I am very impressed by the customer service of the stores I frequent in Korea. However, one couple’s help was so far above and beyond a shopkeeper’s reasonable responsibility that it warped my mental scheme of kindness.
When I moved into my apartment, I discovered that my toilet tank refilled at a sloth-like pace. I could dedicate a whole post to my toilet troubles Korea (I won’t though. I have (a little bit) more class than that). In short, sometimes my use of the bathroom requires consecutive flushes. Ten minutes is far too long to wait. I have things to do.
My toilet troubleshooting began at a hardware store across the street from my apartment. I purchased a short length of hose. In my apartment, I pinched one end of the hose against my faucet and put the other end in the tank. It cut refill time 10-fold at the cost of soaked clothes. The hose had no seal with the faucet head and water often sprayed.
“There has to be an easier way,” I thought.
A week later, I returned to the store. At this point, both shopkeepers (a man and a woman) knew my face. I’m sure it’s because I am a well-mannered and pleasant customer and has nothing to do with being a foreigner. Anyways, he noticed me fumbling with plumbing accessories. I searched for a hose connector that would widen one end and allow a better seal with the faucet.
The woman approached me and began chatting me up in Korean. I had no idea what she was saying. I simply smiled and said “nay,” (yes) without any understanding of what I was agreeing to. I also injected the word “hwa-jang-shil” (bathroom) for good measure. We equally confused each other.
She pointed across the street at my building. She must have known where I live. I don’t know how I feel about that. She gestured me into the street.
I couldn’t believe what was happening. She volunteered to walk into my apartment to see my situation. This was only the beginning.
At my apartment, I ditched the language barrier and elected to show my problem in real-time. I flushed the toilet, grabbed the hose, pinched it to the faucet, and refilled the tank. She stifled a laugh and pulled out her phone. She spoke Korean into the phone with an incredulous look on her face, like it was the first time she saw someone use sink water to refill a toilet tank. On one hand, I was proud that I was her first. On the other, I felt like an idiot. I didn’t care though. She was helping me. I was thrilled.
She handed the phone to me. The man spoke decent English.
“You’re using the sink to refill the toilet?”
“Yes. The toilet is slow.”
“Yeah, don’t do that. Hand the phone back.”
I obeyed, dumbstruck at what was happening. The woman spoke in Korean for another few minutes, hung up, took two pictures of my water valves, and ushered me back to the store.
She rummaged through the plumbing section and pulled out several apparatuses. As a highly unskilled handyman, I am qualified to identify these pieces. She showed me a “connector-thingy”, a “hose turner-onner”, a “boa-constrictor-ring”, a “metal-toilet-water-snake”, and a “valve-in-the-bathroom-that-I-rush-to-turn-off-whenever-I-plug-the-toilet-and-it’s-about-to-overflow”.
She assembled these pieces and told me (in Korean) that this was what I needed install in my bathroom (I mean I assume; I have no idea what she actually said). She pointed to my phone and said, “po-to.” I understood and took a picture of her impressive handiwork.
I thought that was the end of it. I asked my co-teacher to ask my landlord to shut off my water so I could perform the repair. She said the landlord would drop by. He never showed.
“Screw it,” I thought, “I’ll do it myself.”
The next day, I mosied back into the hardware store to buy a wrench.
The woman assembled this little dandy on the spot. I envy her handiness.
Oh, Korea! Why must your signs overwhelm my cuteness circuits?
Sweet, beautiful, sloppy Halloween romance.
I saw this at the Ganjin bus terminal at 6:30 A.M. These guys are dedicated.
It is hard to tell from this angle, but there are two 7 Elevens no more than 100 meters apart. The spacing of convenience stores in this country is unreal.