[ITAEWON WANDERINGS]Bright ideas at 3:15 a.m.If you're an English teacher here, you know that in class you must be on your toes, ready to adjust to any possible disruption. You know that even the best lesson plan won't guarantee a happy class; in fact, the better your preparation, the likelier it is that the new kid will wet his pants.
The same goes for partying in Itaewon. You can be cruising along, on your 14th whiskey and Coke. You can rack up 99 rejections but know that the 100th time will be magic. Your plan can be flawless.
Then the sun will come up, and ruin everything.
What do you do when you're drunk and the stupid sun is coming up? A few friends of mine -- Jonny, Jack and Shane, English teachers all -- were in that situation recently. They were lit and it was dawn. They were on the notorious hill. They knew it was time to go home. But something told them to continue seeking pleasure. However, the opportunities for pleasure had evaporated. The situation was dire.
Then Jack saved the day, resorting to that fail-safe English-teaching dictum: When all is lost, play a game. He took out some chalk, handed pieces to Jonny and Shane and told them they were going to play "The Label Game."
Jack explained the rules: Find an object, and write its English name on it using the chalk. After each "labeling," call out your score. The player who labels the most objects before passing out in a pool of vomit wins.
The game started tentatively. Jonny labeled the door of the bar Stompers ("door"), Jack labeled the road ("road") and Shane labeled a comatose foreigner slumped against a wall ("drunk").
Then it got interesting. Jonny saw a taxi waiting at the bottom of the hill, snuck up on it and labeled its right-rear tire ("tire"). Shane stacked up and then climbed atop some discarded furniture in front of King's Club, and executed a high-level labeling of that immortal disco ("dump"). Jack rose above that. From the roof of an apartment building, he called out to Jonny and Shane, "Hey, how do you spell 'butane'?"
So who won? Like you care. Jonny dropped out when he had a moment of clarity and realized he was wasting his life. He went to a still-open bar to use the phone. He told the bargirls that he wanted to call his mother in California, to tell her to phone his university to ask for her money back.
Jonny, Jack and Shane are all from North America. Unfortunately, lawmakers there know how to treat drinkers －－ like teens who are grounded. In California, drinkers have a curfew. Bars must close by 2 a.m., and no alcohol can be sold in stores after that time.
Fortunately, Korea has no such stupid laws. Drinkers here can be as idiotic and self-destructive as they want for as long as they want.
And Korea's no-curfew policy is good for its economy. If bars here closed early, Jonny, Jack and Shane would be able to save their won and take it out of the country, then use it for pursuits that won't help the local economy, like grad school.
Bright ideas like that will never dawn on them, as long as nothing stops them from drinking.
by Mike Ferrin
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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