I happened to notice him as soon as I sat down at the swanky restaurant in Seoul. It was very early in the morning, and we were the only two non-Korean customers in sight. Because he is a relatively famous North American journalist and tv personality, and since I am a relatively obscure educational bureaucrat, I thought we’d have a lot to talk about.
For just a split second, I thought I’d saunter over to his table. I’d make a witty comment. — perhaps I’d offer a clever reference — maybe something out of “Casablanca.” (“Of all the gin joints in all the world…”) He’d chuckle, of course, and invite me to join him at his table, where we’d soon become fast friends. I saw weekends together in Monte Carlo. Skiing in the Alps. Family vacations on the Riviera…
But I double clutched. I suddenly realized that he’s probably bombarded with intrusive types who rush at him during those all-too-rare quiet moments.
So, instead, I simply,inexplicably, and impulsively, winked. The wink was, I thought, an earnest, quiet, understated, and thoroughly Canadian way perhaps, of acknowledging him and thanking him for all of his good work.
He noticed the gesture. And then I saw a look of complete disdain. His jaw dropped, and he stared straight away – right through me. Perhaps he didn’t like his oatmeal? Maybe he couldn’t believe the awkward oaf who had just resorted to a primitive non-verbal cue? Regardless, he continued to look straight ahead, vacantly, as if I weren’t there.
And suddenly I was back at a high school mixer, and this time even the chaperones were icing me.