It’s Happened Before, It’ll Happen Again

I’m at work yesterday and I find that a document that’s been sent to me from another department is missing it’s ID number.  I am told to call the lead person on the document, Kim Mu-myeong and ask for the number.  Since for whatever reason I still don’t have the phone (the one logistic blind spot my company has, it would appear) I have to go ‘over the wall’ so to speak and borrow my neighbor’s phone.

Now I’ve made a conscious decision not to speak Korean at work to anyone I don’t have to.  I dial the number and a younger female voice answers, indicating I’ve reached a secretary.

‘여보세요?’

‘Hi, this is Joe Mondello from the Department of Lollipops and Rainbows.  Can I speak to Kim Mu-myeong please?’

‘. . . ‘

Then I hear ‘on-hold’ music.  Then the music stops and I hear a man say ‘uh . . .’ followed by much more on hold music.  It sounds like the phone is transferred one more time.  Finally I hear another woman’s voice.

‘요보세요?’

‘Hi, this is Joe Mondello from the Department of Lollipops and Rainbows.  Can I speak to Kim Mu-myeong please?’

‘. . . I’m sorry, who?’  There seems to be a weird echo on the phone, as I can hear her voice once in the handset and once in my other ear from far away.

‘Is this the Department of Romantic Entanglements?’

‘. . . No, I’m sorry, wrong number.’  It still sounds like the voice is coming from nearby and far away at the same time.  I poke my head out of my cube and look around.

A woman  five rows down is standing up with a phone in her hand.  She looks at me.  ‘Joe, is that you?’

I marvel.  the man was so afraid to talk to me that he transferred me to my own department, apparently assuming that they would be able to put someone on the case who could  speak Korean.

Undeterred, I called back. I got the same secretary as the first time.

‘Hi, this is Joe Mondello from the Department of Lollipops and Rainbows.  Can I speak to Kim Mu-myeong please?’

‘. . . No at office.’

‘Can I speak to Kim Mu-myeong please?  Is this his number?’

‘No at office.’

‘I’m actually calling for the ID number for the document he sent to me.  The ID number.  ID NUMBER.’

‘ . . . ID number?’ I hear her conferring with a man.  ‘one one one jero seben pour pour sree.’

‘Thank you.’  I had gotten what I wanted.

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~ by Joshing on May 21, 2008.

5 Responses to “It’s Happened Before, It’ll Happen Again”

  1. you’re so fucking hilarious
    seriously , you are
    any place they do standup in seoul?
    u shld do an HBO special

  2. lollipops and rainbows? romantic entanglements? any chance I can apply at your office? I happen to have a lot of experience in babies’ laughter and fairy counter-hexes.

  3. Now I’ve made a conscious decision not to speak Korean at work to anyone I don’t have to.

    It’d be great practice, wouldn’t it? And you might find someone to talk about Famous Chili Princesses with.

  4. Robo,
    Sounds like you’d be a perfect fit in the department of wide-eyed glee.

    Noumenon,
    I get plenty of chances to practice Korean and the people that I don’t speak Korean to can still talk about the Chil Princesses in English. The fact is that it’s not the sort of thing that has the intended effect that you might hope. Knowing Korean and Korean culture can only get you so far. Speaking Korean won’t get you much further if it’s unnecessary. I still speak Korean to those that prefer to, and when I can’t make myself understood in English, and of course when people spontaneously come out with Korean I respond in kind. What I don’t do is go out of my way to make my office a Korean only zone. It’s actually a pretty complicated issue but I sort of suspect that everyone is happy with the balance I’ve struck (i.e. if everyone is gathered around I speak Korean and so do they, one on one it depends on the person, but I only speak English to my bosses, because a) their English is better than my Korean and b) the work we’re doing is in English).

  5. awesome post!

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