Monday, April 6, 2015

In Which Tuttle Goes Shopping--for a Table Tennis Bat?

Not too much happening around the Seoul Patch, except the mundane. I'm in the midst of reading a book called Queuing for Beginners by a Brit social scientist named Joe Morgan, which reminds us that the whole history and relevance of our culture is tied up in the very acts we consider mundane. So I thought I'd try posting now and then about what they are calling social history.

If you're bored, blame Joe Morgan--but keep reading.

The need to go to the shops has been building, as I have needed a new wallet for a while--please, no jokes about how much money I have and how it's making my wallet burst at the seams...because that's what's really happening. Or, I've had this wallet for nearly seven years, which I think is a good long lifespan for one, and it's falling apart.

I remember I bought it in E-Mart within a few weeks of coming to Korea, because my American one had a little difficulty accepting the slightly larger Korean notes (and this was before the introduction of the 50,000 W note). Anyway, I chose well, because a few of its features became absolute requirements as I searched for a replacement. And I searched in every conceivable market during my last few trips abroad--Japan, Vietnam and Thailand.

The features? 1-an exterior pocket for holding the T-Money (Metro) card; 2-a double-sided ID flap that could hold both my Korean and US ID card; and 3-a fiddly interior compartment to hold "emergency" notes, not to thwart thieves, who could dismantle the thing at will, but to thwart me and keep my appetites in check if I was running low on my "official" funds. It also had a little tab, a quarter inch square of leather on the "top" edge, so you know how to orient it in your pocket. It was a really well-designed thing.

So, in E-Mart, they don't have this model any more (it was a brand called Urban8) or anything with even two of the features together. This weekend, I searched the two floors of Sindorim TechnoMart that have leather goods, and finally found a replacement. The clerk was sleeping, so I took my time, went away, and then came back, looking vaguely uninterested. there were three or four iterations, all of them with leatherwork, so I had to pick the one with something like a world map on it. When I woke the dude up, he wanted, first, 29,000 W, then 19,000 W. With cash discount, I paid 15.

If you found that tedious, blame Joe Morgan. I know this is usually a travel and food blog with occasional school or classroom stuff and sports thrown in, but from now on, get used to "social history"!

Moving on. The imperative reason I went to Technomart was because my mustache was getting all long and straggly. I generally use an electric shaver, which has a little flip-up mustache trimmer thing. Well, that feature ceased to function a couple weeks ago, despite my ability to fix it in the past. Finally, this weekend, I had to get a replacement.

Technomart has hundreds of stalls, quite a lot of them carrying computer and computer related items, cameras, DVD players, gaming systems, and the like. However, there are also appliance stores--fridges, rice cookers, telephones, blow dryers, wet trash receptacles, washing machines ...

There is a corner of the second floor where a couple of guys have shavers. Face, nose hair, and mustache. You have to play them against each other, but I still ended up paying more than I really wanted to, 35,000 W for this item--even if it works amazingly well:

I was pleased to find when I got home that my price was ten to twenty percent less than what I saw with a quick online search, except in Latvia.

The final item I wanted to buy was a table tennis bat--what most folks call a ping-pong paddle. They have those in E-Mart, with prices from 35,000 down to about 9,000. I know what you're wondering: why would Tuttle want a bat, or a paddle?

Here's what happened. Last week, I came back from lunch to find the school principal camped out in my classroom. He wanted to talk to me. I've never worried about this before, because no one at my school speaks English, except perhaps the English teachers, and they are always too busy to play translator.

As a result, this guy has pretty much ignored me for the year and a half he's been at the school, which suited me just fine. And I thought we were on the same page. Well, he changed. And cleverer than he looks, he found a solution to the translator thing, and got this one fourth grade girl, whose English is as good as yours, to come with him and ambush me before I can even brush my teeth.

He is quite insistent that I become a member of the new ping-pong club he's arranging, which will meet on Tuesdays at 2:30. Play for an hour. AND, he wants to spend some time with me, just chatting, with our translator girl and a few of her friends, during this post-eating lunch time once a week.

I'm flabbergasted by this turn of events. But I really don't have a lot of wiggle room, as I am absolutely "free" after lunch on Tuesdays. Now, I have no idea if or what the principal knows about me and ping-pong, but back in the day, I was pretty awesome. We had a PE teacher for a while at my old school who thought she was something, and I crushed her. We also had a student who was top 10 in the country for his age group (about 14-15) who I kept up with pretty well, and even beat a couple times on his bad days.

But that was umpteen years ago.

So, last Tuesday comes along. Mr Principal and our young translators show up and we chat for a while. He gives me a baked sweet potato and I make a show of enjoying it. At 2:30, some other students come along to tell me it's time for ping-pong. The first ten minutes, I'm awful. Not a single ball hits the table. We're playing doubles, which I've never done before, so I get in the way of my partner, or, knee-jerk reaction, hit their ball. I wise up. My serve starts to fall in. By the third game, I have two different serves. (Back in the day, I had about five regular--hand-shake--serves, and three pen-hold serves.) We played five games in an hour, and me and my partner lost four, and won the last one.

At the school, they have six bats, two of them "hand-shake" style, the others pen-hold. All things considered, if I'm going to do this, I want to do it right, so I decide to pick up a quality bat that suits me--terry grip, etc. So I went to E-Mart. They have one "hand-shake" grip, and it's the 9,000 W model. Won't do.

So, I will need to go shopping again for a better quality bat, pips-in, of course, and a terry grip (or probably some other higher-tech material, as, like I said, it's been about twenty years). Meanwhile, I have to take my warm-ups and sneakers since freedom of movement is key. Before you point out that I'm being ridiculous, Mr Principal is wearing his warm-ups! why shouldn't I?

Come to think of it, perhaps I should go shopping for some new, more stylish ones...


Lynn F. said...

Dang, I should've challenged you to a game! Too bad we didn't get around to a ping-pong discussion.... Be sure to post a picture of yourself and your teammates in your stylish outfits next time!

Tuttle said...

Not stylish, just standard warm-ups. I'll try.

Meanwhile, I hope things are going well for you!