Cast of characters








Clothing stoe woman













Fred pictured himself walking around the rotary then veering down the main street which eventually led to Good Lucky Apartments.





Within about 10 minutes he was at the rotary, which presently resembled a huge illuminated space ship.




Chuckling, Fred imagined the whole thing starting to spin and take off.





He’d been around this rotary numerous times but had been too busy to really soak up the sights.




The whole circular was lined with medium-sized buildings averaging four to six floors.





Each had a cluster of neon signs jutting from its face, their flashing and blunt, functional language competing for the many eyeballs looking up from below:








Bank – Foreign Exchange + 24 Hr ATM




Restaurant – Potato Soup.




Mrs Kim’s Piano School



Math and Science Cram School for High School Students




Singing Room – basement.




And yet another Coffee Shop.




One sign made Fred grin.





It was mounted on a brand new clothing store, which appeared on the verge of opening.




* What about the sign made Fred smile? *




Many signs incorporated English to be fashionable and this one used only the letter S in its logo. But it was backwards.




As Fred walked by with a smug smile he noticed a tireless, late-30s-ish woman inside the boutique frantically tidying and organizing stock.




That assbackwards S. Should I or shouldn’t I? Oh what the hell.




* What is Fred going to do? *




Fred tapped politely on the glass door.





The woman waved him off indicating the store wasn’t yet open. Fred threw up his arms in an I-know-that way, and tapped again.




* Will the woman let him in? *




Slightly hesitant, the woman put her head down and approached the door in a graceful, businesslike manner.





Turns out the door wasn’t even locked and she edged it open just enough to talk.




Clad head-to-toe in black (including a very short, black leather mini-skirt), Fred saw that she had a tough, battle-scarred visage smoothed over with a thick carpet of cosmetics.





Her obviously-dyed brunette hair was a steely, sculpted coif, molded by enough hairspray to warrant a “No Smoking within 5 Metres” warning.




Through the door crack, “Why?” she asked in a cold and neutral tone, which brutally suppressed her impatient and perturbed feeling.




Fred could read between the lines: Her part-time help hadn’t shown up (or possibly her husband; probably out with soju buddies); she was fed up doing all the tedious pre-shop-opening tasks solo; and in no mood to deal with an annoying foreigner.





(There were so many in town now!)




As Fred calmly and rationally tried to explain about the reversed S, he was surprised that she showed no concern. Had she understood him?




* Why do you think she is unconcerned? *




He alternatively tried to explain that the lithographic foul-up would damage her store’s credibility; that passersby would laugh at it and scorn entering the establishment.





This time, he could feel an impact on the hard-working and obviously seasoned entrepreneur.




For once, he felt proud to be a foreigner. These sorts of little things make it worthwhile coming to Korea.




She vigorously waved him off.




“No, no, no …” she said and launched into an explanation that the S was intentionally inverted and that this sign had won all kinds of graphics awards across Korea for its originality.





This particular store was merely a franchise, the woman explained.




The other branches in Seoul and various major Korean cities were blockbuster successes.




She’d waited months to get her franchise; had invested her life’s savings; lost her best friend in the process (that friend had also wanted this franchise); and every minute that she remained closed was costing her money.





“I’m very sorry,” she said, “but I am very busy. I have stress.”




“Ah, yeah…”




Fred bowed wholeheartedly and respectfully backed away with his tail between his legs, embarrassed as hell and feeling like a poster boy for the Dumb Foreigner.





The woman decisively clicked the door locked this time and disappeared inside.




The subliminal tension of the interchange had made Fred perspire, and again he thought of getting back to the sanctuary of his apartment and changing into a fresh T-shirt and boxers, relaxing on his comforter on the floor and reading Korea Herald before going to sleep.




Life in Korea was good. Uncomfortable as hell at times but … good.




* Will life stay mostly good for Fred in Korea? *








Tomorrow: Fred gets himself caught in a confusing fight.