How Do You Say…

Do you remember that one Seinfeld episode where George discovers that if he’s eating something while having a conversation with someone, he comes off as cool and casual? That really stuck with me.

For me, it’s coffee. When I’m meeting with new people, I feel just a little bit naked without it. When I’m oh-so-cooly sipping on my latte, I imagine myself to be a young Ernest Hemingway; I transform myself into the untouchable urbanite. My armor, black, no cream or sugar.

So in most new social situations (i.e. dates, job interviews, etc.) I find myself dipping into a Starbucks first, almost like a prize fighter psyching himself up for battle.

Like tonight, I had my first Korean class, and for whatever reason I was nervous–butterflies on your first day of school sort of thing. I think it’s to do with the fact that I had to dust off my Korean which has mold growing on it from lack of use. As anyone who’s forced to speak a language they’re uncomfortable with can attest, it’s a pride-swallowing, unnerving experience to have to speak it in front of strangers. In other words, if I’m going in…I’m going in Venti.

As it turned out, they placed me in the wrong class for this week. Instead of Intermediate Native, they put me in Intermediate Non-Native which meant that for today, at least, I was a god among mortals. The teacher would ask the class (in Korean):

Class, what’s the word that you use for someone who is senior to you?

(Silence)

Chris?

Sun-bae!

Correct! Class, how about someone who is your junior? 

(Silence)

Come on…we learned this! Anyone?…ok, Chris do you know?

Who-bae!

Right again!

Now look, I KNOW I really have no right to feel all superior. I’m the only Korean in the class…But honestly, this is how I felt inside:

Let me tell you….I was a Straight. Up. Boss. For the first time in my life, I was the smartest kid in class…the teacher’s escape valve when she was looking for someone to answer. I’VE ALWAYS WANTED TO BE THAT GUY.

Now that I had it, though, I wasn’t about to relinquish it, you know? This ended up putting me in a difficult spot, this…maintaining my aura of genius. The Venti coffee caught up to me pretty quick and for the life of me, I couldn’t remember the proper way to ask the teacher’s permission to go to the restroom. To make matters worse, the class ended up being 2 and a half hours long and toward the end of it, my focus had shifted entirely to devising discreet ways of peeing into my now empty Venti cup.

Despite this, I held on. Like. A. Boss. I would not shame myself or risk my newly-minted reputation as  Mr. Korea to bumble my way through something as basic as asking to go to the bathroom. I just wouldn’t let it happen.

Mercifully, the teacher wrapped up. Do you have any questions, class?

Just one.

How do you say, My urinary tract infection was totally worth it?

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