What Else Can I Say?
Words and pictures by CG Fewston
I turned back to the scene that I knew must still be going on and it felt like watching television through a window. But by this time the pisser was now slapping the car owner over the head and I did not feel at all like getting involved. Most Koreans stay out of conflict and will often step around a man who lies drunk on the sidewalk or ignore the screams of a woman on the street. You kept to your own business and that was fine.
I looked away and drank some more beer. My coat was on the back of the high stool and I did not feel like putting it on and going back out in the cold.
I yelled out to the waitress, ''Yo-bo-seyo!'' which simply put means, ''Hey, you! Over there!'' and the waitress came and I ordered another mug of beer. She nodded and by then knew my routine. You could also yell ''juh-gee-oh'' but I felt that yelling ''Hey, you! Get over here!'' was a bit rough. The best way was to push the button that every table had and when you did this it would ring in the kitchen area and you could hear it all through the place. Sometimes it got so busy that the waitress ignored the ring and waited for you to
I finished the beer in my mug and turned to look out the window again. The pisser and the car owner by now were on the sidewalk and were still at it. The pisser was really thrashing the car owner and the car owner was crouched over with his hands over his head. I think the car owner refused to hit the pisser because the pisser was older than he was and one must show respect to elders. But to me that didn't make sense and there was
also the issue of social classes. But for whatever reason the car owner took the beating and refused to stop it from happening.
I looked away and back inside the hof to check if others were seeing what I was seeing. I was still a little surprised at Korean behavior at that time, something I would later lose, but even then no one was paying attention. If they saw, no one looked out the window. I turned back to the beating and now there was an old woman who had her purse strung over one elbow and with her free hand was waving and screaming. You didn't need to know Korean to know that she was yelling for help. I watched unamused as several
passers-by ignored her call.
The pisser by then, feeling good I imagine, was really laying it into the car owner. And only the woman did anything, which wasn't much to prevent the hits to the man's head. I got up without thinking, less angry than I was at having been put off my cozy mood, but I couldn't sit by and watch any more of it.
I walked without rushing out the front doors which led to some steps. I dropped off these and crossed the street. By now it was ten at night and there was a little traffic but no one stopped to watch. Not like the way people do in Vietnam. Crowds of men and women in Saigon would have attended this showing and provided a beat down of their own. But here in Korea no one did anything. ''Leave it alone'' might have been a good motto, but I wasn't having it on that night. By that point, I no longer cared about culture.
The woman screamed at me and pointed to the pisser, who wore an army green coat and looked to be in his sixties. I rushed up without a word and grabbed the pisser by his coat and pushed him back to a wall. I had a firm hold of him and he tried to free himself but when he did I gave him a hard push back against the wall. He wasn't going anywhere and he knew it.
''What!'' I yelled into his face, ''What!''
The pisser jabbered broken Korean. The car owner stood over my shoulder and yelled at the pisser in profuse Korean. The old woman watched on in stunned silence.
After a minute, I saw the pisser fumbling with his dentures and he began acting like he was the victim. He had no more energy and the man who minutes before acted as a champion over the car owner now appeared broken and fragile. He wanted sympathy from me and he acted his part.
I let him go but stood between the pisser and the car owner. I told them to talk and not hit and had my arm between them. The car owner was angry and was really yelling at the pisser. The pisser's hands shook and you could see he was old and cold and alone and not in his right mind. The old woman looked at me with great big eyes filled with shock and what looked to me like terror. A few others were now gathering around, most likely because I was a foreigner, and when foreigners are involved it is fine to stop and stare.
That showed me it was time to leave.
The two men were still arguing when I left. I walked back across the street and back into the hof. I figured no one was watching and I didn't care any way. It all made me sick. People make me sick sometimes and that is why I like being alone. I had forgotten my coat and as I walked in I thought now of the waitress and how she
must have thought I walked out without paying. I figured she knew me and didn't have to worry.
But when I stepped back into the hof, the room burst into unexpected applause. Every person at every table was turned to me and they were clapping. I had never seen such a sight in South Korea where you are taught to become invisible.
I raised my hand to quiet them, my head was down, and I walked back to my table where a fresh beer was waiting for me. I sat and drank in silence and they all, including the waitress, left me alone to my thoughts.
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