Beep Beep

Seoul, South Korea 1997

A heavyset Edmontonian girl at the party convinced us to share a taxi with her down to the Hong-Ik area to go dancing. We went to one of the newer of several Western-style nightclubs with a full bar and without the exorbitant table charge for beer and fruit common at other Seoul area drinking establishments. Inside, the hip-hop thumped and the part Korean, part American crowd smoked, drank, and danced. We didn't last long there before we both decided it was time to head home.

We took the Green line to the bus exchange and the bus over the bridge back to the Green line (thus circumventing the Green Line portion that collapsed into the river), all the way to the Purple transfer. The last Purple had already gone so we decided to cross over to the market area where an old woman was cooking up fried egg sandwiches. Crossing at the same time was a beautiful young Korean girl whom I caught staring at JT. She didn't flinch, didn’t giggle and cover, didn’t even stop staring. She confidently scrutinized my woman-starved friend. She stopped just across the street and started to hail a taxi. At this late hour, the taxis are all full but drivers try to pick up solo riders to pocket the extra fare. However, finding a taxi that isn't full of people that also happens to be going where you want to go is a difficult prospect.

JT and I ordered one egg sandwich each as I told him how that girl had stared at him so. The old egg sandwich woman lightly buttered both pieces of bread, toasted them next to the frying eggs, and finished the process by sprinkling liberal amounts of sugar on the eggs and coating the bread with ketchup. I ordered mine without sugar or ketchup, and, at JT's bidding, went over to spark up some conversation with the girl. I asked if she was trying to catch a taxi to her boyfriend's house. She said she didn't have a boyfriend. I pointed at JT and told her my friend thought she was cute. She looked at him and waved. He came over with two egg sandwiches and stood next to her with that cheesy tooth-filled grin of his. Through me he asked her name. "김 보연," she said. JT turned to me and told me to get her beep-beep. Young hip Koreans all have pagers because they get can in trouble when their friends of the opposite sex call them at home. With a pager they can take calls whenever and return the calls without fear of parental interference. I asked for her beep-beep and without a word she tore a page out of her planner and wrote her name followed by her pager number. JT grabbed it and looked, it was a 015 number--one of two prefixes that all pagers use. He smiled at her and said "친구." A taxi pulled up and she yelled "영등포" into the window. "Ride," the driver said. Off she went.

Next day, JT still smiling at the prospect of getting carnal, beep-beeped 보연. After dialing it twice without getting the prompt to enter a message or number, he dialed again and handed the phone to me, "Tell me what this says." A woman's voice, monotonous like a recorded operator, told me in Korean that this number had been disconnected or was no longer in service. I broke the bad news to JT. "Faked," he said sadly and took the scrap of paper with her name and number on it and placed it on his desk under the glass top with other souvenirs of his world travels.


Anonymous said...

I am a Korean-American who reads these expat blogs every so often because I wonder what life is like living in Korea (road not taken by my parents). I must say, this is unlike any of the other blogs I've read, and it is very very entertaining. Teaching in Korea in 1987? You, sir, are a pioneer.

White Rice said...

Thanks for reading and commenting. Funny how the teachers now grapple with many of the same issues I did back in 87. My stint in 97 ended up being very significant in my life so please keep reading.