I never thought of my name as unique or uncommon before. But something happened two nights ago that burned the fact into my mind that I am definitely the only person by the name of Dave to live in Taebaek, with a population of around 50 thousand, and maybe even within a good size perimeter around Taebaek, as well.
Elvis told me last night that I had to go to the police station and apologize to the Korean man who I punched in the face over the weekend while I was a belligerent, drunken mess at a bar in town.
I had just finished a lesson for his son and daughter and a couple of kids in the neighborhood and I was literally in the process of putting on my shoes to leave when Elvis' wife handed me the phone. It was Elvis and he asked with a hint of urgency if I could stay there until he arrived. A little alarmed, I asked him why and he said the police called him and he began to explain while he was driving to no avail, and then told me he would explain it when he got there.
At first I was mostly convinced that he was going to tell me that Lindsey and I owed some money for a couple of speeding tickets we thought we'd gotten when we rented a car a couple of weekends ago. We weren't sure if we'd gotten speeding tickets, but we thought we engaged a couple of speed cameras when we passed under them (there's so many in Korea, and everyone has a GPS sensor for them on their navigation systems that starts screaming at you when you're getting close, so you can speed as much as you want in between them and know when they're coming up), so we were half expecting a ticket in the mail. Since speeding tickets were only 30 dollars or so here, I wasn't that worried.
But then when Elvis arrived he asked me if something had happened a couple of days ago. I said nothing that would concern the police, and he asked me if I was fighting in a bar and hit a Korean man in the face. I told him I was in Seoul, so that would have been a little bit impossible. Then he told me that the man who got punched in the face was at the police station and he said that someone named Dave hit him. Then he said I need to go to the police station and apologize to him. Then I was like wait a minute, slow down, I'm not going to the police station or apologizing to anyone because I didn't hit anyone. Then Elvis asks me if I know any other Daves, and of course I had to admit that I didn't know anyone else by the name of Dave that lived in Taebaek or around Taebaek (but why should that matter again!!??). And then Elvis said he didn't know who else it could have been, implying that because I was the only person by the name of Dave that he knew of, it was impossible that it could have been anyone else that did the drunken belligerent punching in the face of the Korean man.
So I told him again that I was in Seoul and that I can't apologize for something I didn't do, and would have been impossible for me to have done because I wasn't physically present in Taebaek, but that I do know for a fact that there are many people by the name of Dave that probably live elsewhere in the country or work for the American military, an NGO, or just happen to be travelling through. So he told me that if I didn't go to the police station they would file a report about me and it would become a bigger problem. So I told him I could get at least seven people in Seoul, not including motel owners that could be contacted if need be, to all confirm seeing me over the weekend. At that point the police called back and said they had a picture of the Dave that did the punching, and I should come to the police station so they could compare it to me.
I said I still wasn't willing to go to the police station unless I could be assured there was an English speaker there to translate in case I needed to explain myself. Maybe I'm paranoid by nature, but there were a already few tragic scenarios playing out in my mind: for one, there are a couple of crazy people in town that know my name (only being one of 21 foreigners, a lot of people do), and one particular drunk crazy old man that always hits me (aggressively but never hard) on the shoulder and then gets in my face and pulls his fist back like he's going to punch me. I always have to pretty much just stand there staring at him, because let's face it, even if the old man was trying to tear my nose off with his teeth, if a 6ft white guy beats a tiny crazy old man to the ground, it's ALWAYS going to be my fault. There's one other guy in town who I met when I first got here because his English was really amazing and he would talk and walk with me when I was out and about town. We exchanged numbers before I found out that he was a Jesus-loony stalker-type and monumental space invader while he's talking to you (leaning into me and almost literally pushing me off the sidewalk into the street without even realizing it). When I decided to stop answering his phone calls or talking to him because he would just make the conversation incredibly uncomfortable by talking about Christ continuously and not letting a word in edgewise, he actually showed up at my school unannounced while I was working and walked into the teacher's office naturally, as if he worked there. He leaned over my desk and actually started ruffling through my papers in front of me and leaned down so close to me I could feel his breath as he wanted to see what I was doing on the computer. Even when I almost shouted at him to get the hell out of my space and over-gestured with both arms towards the door, he kept asking when he could have my "permission" to meet with him. I told him never. In any case, I was thinking it could be completely plausible for one of those people to tell the police that it was me that assaulted them, either because they mistook another foreigner for me, or just because they were demented and couldn't quite distinguish reality from what goes on in their minds.
Another scenario, I was worried that the police might have some tiny, low resolution picture of the other Dave, taken at night from a distance, which they would confuse for me themselves. It ended up they did have a tiny picture, taken at night from a distance on a small LCD screen of a camera.
So, I was trying to explain to Elvis that there's no need for me to waste my time going over there unless he could go with me, or there was a guarantee for a translator, or even at all, because there's 7 or 8 people that could confirm seeing me in Seoul, at least three of which are Korean, and do they even have this guy's last name? Then the police called him back and said they were just coming there to Elvis' home, where we could meet in the dark playground just outside the apartment building, where they could compare their picture of Dave with me.
We waited 20 minutes, and they finally arrived, and Elvis finally started believing that it wasn't me, and his wife was almost irate, and the only thing I could make out her saying was that she was repeating over and over again that she thought this was making me feel so bad. Finally the police got there, we went out to meet them, and right as they got out of their car, I could see on their faces that they knew they'd mistaken me. They sauntered over to Elvis and showed him the bad picture on the digital camera LCD screen, and I popped over his shoulder so I could get a look (and I swear I could smell alcohol on their breath). It was a picture of some heavy set dude, dancing debaucheresly in the middle of the street with some big boned Korean woman, holding a red hoodie. He had really short hair and dark skin, and didn't even vaguely resemble me. They asked if I knew him, I said no, then they said his name might not even have been Dave at all but "Bin Dave" (?). So that was that. But I really wonder why when the police called the vice principal at my school and called the other administrator they didn't just ask what I looked like before wasting everyone's time along with the possibility of defacement and embarrassment? Bunch of wackos, really.