South Korea > Guess who's back?

Guess who's back?

By GREG MAFFETT
Published: December 4, 2010

It's been almost exactly 20 years and took over 20 hours to get here, but i'm back in Seoul.

The trip started in San Diego where I breezed through security, but got one of those departure management cards at the check in. That always gives me a moment of pause. So I approached the gate agent tentatively.

"Can I help you?"

I rubbed my head and look puzzled holding up the piece of paper "I think I'm ok?"

"You THINK you're OK?"

Always, always a tough one for me. "I live on a knife's edge in that regard ma'am. But I think I'm OK at the moment. I have this departure management card."

She glances at it. "oh you are set!"

"I thought so."

No problems on the domestic leg of the flight. Then I get on board the international flight, settle into to my itty bitty seat in coach and we're off. I'm on the aisle. The window is a young soldier. The middle seat is a younger Korean lady.

We get underway and the customs forms come out. Flight attendant asks the soldier in English. She switches to Korean for the middle seat. Then she freezes up. A good 5-10 seconds, she just drinks in the visage on the aisle seat. Then finally

"I was going to speak to you in Korean"

In the history of being G, I've been misidentified a number of times. Here is the short list

A skinny California Governor (by an irate DMV employee who suggested I destroy that driver license photo)

Billy Bob Thornton (This by a drunk hippie on a bar stool in San Diego)

Quinten Tarantino (By a student in Ohio)

A taller, skinnier version of another Professor at my school (A genuinely good instructor so I won't mention his name)

A warm sensitive guy (probably a dozen women over the years who would ultimately regret this error)

But never, ever before have i been ID'd as a Korean. A few weeks earlier I was talking about my upcoming trip to Korea and the almost rhetorical question came up "What is the nickname for Koreans?". I didn't know the answer. But the questioner did. The answer came back "Oh it buckethead, because they have inordinately large heads for their bodies."

Now not only was I unaware of that, I thought it not too flattering. Until I was misidentified as one on my way to teaching there. Showing up for class as a professor "with an inordinately large head" has been one of my lifelong dreams.

I'm going to work this.

Any Comments?


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