The curly-topped totewomanWhen the curly-topped totewoman soars across Korean skies, every living creature on the peninsula runs in fear. This female bird (little is known of the male species) is celebrated for using her elbows, fists, knees and talons to get what she wants. The sight of a curly-topped totewoman has been known to turn eagles into whipporwills. Some scholars believe that these birds belong to the "Third Gender," as noted in the text by Simone de Birdvoir.
Generally chubby in shape, the species is known to take off at full force for a seat, any seat in any public place. This bird has never been spotted standing. If a seat holds eight birds maximum, the curly-topped one will find a way to make it hold nine.
To gain attention in her movement toward that empty seat, the curly-topped totewoman lets loose with a chilling, shrieking noise, then begins to peck at anything in her path, stepping on the talons of others birds, slapping her hindfeathers at those around her. Does she chirp excuse me? Yes, and tomorrow chickadees will rule the world. What she did chirp were words of blame. All God's creatures great and small are simply in her way.
Where on earth did these birds come from? Native only to the Korean Peninsula, curly-topped bagwomen are not hatched; they've likely evolved from a mad Audobon devotee with a test tube.
Some ornithologists believe these birds were once young and sweet and full of innocence. It's the male species that changed them, ornithologists say, made them angry and fueled their fires to rage at all of bird-dom.
A curly-topped totewoman is most easily recognized by the permanent wave in her headfeathers. The first stage of critical ecological adaptation of this species is acquiring these hard-to-miss, short, but strong-as-iron curlicues. The bird's feathers remain this way for three months or more, until the curly-top totewoman disappears into a commercial nest and reappears with her headfeathers stronger-looking and curlier than ever.
The curly-topped totewoman, it appears, prefers this style of feathering, for apparently it requires little care. No bird species recorded by mankind has such headfeathers or pays them such scant attention. There have been rare instances when other species have tried to imitate a curly-top's headfeathers, but it's never been done. In fact, there are reports that such mimicking brings great cawing in the aviary community and even, on occasion, attacks by the curly-tops themselves.
Female birds found in Northeast Asia are generally noted for primping and making their beaks shine. A curly-topped totewoman seems an exception. Primping is not something she has time in round-trip flights from nest to market.
The most visible facial markings on a curly-topped totewoman are heavily penciled eyebrows and crimson lipstick. These birds ignore black colors for eyebrows and tend to use brown or even purple pencils. Other identifying characteristics: the brows are frequently penciled crooked, likely because the species has been thinking, during the application process, how she might obtain more than her money's worth of Chinese cabbage at the market. The curly-topped totewoman prefers bright red lipstick, applied, some researchers believe, with some sort of flat brush.
To complete the picture, this species frequently coats her face with striking, all-white powder. A frugal bird, she generally neglects to apply the powder to her wattles, which gives her physiognomy a remarkable two-tone appearance.
It was noted long ago that nearly all curly-topped totewomen carry stacks of 1,000-won bills and piles of coins to the marketplace, where they go each day to spend hours and hours. If a shopkeeper is charging 2,000 won for a codfish, the curly-topped totewoman will swiftly give him 1,500 won. That's her discount, she explains, not his. This transaction generally results in a great deal of piercing yelping, a fluttering of feathers and much clawing of the air.
A curly-topped totewoman will never give a shopkeeper the price he asks. She is after what she deserves. And she never would give anyone a 10,000-won bill, for she never carries such bills, it appears, since there would be no chance for her to get any sort of discount when proferring that sum.
That's why the purses of these birds tend to be thick, though you should not mistake that heft for wealth.
The purse is often found inside a Louis Vuitton bag she bought on discount －－ her discount －－ for, say, eight of her 1,000-won bills.
Ornithologists early on learned that curly-topped totewomen live solely on a mixture of cooked rice and pickled Chinese cabbage. To take care of offspring in the nest, these birds will do anything to obtain these Chinese cabbages. This is the reason why the species spends so much time at markets. A pile of Chinese cabbage, onions and radish weighs perhaps five kilograms, but it's no trouble for this bird to tote, though too heavy to tote while airborne.
That's why so many curly-topped totewomen are found on all motorized transportation except taxis. Some humans are known to be employed at wholesale vegetable markets merely to help curly-topped totewomen board buses.
The black vinyl bag is the curly-topped's most distinguishable feature. The bird and the bag seem joined. Inside those black vinyl bags, this species totes on her way to the nest her daily food findings, the fish and the cabbage that she bought －－ at her discount.
The smell and the drippings coming from the bags frequently bring resounding complaints from others seated on motorized transports. Does the curly-topped totewoman care? Oh, sure. And vultures hate roadkill.
A curly-topped totewoman's billowy pants generally terminate mid-shin and, depending on the season, the leg section below is either flesh-colored or fire-engine red from the heavy, long underwear that the species always gets －－ at a discount －－at her neighborhood market. The long underwear generally has lace footings. In the summertime, beige stockings are rolled partway up the ankle. Talons are covered with sensible, long-lasting, all-rubber footwear, designed especially for this bird to run and kick her way through life.
Another method that birdwatchers use to instantly spot the curly-topped totewoman is by the blinding, flower-print pullovers the species cannot resist wearing, particularly during migrations south.
Curly-topped bagwomen are known to give no attention to how they look. Saving every twig and bit of twine, curly-topped totewomen refuse the get-up of, say, uptown peacocks.
Back for the warm weather, this species puts on sturdy, spandex T-shirts. If a T-shirt is headed for a flea market, the curly-topped totewoman seems to desire it more than ever.
When it comes to lower garments, this species prefers her own version of baggy pants, also in spandex. An able curly-topped totewoman can create something out of nothing. When she is fighting for one of these shirts or pants in a crowded market, as she straddles clumps of dried squid and cows' feet, she regularly emits ear-splitting squawks, trying to get her way. As might be expected, curly-toppers always gets their way.
A bird by any other name
In 1991, a Seoul scientist by the name of Mr. Kim discovered mutations of the curly-topped totewoman.
The new birds were the same age as the curly-topped totewomen, approximately late 30s and older. But at some point and for some reason this new offshoot species had rejected becoming a curly-topped carrier of fish and vegetables.
The species, Mr. Kim decided, had spent a good deal of time trying not to resemble a curly-top. Sadly, it seems no bird really wants to be one of these birds.
Mr. Kim named these new species missy birds. In Mr. Kim's groundbreaking treatise, he remarked of once referring to a missy as a curly-topped totewoman. The following day, he said, he was attacked on the sidewalk outside his lab by a flock of furious missies.
by Chun Su-jin