To make a nine hour story short, my car broke down at the top of a mountain and everything else that could possibly go wrong afterward did. It was all so unfortunate it was hilarious.
The day started at Beomeosa, a temple up a windy mountain road in Busan. We had stayed the night at the temple and risen at the ungodly (sorry, Buddha, but it’s true) of 5:00am. After bowing, meditating, hiking, making rice cakes, and having tea with a monk, we headed to the car at 10:30am feeling relaxed and ready for a laid-back drive home. Buddha had other things in mind for us, though.
The car chugged and gurgled and then went silent. Luckily I have roadside assistance with my insurance policy, so I gave them a call. But when I read them my policy number and license plate number, they were confused. “We don’t have your car on file.” It turns out the insurance agent must have been drunk when completing my paperwork because along with butchering my name and other words, the actual license plate number was wrong. Minor details, I suppose.
After sorting that little dilemma, they sent a man all the way up to the temple with a small car and jumper cables. But the problem wasn’t my battery, it was the starter. So then he had to call a tow truck and we waited for another hour until a pint-sized pink truck showed up to tow me down to the city. Because even tow trucks are cute in Korea.
At the mechanics we were feeling hungry so we took out the box of rice cakes that we had spent the morning making at the temple. Emily had the kind idea to offer the mechanic a rice cake, so she held the box out for him to take one. He looked at it doubtfully but we smiled encouragingly so he took the box. The WHOLE box. And set it down in the garage. He actually thought we were offering him the whole box.
We stood there awkwardly with our mouths gaping open and looked at each other, looked at the box, and at each other again. We couldn’t very well take it back, could we?! I sidled over to the box and grabbed one out, which the mechanic took as a cue to then hand out the rice cakes to all the other employees. Goodbye, sweet rice cakes.
The mechanic needed to wait for the part to be delivered and told us the car should be finished around 6:00 and that he would call us. We decided to make an enjoyable day out of it and we went to the movies and bbq for dinner. We also spent a considerable amount of time running from people with Jesus fliers and playing cards in a mini mart.
When we hadn’t heard from him by 6:30 we returned to the shop to find that the car still wasn’t ready. In fact, as we stood there wondering how long it could possibly take to fix a car, a man drove up with the part.
The mechanic took one look at it and told us, “It’s the wrong part.” So after waiting five hours for this part to be delivered, they sent the wrong one. Let me reiterate: It took the man from a few miles away 5 hours to deliver the WRONG part. At this point Emily and I were considering just throwing in the towel and going drinking, as we wouldn’t likely have a car to drive home in anyway.
To wrap up the story, the car was finished an hour later and we finally were able to head home. I have to say that even despite all the shenanigans, I’m pretty impressed that they were able to fix my car all in one day–on a Sunday!–and that something that would have cost several hundred dollars in the US was only a little over $100.
Of course it all still had to be much more complicated than necessary. This is Korea, after all.