Talk Until You K-Pop

, , , , , | Learning | March 10, 2020

(I am an admissions counselor for a university. I am working from home and get a call from a man interested in our business program. I talk to him about our degrees and tell him the next steps, and he doesn’t seem terrifically invested in the conversation. It comes to a natural stopping point and I am getting ready to end the call when he says this:)

Man: “I just want to make sure this isn’t a scam. I’ve been scammed before.”

Me: “Oh, I completely understand. It can be difficult to know if something is legitimate, especially with online school.”

(He then launches into a rant about how a school scammed him in the past. He doesn’t seem rude or violent, only justifiably frustrated as he recalls the experience. I tell him about a school I almost went to and then later found out was a scam, and we are having a pretty animated conversation. Then, suddenly, he turns to politics.)

Man: “Everyone wants free college these days. Bernie Sanders wants to give everyone free college. Everyone wants socialism; they think socialism is great. It’s not. I’m telling you it’s not. I’m not gonna ask you how you vote, but free college just wouldn’t work.”

(I am actually a socialist, but of course, I am at work so I just make some non-committal noises.)

Man: “I’m not gonna ask how you vote, but I’m an independent. I just think we need Republicans and Democrats to come together. We need a president who can bring everyone together. That’s why I love Tulsi. Have you heard of her?”

Me: “Yeah, I’ve seen some of her billboards around.”

Man: “She’s great. I love her. Man, I would kill to get her autograph. I bet you see a lot of presidential candidates up there in New Hampshire, huh? I tell ya, I would kill for Tulsi’s autograph. She spends most of her time in Hawaii, but I would love to meet her one day. If you see her in New Hampshire, get me her autograph, will ya?”

Me: *jokingly* “Sure thing! I also have family in Hawaii so I’ll give them a call and see if they can get her autograph for you.”

Man: *even more excited* “You’re Samoan?!”

Me: “Ah, no. My grandpa was in the military.”

Man: “Oh, I see. It’s a beautiful place. Beautiful. I’d love to go there someday. But really, I will pay you money for Tulsi’s autograph. I’m serious; I will pay you for it.”

Me: “I’ll keep that in mind.”

(He continues extolling the virtues of Tulsi for a while, and then he suddenly comes out with this gem.)

Man: “I’m really into K-Pop. I love following those girl groups. I’ve been learning a bit of Korean through that.”

(Students enter their date of birth when they inquire, so I know this man is in his late forties. Most K-Pop groups consist entirely of women in their late teens or early twenties. This comment, paired with his earlier excitement about the possibility of me being Samoan, instantly shoots up a couple of red flags for me.)

Me: “Oh, that’s so cool. I’ve heard it’s a great language…”

(He continued to expound on his love of K-Pop, with me getting increasingly uncomfortable. FINALLY, after nearly an hour of conversation — only 15 of which were spent talking about the university — he thanked me for being such a great listener and we said our goodbyes. This was almost a month ago and I have not been able to get back in touch with that student to follow up on his application. Probably for the best.)

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