A Simple Request

Yesterday, I went to Breeze, one of my favorite Korean bakeries, to pick up a birthday cake for my son. After choosing a chocolate cake and paying for it, I asked the cashier if I could put some words on the cake. She handed me a piece of paper and a pen. I wrote down, “HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO XUÂN.”

She told me they can’t do the thing on the letter A. I said to her, “You can’t draw two connected lines,” as I held up my hands above my head to show her the circumflex. She said, “We can only do English words.” I replied, “99% of the text is English. I just need one tiny diacritic.” Again, she said, “No, only English words. We don’t want to mess up.” I thought to myself, “She’s Korean. She’s not even American,” but I insisted, “I already paid for the cake. It’s fine if it is messed up.” She still declined.

Five minutes later, she handed me the cake. I peeped into it and the text reads, “Happy Birthday To Xuân” with the circumflex on the letter a. With delight, I said to her, “That’s perfect. Please say thanks to the cake decorator.” With a bit of defeat, she replied, “Only this time. Not next time.” I smiled and replied, “Well, there won’t be next time because I won’t come back.”

If she can’t accommodate a small request, I don’t need to buy a cake here even though this is one of my favorite bakeries. I was not asking her to draw a complicated Nôm character. I asked for a simple diacritical mark.