I Was A Porter - Chapter 5
“Go ahead, pull your jaw a bit to the left. Take a snapshot. One, two, three. Lovely. Again. Great, that is it.”
Seung-ho’s mom sneaked up behind the photographer as he uploaded Seung-ho’s pictures to the Photoshop application.
“Let me take a picture of you while your family is here.”
“Great, that works for me too. Mom, Dad, please sit right here. Will you be putting on those? There is a hanbok house nearby, so, it will make sense if you put on a lovely hanbok as well for this photo session.”
“Go on and take a picture with you on a hanbok, I didn’t put any make-up on?” His mom replied.
“You look lovely just the way you are. I would love to have you on another visit. For now, sit right here. Father is somewhat more connected, and the son’s body size is adequate. I’ll add more hassocks.”
“How would you get the pictures?” the photographer asked, working on the photo session shots repeatedly to make it very attractive.
“Can you bring it to us?”
“Good. Then I will love the picture to go with the frame hanging over there.” His mothered replied excitedly pointing to an acrylic photo frame hanging from one side of the wall. The photographer followed the motion of her hand and then his jaws dropped in uncertainty.
“Alright but that would be 125,000 won. I am, however, willing to give you a discount of 5000 won and deliver the picture to you for only 120,000 won. Leave your ID photo with your address and I will add ten extra sheets as part of my service.”
Seung-ho wondered if he would occasionally visit the area since the people were so nice.
“Thank you. I am going to advertise your Photoshop talent and your services to everyone close to me.”
“I appreciate that great deal.”
It took a great deal of time to have his hair cut. When they were done with it and they had left the photo studio, it was already past lunch hours. The restaurant was already closed and he had no option but to assure his crestfallen mother that they could visit the place the next day.
“How can you suggest such, son? Don’t you want to have lunch?” knowing that the main reason behind his mother’s persistency to stay where there a little longer, Seung-ho nodded immediately.
“What would you love to have?” he asked observing the restaurant. He encouraged her to select her preferred dish. But being the sort of mother that normally put the need of her children first, she made a careful selection of the dish she wanted.
“Would you prefer your warm soup in a Suyuk or in a bowl?”
Naturally, Seung-ho ordered for the food he loved, pork soup. His mother however refuted the order insisting it was not the right food for him. He smiled knowing that his mother’s reaction wouldn’t have been different if he’d gone for potato soup or noodles.
“There is a neighboring soup restaurant that made delicious soup,” his father suggested, moving in front of the walkway.
Harmonizing with his father’s suggestion, they all went to the Gukbap restaurant. True to his father’s words, the place observed a great deal of tasty practices. It was a store with a queasy sliding door. When the doors to the structure were opened, a disturbing sound of iron rubbing against each other can be heard.
It had many customers, that sat on the floor waiting to be served. When their food finally came, it was the tastiest soup and the best KKakdugi they had ever tasted. His father still rubbed his chopsticks on the dish even with the meal finished.
“What exactly are you playing at,” his mother yelled. “Don’t you know that if we stay here any longer than we should, Seung-ho will get home late?” She struggled to get up from where she sat. “Go on and do what you know best, but get back home once you are done. Son, I’ll have to head home to get dinner ready.”
“I will be back before you know it, Mother,” he reassured her laughing silently as his mother tries to get off the floor.
“You can come home with a cab. The distance is something else and it would be better if you didn’t walk.”
Seung-ho watched in amazement as his father emptied his wallet and gave him the entire money. He’d wanted to take the subway while going back but the money his father gave him was more than enough to get a cab.
“You have given me too much money, Dad.”
“I sold the entire stone so it is only fair I give you part of the money. I had thought I would take a cab home and I wasn’t even thinking about you then.” His father said looking very guilty.
“Let’s get you home first,” Seung-ho suggested stocking the money into his pocket.
“Don’t worry, Son, I am going on a long walk with this man here, go right ahead,” his mother said referring to his father. Seung-ho laughed at the way his mother spoke of his father and then headed out to get a cab.
Once on the driveway, he turned to look at his mother only to find her waving at him. He moved quickly forward not responding to her wave, he had an urge to get home right away. He paced the length of the driveway wondering why he couldn’t get a cab as quickly as he did yesterday. He had a haircut, he was properly dressed, so what was the problem?
When he couldn’t wait any longer, he headed towards the direction of the Hunter Association Seoul Central Branch just as his father had instructed him previously. The Hunter Association had three branches with their headquarters in Seoul, it was closer to their home, so, getting there would make his journey easier. Some twenty years back the association had been known and addressed as the Seoul Hunter Association. However, with the name change, the building was also renovated. Since the renovation no one had an idea of how many rooms that were in the building.
Seung-ho entered the hall of the building, softly reading the map of the building. He was trying to recognize which way led to the room he was in search of, and then a guard walked up to him.
“May I help you?”
“I would like to be directed to where I would get a Hunter registration card again.”
“Go up the third floor, then.”
Actually, the disbelieving thoughts about the Hunter registration paper card being missing were entirely false. The had only replaced paper with plastic. He had only a telephone card but going with the trend of things now handled in card formats, he was definitely going to be getting more plastics. He was however taken aback when he learnt that the card had almost the same feature as cash.
Seung-ho moved to the third floor using the stairs since the lift was operated by card, and when he got to the third he managed it to the fourth floor.
“I am here to get a new Hunter registration card,” Seung-ho informed the person at the information desk
“Kindly take a tag and wait.”
