Thursday, December 15, 2011



I have a toilet seat.

Yesterday was a glorious day. I woke up after only 5 hours of sleep[1] to my absolutely obnoxious doorbell. Anybody who knows me will just knock or, if they really know me, walk in. So the doorbell of a thousand decibels means someone real[2]—and most likely Korean—is at the door. By the second time my gong of a doorbell resounded through my cheesebox of an apartment, I had yanked on a sweatshirt, flattened my hair out of its early-morning cockatoo impression, and stumbled over to my mudroom.

I unlocked the door and pushed it open.[3] There stood a Korean man—shorter than me—who said something in Korean and, noting my baffled expression, pointed to the floor. There lay a thin, flat cardboard box. I looked back at the man, noting his workman’s boots, casual clothes, and that capable look in his eye that says, “I can fix anything in your apartment before you know it’s broken” and my hazy morning mind made the connection.

“Oh! Yes! Toilet—! Grbhlf!”

It’s tough to be articulate in the morning, especially when trying to think of words your Korean conversation partner might recognize. Grghlf, by the way, is not one of them. It’s like the first year of Spanish class when you try to speak only in cognates and forget to use all the real words in your lexicon.

I practically leaped back into my room, barely remembering to hold the door open for him, and started clearing a pathway to the bathroom.[4] Luckily, my new best friend carrying the toilet seat pretended not to notice the state of my floor, the bra peeking out of my top drawer, and my unmade bed. He was working in the bathroom for about two minutes before I realized I should turn the light on. After five minutes he had finished with the toilet, and I had tucked my bra back into its drawer, picked up the floor and made my bed.[5] On his way out, he made my sink stop wiggling—victooooory again!—and said a few more things in Korean at me.

Then, faster than a mongoose, he slipped his shoes back on and was out the door. I lept after him, and thrust an orange into his hands. “Thanks! 고맙습니다! Orange!”

He smiled and I like to think he understood how desperately happy I was to have a toilet seat.

But that wasn’t all I saw of Kim Lee Park that day.[6] He was fated to enter my life just two hours later. We spent a good three minutes figuring out that I wasn’t Elijah and that my washing machine didn’t need fixing. Then he pointed to the electrical outlet, said “snack car,” and “Monday,” and “pay.”

I’m still confused, but I like to focus on the parts I understood: I have a toilet seat.

[1] Yes, I was up late watching a cheesy Japanese drama like the fangirl that I am.
[2] You know what I mean. “For reals” as in “serious,” “important,” “someone I shouldn’t be wearing pajamas in front of.”
[3] It swings outward and this is the first time I realized that’s not completely normal. Yet another way to maximize space, I think.
[4] In that moment, I looked at my coat that I had flung to the floor, my backpack that I had dropped next to it, the empty shopping bags that, also, had been dumped right in front of the door and finally understood why mom was so frustrated by my high school ritual of sloughing off anything I was carrying within three feet of the doorway.
[5] It is a truth universally acknowledged that once you actually decide to clean your room, it takes far less time than you assumed all week as you were dirtying it.
[6] This is not his real name. You don't just ask people who are older than you what their names are, so I don’t know his real name. Instead I will henceforth refer to him using the three surnames that make up 50% of Korean surnames - cover as many bases as possible.


  1. BHA HA HA HA! I am not sure where to start with this one. How about, you have captured so many truths of life in this blog. :-)

    Second...I read your blog in a British accent and loved it...but the footnotes in an American accent...still not sure why I did it but it made me giggle a lot. Te he.

  2. Oh, I am so happy to hear that you have a place to rest and relieve yourself! I totally agree that cleaning your room never takes as long as you think it will.

    I also wondered how fast a mongoose slips his shoes back on...

  3. Snack car and Monday and pay. Hilarious.