The other day I found myself running through the streets of Gyeongju in search of a bathroom, after consuming two cups of coffee and about a liter’s worth of water over the course of an hour. I burst into my wife’s parents’ house through the unlocked door, said hello politely, and then asked where the bathroom was far too politely, shifting to a higher register reserved only for old people or customers—but there was pleading desperation in my voice, and my calmly-surprised mother-in-law consented at once.
I whipped off my shoes, dashed inside the bathroom, and pissed for far longer than I usually shit.
When I emerged my brother-in-law cracked some kind of a joke, and the Korean woman I was teaching at the time, a friend of the family, refused to translate.
A week later I asked him what he had said, through my wife.
“You broke the toilet!” he replied.