“Hi, this is Shawn Scharpf’s wife and we’re staying in your apartment… Yeah, the taxi dropped us off and I want to make sure we’re at the correct building. Is it called ‘King’s Garden’?… No? …a bowling pin? …Winterspring? … Ok, I see the coffee shop…That’s where? Thank you, bye.”
We’re standing with our luggage atop the steps of a tall building called King’s Garden. It’s got a couple of fancy revolving doors opening into a shallow atrium with 4 convex, nice looking elevators. Although it’s 9pm people are coming and going from King’s Garden like they would if they lived there. Across the street is Something In Korean Office Building beneath which is our only affirmative landmark, the brightly lit cafe on the first floor.
“She said it’s right there.” I point to the mint green coffee shop directly across from us.
“The coffee shop? That doesn’t seem right.”
“Want me to call her back?”
“No, lets just walk around to the front of the building and see if there’s a better sign.”
Husband is on the right track and finds a front entrance but the stark, white lobby leans more toward office than apartment. We stop before a set of glass doors, like the doors at a bank. Three pairs of these doors lead to an enclosed entryway. The kind of entryway with an industrial rug sort of like a decompression chamber for wiping your feet, after which is a second layer of glass doors like oh, I don’t know, an office building.
“I’m going to ask that security guard. I’ll be right back.”
Leaving husband behind I push through the first door layer and I’m thinking about what to say. First rule of AirBnB is you don’t talk about AirBnB. We’ve been told by several hosts, “If anyone asks, just say you’re my friend.” At the second layer of glass doors I decide that I’ve got one word. Just one word to communicate that we’re lost and we’re looking for apartments and I don’t know what they’re called. Don’t make it too complicated in case he doesn’t speak much English. He’s pretty old, a septuagenarian probably and he’s sat in a chair behind a large desk intently staring at something off to the right. He doesn’t look up as I come through the final layer of doors and make my way across the lobby. I still haven’t decided how to figure out where I am, how to get to where I want to be and how many English words I should use. Maybe this guy is really serious about his job, focused on a surveillance video, ready to pounce on an unsuspecting perpetrator. I wouldn’t want to interrupt a shining moment in his career if we’re about to witness a murder. I should have followed the host’s advice and headed to the coffee shop, they’d know if there’s apartments in this building.
The lobby is empty except for this guard and myself. Whatever he is watching has got to be more worthy of attention than a white lady walking through a Korean office building in the middle of the night. At the desk in my knee length shearling coat with a fluffy white collar looking like Joe Namath, I just stand there. Trying to get the slightest acknowledgment I place my hands on top of the plastic desk, allowing my rings to make a clinking sound. He gives me nothing. Leaning across I hope to gain his attention as well as see what he’s watching that’s clearly more important than I am.
As engaging as they can be, a soap opera isn’t crucial so I interrupt,
“Excuse me? Hi! Um…apartments?”
“Ugh.” Still glued to the screen he points to the set of elevators to my left.
That didn’t seem like a definitive answer. If he doesn’t understand the word ‘apartments’ then he could have thought I was asking for the elevator, or the name of some office or for coffee. Asking again crosses my mind but instead I thank him and scurry back out to my husband who’s waiting outside.
“Did he say we’re in the right place?”
“He said the apartments are here?”
“He spoke English?”
“Not really but he pointed to the elevator. Come on, I’m cold.”
I can’t believe he bought it. I am not certain we’re in the right place. Being an awful liar means I can hardly stretch the truth gracefully, it’s shocking that he took my lead on this one.
We cross the lobby together with our luggage and the security guard is still engaged with his television. I ask husband which floor we’re on because my next clue is going to come from the elevator. Hopefully he doesn’t say 30th floor because this building doesn’t seem big enough. Typically, husband knows better than to listen to my wishy-washy plans and I’m worried the security guard was just trying to get rid of me when he grunted somewhat affirmatively.
“We’re on the 16th floor.”
Success! There are more than 16 buttons and that could mean something.
“You look worried,” Husband observes.
“I just don’t want to interrupt an illicit late night meeting with the mail boy on the boss’ desk.”
“I looked it up on the Google maps, this is the right place.”
“If you knew this was the right building, why did I talk to that guard?”
“You just walked in there. I couldn’t leave our luggage on the sidewalk.”
Without him, I might wander into traffic because I have the patience of a jackrabbit and the logic of a jackalope. Husband’s cool and rational mind travels well with my blind ambition. My partner dings when I dong, he stalks when I pounce and laughs at me when I burst into a building, carelessly disturbing the night guard’s soaps.