“Please give me a number instead,” he tried buttering up the receptionist.
“You are funny, are you trying to be nice so you can have my number? I already have a partner.”
“Really? If you have a number, I don’t mind taking it too.”
“Then recite verse one.”
Seung-ho frowned wondering at what the receptionist was saying.
“Take the last number tag you can find there and wait. I can’t work on your order if you are not patient.”
While she was still speaking, some random guy walked towards Srung-ho, pulled a white paper from the machine beside him.
“Great, I understand now. Thank you.” He thanked the receptionist with a slight bow of his head. He stretched his hands towards the machine and pulled out a numbered paper.
“Can Number 367, kindly come over to window 6?”
A voiced announced in the air leaving Seung-ho dazed for a minute. While he looked around in confusion, he saw a man with the said number walk towards window 6. It was a window with 6 boldly written on it and the number 367 rolled through it on red.
Seung-ho looked at his paper, found the window number, and looked around for it. When his eyes finally connected with the number, he sighed in relief, and then sat. Unlike life in here, twenty years ago, there were now a lot of young pretty girls in the talent class. Seung-ho relaxed further enjoying the views of these girls. They were in extremely short dresses, exposing a lot of flesh.
Seung-ho cautioned himself suppressing the urge to keep ogling at the sights that greeted him. Minutes later, it was his turn. The announcer called out his number and directed him to the fourth window. When he got there, he was warmly greeted by a very pretty young lady in a warm smile.
“Welcome, how may I help you?”
“I would like to have a new Hunter registration card.” He’s been on his own for over twenty years and the looks the pretty girl was darting his way gave him shivers.
“Please, read out the six digits in front of your name. That is your social security number.”
“760105. My name is Lee Seung-ho.”
“Alright,” the girl replied and then keyed in the information in the monitor in front of her.
“This is Lee Seung-ho, 760105, right?” she asked again, frowning at the computer in front of her.
“Wait, please.” She stared the piece of computer as though something was wrong. Seconds later, she got up from her position and walked away not before she pleaded softly for Seung-ho’s patience. Seung-ho nodded his understanding and started reading the pamphlet in front of the window. On the pamphlet was—download the Official App of the Association now! And get free 6-month subscription to Hunter’s.
He was still neck-deep in the pamphlet reading when the lady reappeared with another man beside her.
“Please show me your resident registration card?”
He frowned slightly and then dipped his hands into shirt’s pocket and then handed it over to the man.
” My name is Choi Myeong-Soo, and I am the Head of External Management at the Central Branch of the Hunter Association in Seoul,” the man said, “I am very pleased to meet you. Kindly come to my office while we talk.”
Seung-ho considered the man’s words for some seconds and then recalled that his father had warned he may encounter some pretty annoying things here. Perhaps, this was what he’d been referring to.
“Is the renewal of the Hunter registration card not done here?”
“It is, but Mr. Lee Seung-ho yours is rather an unusual case. I would want to talk with you for just a beat. It won’t take much of your time, please.” The man explained with a tiny bow in Seung-ho’s direction.
“If you can’t renew immediately, I will be on my way please. Thank you.” Seung-ho stood up right away not wanting to waste his time anymore. And to his chagrin, the once-polite man, grabbed his sleeves gently.
“It’s alright then. We can talk while you are here.”
Seung-ho stared at the massive size of the man before him, felt fear travel down his spine and then sat down again.
“Do you have other ID photos we may use? I’m afraid but the one on your old phote isn’t really clear.”
He nodded gently, removed the new ID photo he’d just taken that morning and handed over to the girl. The man looked at him as the girl walked away demanding his absolute attention.
“May I ask you some questions, Mr. Lee Seung-ho?”
“If it’s about my renewal, then go right ahead, please.”
“When did you return?”
“Why didn’t you come here right away?”
“Isn’t it right to see one’s parents first before any other thing?” Seung-ho asked with a huge frown.
The man smiled softly and then apologized for being rude. His action warmed Seung-ho’s impression of him.
“And, I believe I came here right away too. It hasn’t been up to 24 hours since I returned,” Seung-ho explained.
“Please forgive me, I was a little excited. If you would please excuse me?”
“That must be it,” Seung-ho said not sparing another look in the man’s way.
The man looked at him acting a bit uncomfortable but didn’t stop his questions from rolling in. “How did you come?”
“I used the Bundangcheon gate.”
The man murmured at Seung-ho’s comment and said that the right word was Bundang-cheon and not Bundangcheon. The girl that had gone away to scan his ID photo chose that moment to return to her position. She sat in front of Seung-ho with the smile back on her face.
“Don’t worry about a thing,” the man muttered to the girl, “go on with the reissuance, please.”
“Okay,” she replied and then turned to Seung-ho, “your fee is 50,000 won. Please come back in the afternoon for a new card.” She rolled out in confusion. Apparently, the manager was giving her some signs to take more time with Seung-ho’s case.
“So, I will have it by the end of today, then?” Seung-ho asked.
“Not really, you will have it within the next three months.” The girl noticed Seung-ho’s angry stare and then shivered in fear. “Ah—won’t you want to upgrade?” she sang in a very soft voice. She then turned to the man beside Seung-ho and said, “why not go on and check the rating on his card?”
“No, that won’t be necessary,” Seung-ho interjected. “I will come back for the registration card much later. Here is 50,000 won.” He gave her the money and left the building before he could be delayed further.