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Saturday, June 27, 2015

A Cardinal Rule

  • This is not a blog post about bagels, although it could be. And it's beside the fact that you cannot find an authentic bagel in South Korea. But, truth be told, I am a sucker for a good bagel.

    Real bagels

    Recently, an article about bagels caught my eye. The author was searching for the best bagel in San Francisco. Suddenly, he took a literary side trip and claimed that the best bagels anywhere could be found in New York City and Montreal. Having eaten remarkable bagels in both those cities, I supposed that case could be made. Then came his extraordinary proclamation, "If there is one golden rule for good bagels," he said, "It is this: A good bagel shall not require toasting. All else follows."

    That may ignite an interesting debate and perhaps it should. But as I said, this post is not about bagels. It is (as the title suggests) about rules. Not just any rules, but Cardinal rules. A Cardinal rule, according to the Urban Dictionary, "is a substantial rule that is in place in a situation or organization. And it must not be broken anytime." OK, that's pretty darn clear.

    Now one situation that every expat here in Korea has observed is Koreans wearing attire with English inscriptions. Much has been said about this phenomenon. Certainly, much has been seen. But one component has heretofore been lacking. That is, a relevant Cardinal rule to accompany this dynamic. For nearly every time that I have asked one of my students or a passerby on the street about the meaning of the English inscription on their gear, the response has almost always been the same, "I have no idea what it means. I just like the style."

    OK, time for the minting of the applicable Cardinal rule: "No person anywhere should ever wear an article of clothing without knowing the meaning of the inscription that may be contained therein." This could easily be hazardous to your halo, or at least to your ego.

    Sometimes the infractions are harmless enough.

  • Other times however, people may be pushing the boundary.

    Once, a coed in one of my classes was wearing a very attractive sweater. I walked over to observe how she was doing during an in-class assignment. Looking at what she was writing from the row behind, I noticed that the words "Fuck Me" were woven into the top part of her shoulders. Whoa, I thought. "Excuse me, do you know what's written on your shoulders?" I asked. "No professor," she answered coyly. "What's written on that sweater is not appropriate. Please do not wear it again to my class."

    Sometimes the inscriptions are a stretch. Is she talking figuratively? Or, is this about pizza?

    Can you repeat that?

    OK, sometimes I must admit, these musings might make sense.

    Well, I am sorry to hear this.

    Yes, you are!

    Ah students, and Korean friends, my heed I know you will not take. "Style" points in Korea, trump any advice I may offer. I understand full well. Nonetheless, I repeat my Cardinal rule: "No person anywhere should ever wear an article of clothing without knowing the meaning of the inscription that may be contained therein." The risk you take is yours alone.

    I am reminded of that great scene from the movie classic, "Ghostbusters." Sigourney Weaver, possessed by the devil, is coming on to ghostbuster, Bill Murray. He halfheartedly pushes her away. "I have a rule," he says, "never to get involved with possessed people." She ignores Murray and continues her aggressive pursuit. Murray reconsiders. "Well, maybe it's more of a guideline than a rule." Rules vs. guidelines, never to be confused again.

    Now for the rest of you, guidelines aside, what Cardinal rules help you meander your way through your life? What's a Cardinal rule you might offer the masses? Bill Murray is curious. So are we. Bagel anyone?


    1. I agree. I imagine the t-shirt printer is just as lazy as the wearer. That is, they haven't discovered dictionaries, or the usefulness of google search to eliminate or minimize their spelling and grammr errors.