‘Survivor’ more than hit show on televisionLate one night, I had the bright idea to tuck my mobile phone into the back pocket of my jeans before lighting up the dance floor at a club in Itaewon. When I got back home and discovered that my phone was gone, I experienced a state of panic that I imagine Starcraft players feel when the server is down.
Of course, I had not backed up the names and numbers in the phone’s memory. And after the ordeal I went through just to get the phone and a subscription ― patchy translations resulting in confusion over calling plans, a trek across Seoul to find an LG Telecom shop where I could pay for more minutes ― the thought of having to do it all over again had me seriously considering hurling myself into the Han River. I felt like Seoul was swallowing me whole. No, check that; it was definitely chewing.
As I stood sheltered from the drizzle in a phone booth, eyes glazed over in despair, my blessedly sympathetic taxi driver ready to speak to the LG people for me, it hit me: This was a cell phone we were talking about. How had losing it suddenly come to symbolize my whole existence in Korea?
Being an expat in the “Land of the Morning Calm” means adventure awaits every time one steps outside. My friends back home used to ask me what I did with my free time here, and I would answer: “Go to the post office,” or “Try to buy a toaster.” Being linguistically challenged, these mundane things can become major expeditions.
Recently, in response to one of my overly dramatic e-mails home to the States, my sister replied, “I am the younger sister here, but I will take the liberty of saying this: Maybe if you didn’t take your situation so seriously, you wouldn’t be so depressed. You’re in a crazy Asian city!” She had a point. When had I become so blinded by life’s little chores and ceased to enjoy the circus?
My wise sibling suggested I laugh it off and “pretend you’re on one of those survivor game shows or something.” So I put on my warrior face and accepted my immunity challenge: Return to the bar, and hunt for my phone. And I found it there in the tip jar.
Television networks may have just recently caught on, but life has always been a game. And if there is one thing the tube has taught us, it is that the more unexpected the plot twists are, the more intriguing ― and fun ― the show.
by Kirsten Jerch
Ms. Jerch is a JoongAng Daily copy editor.