“Miss Lee, it’s about time you do your work right. Or what, are you saying that you don’t have to work properly at a company that doesn’t pay you properly?”
“General manager, I didn’t say anything like….”
“Miss Lee. An elder is talking to you. You know? Aren’t you a little too comfortable these days? Did I make your work life too easy? There is a limit to everything. How dare you talk back to your superiors like that? Yes, I may be wrong. If that’s the case, then you should wait until I finish talking before talking to me by starting with ‘general manager.’ Do I even need to explain this to you? You’re an adult now. You should get yourself together. Not only is your work improperly done, but you’re also immature when it comes to how to treat your elders. Miss Lee, I didn’t think you were like this.”
General manager Choi finished off by clicking his tongue. Lee Eunhye turned around with the coffee when she was gestured to return.
“Leave that here.”
“You told me you didn’t like coffee from coffee machines though.”
“There you go again. If I tell you to put it down, then you put it down. Is it so hard to self-improve in an age like this?”
Eunhye barely managed to calm down her shaking eyes and put down the coffee. This wasn’t even about work. She was getting an earful because she brought the ‘wrong’ coffee. A few days ago, she heard that he liked coffee brewed by coffee machines, but today, she got an earful because it was not from a coffee stick. He always talked about ‘self-improvement’ at the slightest opportunity, but it was likely that he didn’t even know what it meant.
She took a deep breath and sat down at her desk. She felt like she now knew why some people had stress-induced gastritis. They say that salarymen always have their letter of resignation with them from the moment they enter the company. Today, she also took out her letter of resignation from the drawer in her heart at least a dozen times. If she had the slightest bit of courage, if she had more money in her bank account, she would have handed it in.
“Eunhye, what did general manager Choi say?”
“Yelling because it’s not coffee stick coffee.”
“He’s bullshitting again. What era does he think we live in? How can he still make a female employee brew coffee for him? Also, didn’t he say he likes coffee machine coffee better? Is he whimsical, getting old, or what. Geez, he’s too much. Tell him to get his own coffee next time.”
“I want to do that, but what can I do? If I don’t, he bothers me the whole day.”
“This is dizzying. How did a man like that get promoted to general manager?”
“See how he acts when he’s with the president. He won’t be able to act like that even towards the savior of his life.”
Eunhye glared at general manager Choi and checked the order form they got from a business partner. As she moved her mouse and checked the numbers on the document, she couldn’t help but think about the coffee. So what if it was from a machine or a stick? If he had such a great tongue, he should have chosen to be a barista instead of bothering his employees at a desk job. As she typed on the keyboard in vexation, it soon reached lunchtime. General manager Choi, who never let the employees go home on time, told everyone to keep the time for lunch and stood up. Assistant manager Park, who was practically his lackey, soon followed him. Following them, a few more people left the office.
“General manager Choi left. Now I can get a breather. Why is he in such a bad mood today? Usually, he nitpicks after lunch.”
“From what I heard, he had a fight with his wife. Heck, even I would do that if I was her. Thinking about how I would have to make food for a man like that creeps me out. He’s gonna be like that at home too, isn’t he? Bring me water, bring me fruit, lay out the duvet. If he was a little older, he would probably yell at her to warm up the bath water.”
As soon as the general manager’s watchful eyes disappeared, the employees in the office gathered in front of the supplies room. Everyone seemed to be angry because of general manager Choi, who nitpicked with them since morning. Eunhye also expressed her frustration.
“Really, this company would have been a lot better without general manager Choi.”
“I wish he gets into a traffic accident and doesn't show up for a week.”
“Even if we talk like this, it won’t do any good. Let’s go out too. We’ll get an earful if we return later than general manager Choi.”
Six employees headed to the nearby budae-jjigae restaurant. Before they went in, they had sent a scout in to see whether general manager Choi was in there. They left the company five minutes late intentionally so that they could avoid him.
They sat down and ordered some budae-jjigae. A year ago, lunchtime was only 30 minutes. Back then, they had to eat in a flash before going back to work. Right now, though, they could order some fruit juice from a café and take it back to the office.
“We really have to thank general manager Kang for this. If it wasn’t for him, lunchtime would only have been 30 minutes, right? That just sounds terrible.”
“Does anyone know what general manager Kang is doing now?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t contacted him ever since the company underwent a restructuring. But I’m sure he has a good job now since he has the skills and the personality. Geez, this is the problem with our company. They cut off all the competent employees because of a reform, and let a guy like general manager Choi be. What was the result of that? We didn’t get paid for two months. I really don’t see a future in our company.”
“It would’ve been great if general manager Kang was the one who remained instead of general manager Choi. Why did general manager Kang leave?”
An employee on the other side spoke softly after hearing that,
“Don’t go around telling anyone else and just keep this to yourselves. Actually, general manager Kang got on the president’s bad side. He’s a regular employee, so it’s legally hard to kick him out, right? So the president didn’t even give him work and just kept telling him to go to other parts of the country. You remember right? General manager Kang only showed up at the company for brief moments. Actually, those business trips didn’t have any reason either. From what I overheard, apparently, there was a time he went to Busan and did nothing.”
Eunhye nodded. She remembered that general manager Kang drove off with a tired expression. How disappointed must he have been? He did his best, but the outcome was that the company was forcing him to quit.
“This is a rumor, but I heard that it’s general manager Choi who helped boot him out. He told the president to do it.”
“I can see him doing that. He’s the worst.”
“General manager Kang is such a gentleman. He drew the line when it came to political struggles and looked after the employees under him. I’m pretty sure that’s why he was pushed off.”
