Entry #17 – June 6, 1997 / Friday

I always wanted to be a polite person. In the stories I read, polite characters were my favorites, and they often had better results in the end. To be like these characters, I used polite language to my parents and I never used curse words or bad slang with anyone. The other day mom and I were at a shoe store, and listening to our conversation, the store owner asked mom, “Isn’t she your daughter?” When my mom said yes, the storekeeper said she had never seen such a polite daughter.

But I was having second thoughts about this. There are several boys in my class who are incredibly rude to everyone for no reason. Today, one boy was leaving the classroom after a class, and I happened to be behind him. Noticing me, he slammed the sliding door behind him, making the door close right in front of my face. I was so shocked and mad that I wanted to shout some bad words at him. Of course not only didn’t I manage to do that, but I didn’t say anything at all. It’s nothing, I told myself. Many hours have passed since this event, and somehow I can’t stop replaying the scene in my head, wondering what it would have been like if I had just yelled at him. Also, one part of me wondered if I was being a coward rather than polite.

“Hey kids, do you feel like taking a walk?” asked dad. Jane and I looked at each other and smiled. We both loved our family evening walks because it usually involved walking into the Baskin-Robbins in the central plaza.

“Yes, dad!”

We quickly responded, and began packing up the princess jigsaw puzzle we were working on. We didn’t mind disassembling it, because we had finished this puzzle many times before.

The night air was crisp and the whole neighborhood was quiet with the playground empty.

“How are things in Montessori?”

Dad asked Jane. Montessori is the preschool I graduated from, and Jane is still in her last year there.

“It’s okay.”

“Hajin, what about you?”

“Umm… I am okay, too.”

“Hajin, you seem to want to say something.” Mom jumped into the conversation. Sometimes it felt like mom can actually read my mind. After some hesitation, I told everyone what had happened at school that day.

“Do you think I need to be more brave?” I asked.

“No, you did the right thing,” said dad. Then he continued, “When I played baduk with strangers in some baduk clubs, once in a while I would meet an opponent who had bad manners. He would slam his stones on the board, or make distracting noises with them. If you care about the person, I would say you should try to talk to him sincerely. But you should remember that people don’t change easily, and they often become defensive when you point out their bad behavior. So, my philosophy is to turn a blind eye when they don’t mean much to you. You may be upset temporarily, but you will move on. On the other hand, if you react with anger or annoyance, you are likely to get into an argument, and the situation can get much worse. Plus, you wouldn’t gain anything anyway.”

I thought about what he said. I didn’t have the same experience at our baduk school, because anyone who misbehaved would get in big trouble with the teacher. Yet, it wasn’t hard to imagine such a situation, and I could see the similarity. Dad is right… The boy wasn’t targeting me in particular. That was just the kind of thing he did to everyone. If I had gotten into a fight with him today, he might have started picking more fights with me from tomorrow. I didn’t care about the boy, and the whole thing just wouldn’t be worth the trouble.

“I want ice cream. Who else wants some?”

Mom asked as we approached the plaza.

“Me!” Jane raised her hand almost instantly.

“Me too!” I raised my hand too.

“Me too!” Dad also raised his hand.