The Korean woman behind the tailor counter in Spring, TX, seemed jovial and happy to see me. I should’ve known it was the large pile of clothes in my arms that had her grinning from ear to ear, and not my cute, Hollywood handsome face.
When I asked her what the charge would be to hem the 9 pairs of pants, she could barely string two English words together. I explained carefully what I needed, enunciating my words slowly, and she nodded in complete understanding. The price was not a factor and I walked away pleased with my new Korean/English negotiation skills.
The day went off without a hitch and after accomplishing all of my other tasks I danced into ALTERATIONS EXPRESS to pay the $35.00 tab. To my utter amazement, the frail old Korean woman behind the counter had morphed into some sort of superhuman business dragon lady! This woman who couldn’t speak a lick of english this morning was now sounding like an Asian version of Mark Twain as she riddled off an itemized list of poetic sounding prices for the simple hem job we had agreed to earlier. Who was this female creature looming over me, and what happened to my old feeble Korean shop keeper I had come to like?
A simple business arrangement in broken english had now become a fierce power negotiation the likes of which Mark Cuban would be proud of!
This English-Professor-Dragon-Business-Slayer had my pants locked up behind the counter, and was holding them hostage for the new price of $202.35. She had turned the tables and it was now ME who didn’t understand English… WHAT?!? My head was spinning and my options were grim at best: A., I go to work in just my boxer shorts and black socks… B., I use the “finger hidden in my pocket” scam and strong-arm my pants back… Or C., I pay the exorbitant ransom and get my pants back so that I can begin working my way out of this financial hole dug by this tailor terrorist.
Yes, with the worst case of reluctance I’ve ever experienced in my life, I chose option C, emptied my wallet and bonded my pants out of Korean jail. And as I angrily made my way to the car, my feelings for what just occured were ambivalent. I wanted to feel happy that my pants made parole, but the con job administered upon me by a little old Korean lady turned Business Dragon had me bewildered! I drove home almost impressed by her masterful skills of deception. And that’s when it dawned on me: It had been a very long day, American backed Foreign Capitalism had won again, and I needed a drink… A tall, cold mug of Non-Korean, pure American English stronger-than-hell Liquor.
Tomorrow I will purchase the book, “Korean English for Dummies. ” Is that what it will take to keep my pants from becoming Korean prisoners of tailored war? Here is the moral of this Texas story:
Don’t do business with ALTERATIONS EXPRESS unless you are as rich as Bill Gates, and can speak “Korenglish” like Genghis Khan.