Monday, November 27, 2006

The Cable Guy

Like most Korean apartments, we have an intercom outside out door which connects to a handset on the other side, so somewhat bizarrely you can talk to someone if they come to the door, even though in actuality, you can have a perfectly audible conversation through the door itself with no need for any gadgetry.

Today, when the intercom was pressed the guy on the other side proceeded to talk so loudly and urgently that my girlfriend dispensed with the handset and talked through the door, as clearly the unidentified caller intended to anyway. He'd come about the cable service. Why? Because there was a problem. What problem? Well, if we'd just open the door he'd explain - but he wouldn't explain if it wasn't face to face, which was a little odd I suppose.

So it was I found myself, at my girlfriend's behest, brandishing the somewhat unlikely weapon of an umbrella in case this proved to be a problem - though what kind of problem I couldn't begin to imagine. In the UK there are no intercoms and I used to just open my door to anyone, no matter how bizarre or unsavoury they turned out to be, and a fair few were at that. Of course, being from the UK I had already mentally mapped where all the really sharp objects in the apartment were should we ever actually have to defend ourselves.

One of the reasons I wanted to leave the UK was that I got sick of the increasing social chaos and crime. I have few illusions about living in another country, but I've voted with my feet on the principle that ignorance is bliss. It's interesting that my girlfriend, despite her years in the UK, may still have had some of that ignorance, whereas once back in Korea she won't open the door to anyone without satisfying herself of their legitimacy first through the intercom.

So she eventually opened the door to the cable guy after some commotion, pleading and veiled annoyance on his part. He'd come to collect the connection fee for the cable - 55,000 Won. We were a bit surprised by this as the cable had already been connected when we moved in, though allegedly this was because the previous occupants had disappeared owing three months on the bill and they hadn't been cut off yet. Pointing out that there had actually been no connecting to do, the demand was lowered to 22,000 Won. At which point the a member of the building landlord's family turned up and more slightly tense discussion was had, by the end of which we handed over 11,000 Won.

Despite his attempts to make Korea seem a more dangerous place, the very fact that the cable guy was turning up on doorsteps to collect cash suggested that the country was still safer than the UK where such a thing would invite violence, robbery or both.

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