May 7, Value Add

The most useful and interesting thing I did today, which was consequently the only useful and interesting thing I did today, was this:

Alone in the women’s locker room, or so I thought, a voice spoke Korean.

“지금 나가실 거예요?”

I turned around slowly because as unlikely as it was, it appeared I was being addressed. My brain was misfiring because context is a second language learner’s best friend and the bodiless echo didn’t register until too late.

An older woman stood dripping outside the communal shower door.

“나가요?” She simplified, using a walking finger symbol to ask “are you leaving?”

“아. 네.” Oh. Yes I am.

“Can you bring me 2 수건?” She asked in Korean.

수건… 수건… I could guess from context there were few things a nude women who just finished showering would be asking for that the gym provides.

“Towel,” she added in English. Or Korean, there are so many loan words I have no idea if people are trying to help me or simply speaking Korean.

(A quick dictionary search tells me it’s Korean: 타월.)

Aha!

“ 2개 필요해요?” You need two? I confirmed.

She nodded and in a fit of joy to be of some use I slipped on my shoes halfway and busted outside the locker room doors to grab two free towels by the water fountain.

I returned and with a flourish presented the two towels. She thanked me and I laughed to myself: the situation was not strange because one of us was lacking clothes (if there’s a sure way Korea has changed me it’s comfort with nudity), it was strange because the average Korean has trouble adapting their language to a lower level for non native speakers.

She must be a smart and empathetic lady. Or quick on her feet in a time of need. Either way, I appreciate it.

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