A Visit to my Sister-in-law’s Store

45805988.a000007 On the very day my wife planned an outing for us to visit her sister’s store located near the Olympic village in Seoul, my chronic back problem acted up.  I didn’t feel like going when I first awoke; but after swallowing a couple of coated aspirins, I received some relief, at least enough to persuade me to make the hour long bus trip to the store. 

In their store they sell adhesives to their customers in large and small quantities.  The store serves as an outlet for their small factory that manufactures adhesives.  My wife’s niece works at the store while her nephew supervises the operational aspects of the factory.  The whole enterprise is mainly a family operation except for a couple of foreign fellows who work in production and occasionally assist the truck driver in loading and unloading  a new supply of adhesives to restock the store shelves.  In addition to the adhesives they sell an assortment of adhesive tapes and a variety of caulking’s.  There are many other items on the selves that help with the spreading and dispensing of  the adhesives and the measuring and cutting of the vast variety of adhesive tapes.  Items for measuring volume and mixing are available as well.  Other items that people need who are in the business of using adhesives are in stock.  My wife’s niece works about 12 hours per day six days a week.  The store is small but well stocked with every available space filled and running over.  Sunday is a sacred day for my wife’s niece, and she observes it by  attending church and resting on the first day of every week.

We arrived at the store a little before noon and waited a short time before the arrival of my sister-in-law, Won-wha.  While waiting we visited with my wife’s niece who entertained us between customers and answering the phone.  When Won-wha arrived, we greeted one another with the salutation, “annyeong ha se yo,” the appropriate Korean greeting for any time of the day.  As it was meal time, Won-wha called a near-by establishment and ordered lunch for us from their carry-out department.  While waiting for our lunch the Korean women talked a mile a minute in their native tongue all the while using many hand gestures and emotional utterances.  I attempted to pick up a word of understanding every now and then, but the going was slow.  Hangeul maruel is a very difficult language for me to learn.

In no time at all a young man on a small engine motor bike delivered our meals, still hot & steamy.  These young daredevils on motor bikes are masters at weaving in and out of traffic as they race their motor bikes through the crowded streets of Seoul to make their delivery.  Korean customers demand that their meals be delivered to them piping hot.  These hotrod bikers love to show off their skills in handling their small engine bikes, and they deliver in all types of weather, just like the letter carries in America:  “Come rain or come shine the mail must go through.”  So it is with carry out food in Korea, they deliver hot in all kinds of weather, come rain or come shine.  We ate and enjoyed our tasty lunch of noodles served with several dishes of kimchi.  After lunch we were treated with sliced apples & peeled tangerines, carefully prepared for us by my sister-in-law.  After lunch my wife and sister-in-law decided to go shopping.  I was invited to tag along but my tender back made my decision easy to stay put .

To help me pass the time of day my niece carried a chair outside for me to sit on, and I located it in the shade at the edge of the sidewalk where I could watch the many people walk by as they were shopping, site seeing, going about their business, or engaged in productive work delivering goods from the stores close-by.  I watched hundreds of people walk by me on that day, and I admit that I spotted many pretty young women in the parade of people that passed before me beneath a gorgeous blue sky.  Most of the people, including the pretty girls, who passed by me on that  hot afternoon ignored my presence as I conspicuously sat in my chair wearing a bright red, St. Louis Cardinals’ baseball hat, a gray t-shirt with a small red cardinal emblem on the left side of the chest, and a pair of black shorts, legs about knee level.  It’s not at all unusual to be ignored in any large city, but I hoped for one or two individuals to stop by and express in English some interest in my presence, but my impact on that day turned out to be a big fat zero.  Every once in awhile I caught an individual’s eyes and greeted him/her with the traditional Korean greeting and received a response back almost every time.  I considered each reply to my salutation as a triumph of tapping into the brotherhood of man.  As time went by my back bothered me more and more.  The incessant dull pain slowly sapped my energy that unbeknownst to me would have embarrassing consequences later.

While sitting in my chair a truckload of adhesive containers from the factory pulled up to the curb and stopped.  The driver and his helper got out and after a brief talk with my wife’s niece began unloading the truck.  As I watched, I marveled at the workers’ dedication, speed, and energy used in unloading the truck.  Each box had four large cans of adhesives inside weighing a total of 44 lbs.  During their unloading they worked up a good sweat.  My wife’s niece pitched in and helped unload the boxes when not answering the phone or waiting on an occasional customer.  She impressed me with her strength and had no trouble easily hauling the boxes of adhesives to their prearranged locations.  After thirty minutes they had most of the boxes off the truck and in its proper place except for a couple of boxes still on the sidewalk.

As I looked at the two remaining boxes on the sidewalk, a growing urge came over me to help out by carrying the two remaining boxes into the store.  Despite my sore back I determined that I could help.  How could a measly 44 pounds cause me any trouble?  I arose slowly, walked the several steps to where the boxes lay, squatted, and took hold of the box.  As I began my lift, I heard a feminine cry of desperation from inside the store to stop, but my attempt had begun and nothing could stop me now.  As I lifted the box barely off the ground, I lost my balance and felt myself falling toward the street.  From the top of the curb to the the roadway it was unusually steep; so if I fell into the street, I might role into oncoming traffic.  To prevent that possibility I dropped the box and quickly sat down.  Surprisingly, I found myself landing safely in a thud on the edge of the sidewalk.  All the while in the background I heard a commotion of great concern for me.  Shortly after my intentional maneuver to save myself, my wife’s pretty niece arrived and took hold of me to help me up and check to see if I injured myself in the fall.  After she determined no injuries occurred, she lovingly chastised me for my unwise choice to attempt lifting the heavy box.  For the first time in my life I felt like an old man who needed to be watched and taken care of.  I was so embarrassed at putting myself in that situation over a meagerly 44 lbs.  For the rest of the day I hardly noticed any of the pretty girls walking by me, and all the more so when my wife arrived back from her shopping trip.  garland dale    

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