When I first met Mike the Gay Albino, I told him that I didn’t have an alarm clock.
I said, “I forgot to bring mine from the States. Would you mind waking me up until I purchase one at the store?”
He said, “How long is that going to be?”
“As soon as possible. I’m usually up with the sun anyway. But let’s help each other out. If you oversleep, I’ll give you a friendly nudge and vice versa.”
“I’ve never overslept in my entire life.”
“Well, that’s great. However, shit happens. It’s nice to have a friend while working in a strange land.”
He reluctantly agreed.
I bring this up because it was 1997, and I was staring in disbelief at my watch. Mike and I had a morning class at Wulpyung Middle School, and we usually caught a taxi together to the location. I must have pissed him off because he hadn’t given me a friendly nudge, choosing instead to let me sleep off the previous night’s debauchery.
I didn’t have time for a shower. So I quickly threw on some dirty clothes and raced downstairs to the nearest taxi stand. I was still half drunk and reeked of soju.
I found Mike on the side of the road. He was trying like the devil to hail a ride, but none of the cabs were stopping for him.
I said, “Good morning.”
He refused to acknowledge me. Instead, he just kept waving and waving at passing cars.
Finally, Mike turned his grim visage in my direction. “The motherfuckers won’t stop for me. This happens every goddamn time. It’s because I’m an albino. They think I’m bad luck. Fucking racist trash.”
“They’re probably just busy. I’m sure it has nothing to do with your affliction.”
“Affliction? I don’t’ have an affliction. I would call it more of a condition.”
“You’re right. Affliction is too strong a word.”
“Would you mind trying your luck?”
I hailed the next passing taxi, and it pulled over right away.
Mike shot me a sour look, and I shrugged my shoulders defensively. “Just luck, I suppose.”
As the vehicle sped along to our destination, the angry albino delivered a stern warning.
He said, “You really made an ass of yourself last night with Linda.”
“You’re right. But I certainly meant no harm.”
“You woke everybody up—including me. And now you smell like a booze hound. Your lack of sobriety is embarrassing. You’re supposed to be a teacher.”
“What can I say? I'm as guilty as sin.”
“You should have just stayed home and slept it off. I was doing you a favor. If this were America, you’d be fired immediately.”
Gay Mike was speaking the gospel truth. I felt awful about the whole situation. And now I was coming to work in a drunken condition.
To make matters worse, my Korean co-teacher immediately smelled the liquor on my breath as soon as I entered the classroom.
She said, “You stinky. Here. Eat dis candy. It made of ginseng. Will hide you nasty odor.”
“I feel so ashamed.”
“I drank too much.”
“So what? All men in Kolea worship alcohol. We nation of dwunkards. It not big deal. Just rerax.”
“But I’m a teacher.”
She shrugged her shoulders. “All teacha in Kolea ruv soju—especially da men. You no different. You man. Soon you will be vely popular teacha. How many bottle you dwink?”
“Wow. Dat wonderful. You stlong man. Vely stlong.”
Later that day, I talked to Scotty the manager.
He said, “Mr. Song wants to speak to you.”
“He heard about your little drinking escapade from the others. They don’t like you much.”
“Is he angry?”
“Is he going to fire me?”
Scotty chuckled. “Fire you? You’ve got it all wrong. He wants to get drunk with you. He’s a hopeless alcoholic, too. Me and David are also coming along. We don't want to miss the fun.”
So all four of us went to a soju house and got drunk off our asses. We had a great time.