After half-craning my neck to see through the throngs of college students, it became clear that she simply wasn’t there. Yet again. Usually she can be spotted amid the crowds of scholars from the sheer fact that everyone else lining the crosswalk behind Chonnam University wears the unofficial youth uniform of horizontal blue- and white-striped French sailor T-shirts. She’d stand out like a black mamba among this patchwork of Greek flags, if she were only there.
Whatever happened to Chatty Kathy? I haven’t seen her all year. Why does the world just open up and swallow the most interesting ones whole like this all the time? Did the shop owners finally contact her handlers and have her swept off the streets? Is she hawking fliers now? Has she been committed? God forbid. I never got around to buying her that bluetooth so she could blend in better. The navel-gazing tailspin I got into while falling off the hagwon carousel must have distracted me from reaching out to ole chatterbox. Ruminating over the loss, I tongued the ridged roof of my mouth and came away with a synesthetic taste of regret.
The idling pedestrians began to shuffle knowingly before the imminent light change. My mind was going back and forth between the sudden disappearance of Chatty Kathy and the painfully long goodbye with Mr. Dollar Bills. Why does my life intersect with these people? Is it more than just chance? Is there a reason? I wondered this with my eyes fixated on a K-girl’s college ass. Then the light changed, though my eyes stayed fixed.
Before bodies could pour into the street—C R A S H !—a black sedan smashed into an idle taxi two meters in front of me. The sound was so loud and so abrupt that I was jolted from a peaceful, ass-tinted daydream to fearful shock. When it was all over, the pedestrians spilled into the street timidly, whispering and looking on with trepidation. I stayed behind and watched the smoke rise from under both hoods as though in a trance. And then, standing there completely absorbed and entirely unemployed, an afflatus washed over me. Suddenly I knew what career was right for me and exactly how to go about getting it.
Instead of trying my luck at another slagwon, I decided to print up fliers with fringes bearing my phone number and this simple message written in both English and Korean:
Relieve your stress by insulting faceless inferiors. Call the number below to schedule an appointment with your own personal underling and let him have it in either English or Korean!
With so much shit shoveled downstream in this society, I figured I’d cut through the fluff and get to the heart of what people crave: making up for their own impotence by unloading on those beneath them. Customers get charged 100,000 won to insult me for as many as ten 15-minute sessions a month. As stated, the indignities can be hurled in either English or Korean, and I make house calls 24/7 so long as they’re scheduled a day in advance.
My clients are mostly middle-cog salarymen, bitter, menopausal housewives and suicidal adolescents whose parents want them to blow off steam in a semi-educational context. Because I’m a native English speaker. Clients tell me that others have caught on and are now providing similar services, but that there’s novelty in dishing it out to a handsome white foreigner who makes house calls. The tendency toward shameless business-model plagiarism is tremendous in Korea, so I’m very sensitive to competitors. I must stay ahead of the curve or else I’ll have to go back to classrooms where I get the same insults but none of the flexibility in scheduling that private sessions provide.
To stay on top of things, customers who renew get to add insult to injury and beat me lightly on the third session of every month—just not in the face and not in the groin. Ajeossis love this service. Sometimes they get drunk and tell me to meet them outside the love motels where they wait for their escort girls to get delivered on the backs of scooters. They like to beat me a little in front of the girl when she comes rolling up to show her what ajeossis are made of. I don’t mind. At the hagwon I’d get humiliation like this from ten students at once, six times a day, and then again from my coworkers and boss between classes, so it’s actually more than a dozen times less shameful this way.