It was only a matter of time before it happened.
Technology has a way of coming back to bite you in the arse. I’m not sure why anyone decided to do away with the old lock and key system; I mean, it has worked for centuries, but here in Korea things are a bit more technologically advanced and that means doors with automated locks. You can see where this is going…
It was a Friday night and I had just finished work. Now on an average night I would head out for food and a beer, but on this particular day I decided to call it an early evening and head home.
You can imagine my surprise when I reached my door and found that it wouldn’t unlock. Had I stumbled onto the wrong floor? No, this was in fact the 10th. Did I key in the wrong number? No, I had not. I stubbornly tried my pin again and again, and nada! I had been left out in the cold. This isn’t the first time I’ve had troubles in my apartment building; remember the time they put up ‘wanted’ posters after I disposed of my garbage the wrong way?
Seeing as this oh-so-modern building I live in doesn’t have a reception, or a maintenance guy, or some kind of handy-man I can contact in case of an emergency (like this one!), I was left to fend for myself. So I did the most sensible thing – I raced back to work. Because if there is one thing I’ve learned during my time here, it’s that Koreans work well past the end of their shift, and that was exactly the case when I got there.
I explained the issue to the HR guy that deals with the foreign teachers (and their problems). He came back to the building and tried punching in the same numbers, using a card key, and even re-setting the machine. Nothing.
He then started walking away on his cell phone, on what I assumed was a personal call. Not that I could have eavesdropped since the conversation was in Korean, but I let him have his space. I waited anxiously in the dark corridor for him to get off the phone – 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes… What could possibly be taking him so long?
I decided to go investigate only to find that the man had left without saying a single word to me!
My only chance for help had vanished.
I sat there bemused by the absurdity of the situation and weighed my options.
And then, after 20 minutes or so, he reappeared! I stared at him waiting for some kind of explanation. Why had he left me all alone during this time of need? Huh? Why? I got no explanation. My attempts at getting any answers out of him proved fruitless.
This wasn’t looking very positive so I began to offer suggestions: What if we call the building manager? Certainly, there must be a manager somewhere. What if we call the number on the door? Maybe the lock company can help us. What if we get a locksmith? I bet someone’s awake at this hour…
Mildly annoyed by my chatter he offered me a glimmer of hope, “Help is on the way.” Oh, that was hard. Those were some of the last English words spoken my way.
We sat another 15 minutes outside my door in silence until I was told I needed to go find new batteries for the door.
By the time I got back from the supermarket (which was just about to close as I bolted in there!) there was a rough looking man hacking at my door. He had a tool belt strapped around his waist, reeked of smoke, and either had tattoos or large bruises on his arms. It was hard to tell with the poor lighting…but he sure looked tough.
I was completely ignored the whole time until it came time to pay the locksmith. That’s when they turned to me.
That’ll be 50,000 won. About $45 USD. And by the way, the school won’t be paying for it. Huh?
When they say free apartment, am I not entitled to a working door?
The following day I learned the whole ordeal could have been much simpler and A LOT cheaper.
HERE’S WHAT YOU SHOULD DO:
Buy yourself a 9 volt square battery. The automated door has two small prongs on the exterior. Hold the battery up against these; this will give the automated door lock enough juice for you to type in your code and get in. Once you are in your apartment you can open the lock from the inside and replace the old batteries with new double AAs (or whatever your door takes). You’ll hardly break a sweat, oh and it won’t cost you a small fortune. BOOM!