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Never Pick A Fight With An Old Korean Woman

, , , , , , , , , , | Friendly | January 21, 2023

About ten years ago, I worked part-time as an assistant to an old woman in her eighties. The circumstances of how this came to be can be summed up as happenstance and being in the right place at the right time. The details are a bit lost on me nowadays, but I do remember her splitting into a big smile when she realized I was tall enough to reach the top shelf of a grocery aisle.

She was practically a South Korean grandmother stereotype; she was absolutely tiny — she barely reached my chest and I’m 6’0″ — she was very sweet and kind, and English was her third language. I worked full-time nights, so when I was done with my night shift, I went to her house at around 7:00 am, stayed with her for four to five hours per weekday to keep her company, assist her in getting around, drive her to the grocery store sometimes, and help her cook, as the rest of her family had school and work of their own to do. Then, I went home, usually between 11:00 and 12:00 when her daughter came back, to sleep until I needed to wake up again and get ready for work.

Safe to say, I — a big, 260-pound Caucasian man with a red beard — was a fixture of her house for a good few years. I met a lot of her family and even got invited to a couple of their reunions, though everyone seemed to be under the impression that her youngest daughter and I were dating, despite our protests.

I have plenty of stories, but one stands out in particular: the day about a year into working with her that this less-than-five-foot-tall grandmother protected me from potentially getting my butt kicked.

We were in a grocery store, and [Grandma] was holding onto my arm as we walked, with me pushing the cart and her holding the list of essentials she needed for one dinner or another. We’d just started going down the soup aisle when, as I bent over to grab a can, something bumped into my hip. There was a loud crash behind me, and I looked back to see another man, who had evidently dropped a big can of tomato soup when he bumped into me. The can had broken open and splashed his khaki pants up to his knees, as well as his formerly-shiny black dress shoes.

I’m not sure what his financial situation actually was, but his clothes certainly looked fancier than mine.

At that moment, I could see his face growing as red as the tomatoes, and I had a feeling that he wasn’t about to be gracious about it. So, I went full damage control, taking full responsibility and putting my body between the angry man and [Grandma] in case he started throwing stuff.

Me: “Oh, man, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to—”

Man: “YOU’RE D*** RIGHT, YOU’RE SORRY! DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH I PAID FOR THESE PANTS?!”

Me: *Trying to deescalate* “Look, I’ll pay for the damages and your groceries—”

He cut me off, continuing to scream and making a big scene in the middle of a grocery store, while a woman who I could only assume was his wife kept trying to get his attention. His wife certainly looked pained and embarrassed, but also resigned. The man pulled himself away from her, moving toward me threateningly. As I said, I’m a big guy, but I was not looking for a fight, and my main priority would, of course, be to protect [Grandma]. This angry man was a little bit shorter than me but also fairly beefy, and I had no doubt he’d be able to throw his weight around if he made to attack me.

In my efforts to lead him away from [Grandma] so it was less likely for her to get hurt, she’d apparently moved like a ninja, as the next thing I — or the angry man — knew, a tiny hand came up from below and grabbed the man’s ear. As only a very perturbed grandmother of any race or creed can do, she wrenched him down by the ear so hard that I was worried she’d rip it off, and she started yelling point-blank into it.

Grandma: “HE SAY SORRY! STOP YELLING IN [GROCERY STORE]! FAMILIES AND BABIES HERE! YOU ACT LIKE BABY!”

At that point, she descended into what I could only assume were Korean insults and curses before she let him go, and the angry man stumbled away from the, frankly, quite scary Korean grandmother. I stepped back, as well, to put distance between myself and the formerly angry, now thoroughly dressed-down man, who mumbled something about not worrying about the pants or shoes and shuffled off in shame, his wife following with an apologetic look.

I looked back at [Grandma], who had immediately gone back to sweet old lady, holding up her grocery list, a smile on her face as though nothing happened.

Grandma: “We need soup.”

I did, of course, pay for the damaged soup can, and our shopping trip went on without any further incident, though I did jokingly call her “my bodyguard” when I relayed the story to [Daughter] when we got back home. [Grandma] made pretend martial arts moves when I said that, laughing heartily, obviously quite proud of herself.

I eventually moved on from assisting [Grandma], though I still kept in touch with [Daughter] and her other family members. A few years ago, [Grandma] passed away peacefully in her sleep, and I related this and other stories at her funeral, earning happy, tear-filled chuckles.

Later that day, [Daughter] took me aside.

She explained to me that the day she stood up for me in the grocery store had been the day that I, evidently, had basically become adopted, because [Grandma] had a history of being a bodyguard to her family; between nosy neighbors and angry fellow customers, she met them with just as much aggression and then immediately calmed down when the situation was rectified. 

I’m man enough to admit I cried even more after learning that.

Related:
Never Pick A Fight With An Old Scottish Woman

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