I've become used to routinely receiving what is called "서비스" (pronounced soh-bee-su, referring to our "Service") at a wide variety of locations. It just means free stuff because you're a valued customer, or perhaps because you're hilarious and your Korean is awesome. Restaurants that I visit every so often usually give me a free bottle of coke, which I drink out of politeness even though I don't really like it; the ladies at the restaurant I visit most often give me dumplings, desert beverages, energy drinks, and homemade food that's not on the restaurant menu; and my favorite fruit seller often stops me and just gives me some peaches. That's all quite nice and enjoyable.
This doesn't really tie in as well as I was hoping it would, but anyway, I received a very odd sort of freebie yesterday. I was with my friend Eric walking his dog before going out to dinner. We ran into a middle-aged lady who also had a dog, and so when they (that is, the dogs) started sniffing each other she started asking us some questions. In Korean. Here's a transcript, as best as I can remember it. There's a bit of fudging but not too much...
Ajumma (Korean word for "Auntie;" general term for a married woman): Do you know how to speak korean?
Me: Yeah, I can.
A: Oh wow, you speak really well! [After I had said a total of 4 words]. How many years have you been here?
M: 9 months.
A: Wow, that's really good. Where are you two from?
M: He's Canadian, I'm American.
A: American? My daughter is studying abroad in New York right now.
M: Really? That must be nice.
A: She's back here for vacation right now though.
M: So she's here in Korea?
A: That's right. How old are you?
M: I'm 24. [I didn't answer about my friend, he's a bit older]
A: Oh, my daughter too. Wow! What are you doing now?
M: We're going to dinner.
A: I see, can I give you my daughter's phone number? I'm sure she would like to meet you.
M: I don't have my phone with me now. Can I give you my number?
A: I don't have my phone either.
M: Do you have a pen?
A: No. Where are you going with the dog?
M: We're just going like this (gesture to our path).
A: Ok, we live in that complex, number 101. [Points to a building on our route]. Meet me there in a few minutes.
M: Uh, ok.
...we walk to the apartment and I explain to Eric what's happening. The dog still hasn't pooped so he doesn't mind the extended walk. under the apartment, we meet the Ajumma again. In her hands she has what might be described as a dossier of pictures she had apparently just printed out from the computer. I know because paper was moist and limp.
A: (Flipping through the dossier) This is my daughter.
M: OK. (Trying not to give any indication about whether I not I think she's cute.) (She's kind of cute in some of the pictures though.)
A: (Takes one out and flips it over, scribbling). Here's her name and phone number.
M: Alright, thanks. I'm busy tonight but I'll call later.
A: Can I have your number too?
M: Yeah, sure...(number given)
A: Maybe next weekend we can all walk our dogs together or get food.
M: Uhhhhhh ok. Nice meeting you. (Awkward inverted left-handed shake because she had the leash in her other hand). I'll call later.
Then Eric and I finished walking the dog, went to eat, and received a free soda from the restaurant.
Then, this morning, I was going to put the new number into my phone, but it turns out I can hardly read these numbers. I'm pretty sure the one that looks like a P is a 9 (koreans do that sometimes), but there's one that just looks like ㅏ. I have no idea what the meaning is. So now I either have to just wait for a call (and break my promise) or confess all this stuff to my bosses, who will tease me for at least the rest of the day. Of course, they read the blog too, so maybe by the time I get to work they'll already have some mockery prepared.