Monday, April 20, 2009

At the Coffee Shop

After a Saturday presentation I got a few phone calls and more than a few requests for coffee dates where people could further pick my brain about my areas of expertise. Being busy I've turned more than a few down but the ones who have kept coming begging me forced my hand so I finally relented to a coffee date slash assessment cram session.

Before leaving my apartment I made a hot pink t-shirt (when I say hot pink I mean not only to imply that I looked hot in said t-shirt, but that the color of the t-shirt was indeed hot pink) fancied myself up a bit for the day that was shaping up spring lovely and finally jaunted down the stairs, to the street and through the blooming park towards the Starbucks downtown.

I admit, I'm not a huge fan of Starbucks coffee. Indeed I think it's overcooked, overpriced, and overexposed. However it is at the same time a taste of America that I crave and so I tend to drink it a lot more than I probably would were I actually in the US. I waited outside with a book and an espresso frappuccino with the smallest amount of sugar possible for the coffee date to arrive. The cafe itself was so crowded with Koreans that there was not a table to be had inside. I'd rather not sit on the street as the staring tires me or angers me after a while but was left with no choice. I figure my sunglasses are dark enough that I don't have to worry about it.

Koreans hate dark sunglasses. There is almost a rule about sunglasses in Korea that if you are going to where them they must be dainty and lightly colored barely tinted discard-able little pieces of plastic. You must be able to see the eyes of the wearer. There are no mirrored glasses or dark lens here. No, instead you have a bunch of Bono inspired emasculating emulations that do little block sun. Fashion statements, you see. This is why I buy all my sunglasses in other countries and a prerequisite before purchase is not only that no one can see the whites of my eyes, but further when I put them on I should barely be able to see anything out of them. I want glasses so dark I walk into things on the street. Block out the sun is the least of my concerns, I want to block out supernovas and atomic explosions. If I go tomorrow I want the sunglasses to perserve my eyeballs so that future generations will think "Damn that was some pair of sunglasses."

So I sat under the small awning of Starbucks reading my book with my dark sunglasses perched up and waited for the fellow who practically groveled to get me to come out and consult with him about his program for free on Saturday. The outdoor table had not been cleaned so there were some left over magazines and a couple of open cans of drink but this did not overly bother me. Eventually the happy fellow showed up, procured a water and we commenced with the pleasant small talk that proceeds the consult.

As we were talking a Korean rolls past. From his coat, his unkempt hair, and his general smell I could tell he was a vagrant. I don't hold this against him at all, it's hard to be a vagrant in Korea. He stood at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the Starbucks and stared at me and water drinker as we discussed the finer points of performance assessment. I put it out of my mind, letting my sunglasses do the work of blocking it out.

However he was not to be so easily dissuaded. Up the stairs he walked to stand over us, giving us an olfactory treat on the pleasantly warm spring afternoon.

"Ya ya." he says pointing at the magazines.

"An-day-yo." Nope, not ours, feel free to help yourself, so he thumbs through the small pamphlets on the table.

He then reaches for my coffee, but I get there before he does and manage to pull it away. He reaches for the water drinkers bottle, but also is thwarted by a fast move. So then he reaches for the open bottles on the table that had been sitting there when I came in. Shakes the first and finds it empty, shakes the second and finds it more then a little full, tosses it back, drinking happily, tosses the can onto the street, grabs a magazine, tips his coat hat to us and walks off.

We just kind of sat there in stunned silence at it. I pushed my sunglasses back and watched him wander down the streets, accosting passer byes for coins as he went. I sipped my coffee thoughtfully and finally decided that as an example performance to be assessed goes, that was certainly an Apull (in English A+).

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