Everyone at the table said a word about him. I will throw my letter of resignation at general manager Choi’s face when I do, I will spit at him, I will go to him now and nitpick with him – General manager Choi’s reputation was being ripped to pieces. Just then, an employee, who was looking at the entrance of the restaurant, tapped the table with a spoon and became silent. Eunhye knew what that meant. The other employees also became silent and put their spoons inside the already empty budae-jjigae pot.
“You were eating here?”
It was general manager Choi.
Eunhye clenched her eyes shut and opened them again. It just had to be her that he was talking to. She tried controlling her expression as much as possible and turned around.
“Ah, yes, general manager Choi. Have you had a good lunch?”
“I had some pork gukbap. Did you guys have budae-jjigae here?”
“I was a regular at this place once. Back then, I didn’t get paid as much as I do now, so we only ordered three portions of budae-jjigae and just ordered extra rice. We didn’t have it as good as you.”
“You know, young ones these days don’t know how comfortable it has gotten for them. Whenever you turn on the TV, it says stuff like how young people have the right to pursue happiness, and that passion pay is no good and whatnot, but that’s all them being immature. If you don’t suffer when you’re young, then when will you? When you’re old like me? Of course not, you should try out challenges when you still have your youth, your health, and your spirit. When you fall over at that age, you can stand back up. But young ones these days go on about rights and what not, and all they care about is feeding themselves.”
General manager Choi put his hand out. Eunhye took the hint and poured some water into a cup before offering it to him. This guy was practically a politician asking for votes. She wondered if he was going to stop now. However, general manager Cho wiped his mouth and spoke again,
“The new recruit this time quit after just one week, right? Saying that he didn’t fit in with the company. It’s those people that go on the internet and write stuff like how it’s the society that’s the problem, and how they’re doing their best to work, but the businesses are exploiting them badly. That’s all nonsense. I wanna ask them if they really tried their utmost best. When I was your age, I really swore loyalty to the company. That’s why I got compensated like this. It’s because people think about themselves and don’t want to sacrifice themselves that they’re blaming others and society. It’s bad practice. You know that famous saying, right? Before you think about what the company can do for you, think about what you can do for the company. Right?”
Eunhye’s hairs stood on end. Her mouth itched. She wanted to yell at him: that great company, that same company that he swore loyalty to cannot even pay salaries now; why am I not getting any compensation for my hard work when I sweated hard according to that logic of yours.
Her shoulders jerked. She thought about just spitting it out. Just then, she locked eyes with general manager Choi. She felt like she was being stared at by a lion with a full stomach. It wasn’t going to attack because it was in a good mood but would not hesitate to rip her throat out if she did anything that angered it. The aggressiveness that filled her mind disappeared like ice on a summer day. It melted and evaporated in an instant.
“Of course, general manager. You’re right. We must do our best.”
“We have to do our best.”
The employees sitting at the table all followed suit. Eunhye was reminded of a tug of war. An absurd tug of war where general manager Choi, an adult, was up against the other employees, who were practically six-months-old toddlers. He had the whistle, and he would win in less than one second once the game began. They couldn’t think about resisting.
“I knew it. The people working at our company have a different mindset from those people. It’s a completely different place compared to others that are filled with people nagging about not getting their payment. I’ll pay for your food here, so take your time eating.”
Eunhye applauded while making a tragic smile. The other employees did the same. After general manager Choi left, they didn’t talk for a long time. The employee who said that she would throw insults at his face was just looking at the TV, and another one who said he would punch him in the face and pay his hospital fees just sipped some water.
“I wanted to say that too,” said the employee watching TV.
Eunhye turned around to look at the TV. It was a rebroadcast of the episode of ‘Doctors’ that aired yesterday. Lee Heewon was going against the head doctor ordering him to change the order of operation, saying that he’d operate on someone whose life was in more danger.
Perhaps it was because she had just acted submissive in front of general manager Choi that she felt bitter even though it was a refreshing scene. She wished she could talk like that too. Everyone seemed to be thinking the same thing as they chuckled and watched the TV. Following that, Bigfoot appeared. It was the scene that made her cry yesterday. Although she was watching it for the second time, the acting skill was so good that she was absorbed in it.
“He’s like us, isn’t he?” said one of the employees.
Eunhye quietly nodded.
“I watched that yesterday and I almost cried.”
“I actually did cry.”
“Was everyone like that?” Eunhye asked the six people around the table.
One of the male employees said that he didn’t watch Doctors, another one said that he didn’t like it, and the remaining one said that he felt a tingle in his nose. The women said that they all pulled out tissues.
“Don’t you watch Doctor’s Office, senior Yoon?”
“Yesterday, I just didn’t feel like watching it. It was rather frustrating to watch people doing well when I’m not even getting paid. Eunhye, you watch Doctor’s Office too, don’t you?”
“I was the same. I just didn’t feel like watching it yesterday.”
“It’s a good thing that I watched Doctors yesterday. It wasn’t a refreshing story, but I felt consoled. Seeing people similar to me living like that made me feel relaxed for some reason. It wasn’t despairing. It just felt like he knew my pain. I mean, the one acting that character.”
“I felt like that too.”
The other two women said that they felt something similar. They said that the acting skill of the actor was incredible and that they couldn’t take their eyes off.
“But it did disappoint me a little. It’s still a drama, so I hope he does well.”
“We’ll see in today’s episode.”
“It’s just a gut feeling of mine, but I don’t think there will be a big reversal. Also, I feel like I'd be disappointed if there was something like that. Heck, I don’t get it.”
Eunhye understood that feeling. She wished for him to do well, but at the same time, felt like she would be disappointed if that actually happened. It was probably because they were so similar.
“Let’s go before general manager Choi nags us again.”
Eunhye stood up after sipping some water.
 “Korean army stew”
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