lifting its leg, you ask? Well, why would I want to go to a training on Saturday morning?
“Because,” my conscience told me, “you are an adult with a good job and you have to be professional.” I tried to tell my conscience that I am professional most of the time and that it isn’t fair for my job to expect weekend professionalism as well. One can’t argue with the conscience though; it can either be ignored or listened to. I chose to listen this time. “Be a good and responsible employee,” it said, “and get to that training at nine…please.”
To do that, it probably would have been smart to stay home Friday night…and I would’ve…but it was TTD’s birthday and everyone was going to be out. So I trekked down to Incheon, firmly believing that I could show face, have a few drinks, and call it an early night. Easy, simple, and responsible. Adult. Hard-working. That 53% guy would’ve been proud, cause this whiner was suckin’ it up!
But unfortunately, as I’ve learned quite a few times in the past, my conscience tends to lose interest in doing its job. Without going into detail, let’s just say Friday got a little wild and I woke up Saturday morning in a place I’d never been before, twenty minutes prior to the start of the training (it would take about an hour to get there).
“Oh no!” I said to myself. I texted my boss and jumped in a cab. I reeked of cigarette smoke and was still in the same clothes I wore to school the day before. After the hour long cab ride into Seoul, the idiot cabbie got lost and suddenly we were driving around and around Insadong. We went by all the little shops and the Palace. It was like a sightseeing tour. Or a date. The guy got so lost that he turned the meter off. By this time, I was two hours late for the training.
I started texting my boss and doing some serious apologizing. I didn’t make any excuses and took the blame. The cabbie pulled into a vacant alleyway and turned to me. “I don’t know,” he said. I wanted to cry.
“Where are we?” I wondered out loud, defeated. I wasn’t even angry, just desperate. “Where am I supposed to go…there’s nothing here….”
In response, he drove back onto the street and let me off there. Miraculously, I was able to find the building where the training was. It was scheduled to end at1:00. The current time was11:15.
“I’m so sorry!” I shouted to my boss when I saw him.
“Look at you,” he said, putting his arm around me. “You drank too much last night!”
I tried to explain that I really didn’t drink that much (lies!) and that I shouldn’t have stayed in Incheon and my phone alarm didn’t go off (or maybe I slept through it). “Why didn’t you tell me you were in Incheon?” he asked. “I would’ve said to you ‘Stay there.’ The training is not that important.”
If I had a gun, I would’ve shot myself. “Why do you make life so hard for yourself?” I thought. “Why does everything have to be a fucking adventure?” My boss and I drank a cup of coffee together and then I went inside for the last hour or so of the training.
Stepping into the auditorium, I looked out over the sea of foreign teachers in Seoul. Some turned their heads and looked at me. I sat down quickly.
“Fuck,” I said to myself. “I’m that guy.” In Korea, there is a stereotype that the Western teachers are all immature lushes, here to party and try to pick up Korean girls. In an auditorium full of my peers, I was the one who stumbled in late, unshaven, and disgusting. I was the stereotype. It was humiliating and it sucked.
A lecturer spoke for another hour, and then the people who organized the training had a big raffle. I sank down in my seat and prayed that I wouldn’t win anything.