Troubles with the fuel pump at Incheon meant a late departure and consequently, set me up to miss all of my connecting flights back to Virginia. I got stuck in the San Francisco airport for 11 hours and at one point during my naps on the floor and whining to friends and family through free wi-fi, I saw a guy eating these delicious looking french fries. The kind where there is still skin left on some pieces and some of the fries are awkwardly shaped so you can tell that what you’re eating was at one point actually a potato. YES!
I scraped myself off of the terminal floor, donned my backpack carry on, and found the little diner style restaurant in a sort of food court. I ordered the smallest cheeseburger set on the menu (“Ha! I’m in America. The first thing I will eat will be a cheeseburger. I’m so funny,” thought my sleep deprived brain) and then fumbled around with the dollars and cents I was so unaccustomed to. Never before had it occurred to me how confusing it was to have all the bills be the exact same green color, but I was making an ass out of myself. I commented to the cashier that I hadn’t used USD in over two years since I had been living in Korea. “Oh, the owner of this place is Korean.”
In Korea, there is a concept called simply “service.” It’s basically extra bonuses added at no charge. If you frequent a certain coffee shop daily or you’re the first foreigners to eat at a certain restaurant (this happened to David and I once) or the owner loves your efforts to speak Korean (my friend Louise and a certain galbi restauranteur), you might experience service in the form of free colas or soup or an extra scoop of gelato…. really anything to bribe you into coming back.
The Korean owner came out of the back to chat with me and somehow my tiny cheeseburger turned into a deluxe bacon cheeseburger piled high with vegetables and cheddar, a massive serving of those lovely fries, and orange slices. “Service,” he said and I felt right at home.