4:30, 5:00, and 9:00 p.m.

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By Anna Jung

Anna Jung a sophomore from Seoul National University, studying English and Business Administration. She is passionate about Sustainability, Global Societies, and Communications. As an exchange student at Cal, she is excited to make the most of her experience here, and she hopes to further pursue her creative writing journey. Her personal interests include playing basketball, swimming at Strawberry Canyon, and acting in theater performances.

At retirement, it had seen seventeen years. Its skin gleamed in a sleek, greyish-silver
hue. Its form was round and elongated—a classic beauty to those with an eye for old style. In
town, I had spotted a few of its kind. Ours, however, bore a distinctive mark. A curious
young girl, oblivious to her mischievous act, had broken one of the sunshade frames. She had
forgotten the incident. However, her dad would remind her of it often, playfully.
My dad loved his car. He would wash it squeaky clean. He would inspect to ensure no
stray cookie crumbs were in the seat linings. Each door, door handle, front bumper, and back
became subjects of scrutiny. I felt sorry for the careless person who might have left a dent on
our car. They weren’t going to get away with it. Sometimes, I would even become jealous of
this inanimate object. Being an only child, I never had to fight for my parents’ love. But,
sometimes, I felt like I was competing against this greyish-silver creature.
Yet, I couldn’t help loving our car. I would see it parked outside the small parking lot
next to the convenience store near my middle school. As I recall, few people parked their cars
next to the store. Only one or two, which I’m pretty sure belonged to the real estate agents
and interior designers who also had lodging next to the convenience store. With my dad
picking me up every day, my best friend began to notice the car, too.
She’d gently nudge me, saying, “Hey, I see your dad’s car over there.”
Understanding the car meant he was inside, I’d eagerly dash in that direction.
Unintentionally, I abandoned this kind friend who told me where my dad was. Of course, I’d
roll down the window and give my friend a quick wave. However, once the windows rolled
back up, it was our time, just me and my dad, undisturbed from the outside world. I talked
nonstop to the point my throat hurt, I think. I’d share the latest gossip about my friends and classes, even reenacting some humorous teacher-student exchanges I’d had that day.
My dad and I had a nice pattern that played out every day around four-thirty after
school. It had become such an ingrained part of my life that the thought of it changing when I
moved into the high school dorms made me a little sad. Surprisingly, not much changed. I
still had my dad waiting to pick me up.
On Fridays, at five o’clock sharp, I’d drag my suitcase, loaded with thick textbooks I
never studied over the weekend, toward my waving dad. I’d sprint down the green paved path
from the dormitory door to our school’s parking lot. It was downhill and dangerously steep.
Considering the bulk of my suitcase, a fall would have been extremely painful and looked
ridiculously stupid. My dad’s wave would shift to a calm-down-Anna-you-are-going-to-hurt-
yourself-sort-of-face. However, I didn’t care at all. I raced down at full speed, then crashed
into his embrace, squeezing him tight. Walking to our car, I wouldn’t pull away from this
tight squeeze. It wasn’t a comfortable way to walk for the both of us. But he never
complained, and after missing him all week, I couldn’t bear to let go.
That became our new routine—he’d pick me up on Fridays and drop me back on
Sundays, precisely at 10:50 p.m. You had to be in the dormitory building by eleven, so ten-
fifty meant you tried to stay home as long as possible.
“Just two hundred trips, and you will graduate!” My dad always counted how many
back-and-forth journeys were left. It seemed like a lot of trips.
Eventually, he started making extra trips voluntarily for me. Every Wednesday, at 9:00
p.m., my dad would call me down from my study halls. I would skip down the stairs two
steps at a time and pass the teacher’s office, biology, and chemistry lab. Unlike the Friday
sprints from the dormitory steps, this was a quick run downhill, an apologetic nod to the
school guard, and a dash into my dad’s waiting car. It was perfectly normal and acceptable for parents to visit their kids. However, every Wednesday, I felt a twinge of guilt. It was as if I were committing a secret, delightful crime. I felt guilty to feel this happy, so I always put on a solemn face as I passed the school guard. Maybe it was the darkness of the night or the aroma of warm food he would always bring, but
these thirty-minute excursions seemed like the best-kept secret between my dad and me.
I felt so famished on these Wednesdays. Indeed, I had been in the study halls for the
past three hours. Or maybe it was because I knew my dad would bring something good; I
barely touched my dinner in expectant anticipation. While I ate noisily, I chattered nonstop
about my roommate, who sets alarms every three minutes starting from 5:00 a.m., my teacher
with a peculiar obsession for potato chips, and the upcoming chemistry unit test my friends
were racking their brains to postpone. Those thirty minutes were filled with laughter and joy,
fleeting but so precious. After our brief excursion, my dad would always walk me back up to
the teacher’s office, where I would have to wave goodbye.

I often talked to my dad about seeing his car from afar and feeling a sense of
reassurance and warmth knowing he was there. I talked about how different cars had different
faces. BMWs have big nostrils, Mercedes-Benzes have a challenge-me face, and Jeeps look
like Wall-E on Earth. Most cars I saw on the road felt distant, unfamiliar, or overly imposing.
My dad’s SsangYong Chairman was endearing. It had soft, round eyes, in stark contrast to the
typical sharp and angular features of most cars. It had a big smile, and its lights resembled
dimples. It was undeniably adorable and inviting, radiating a sense of homeliness. It didn’t
seem to invite challenge or intimidation. Instead, it was welcoming in every way.
“It’s a family car!”
My dad was right. Functionally, it was a limousine. Interestingly, it wasn’t just a car;
it was my one-year-older sibling. My dad had bought this car a year before I was born. He treated it like his baby. Sometimes, I reminded him that the real baby was the one inside the
car, playfully.
When you truly love something, I guess you don’t like it to change. So, when I saw
the other one for the first time, I was a bit dumbfounded. Too grand, haughty-looking, and
almighty. Also, it was not greyish silver. It was blinding white. Still, I had to admit, it had a
sense of new style.
My dad walked out of it, gesturing: “So what do you think?” As he opened the car
door, I saw the Audi logo illuminated on the ground. I thought to myself, Now, that is
cool! From then on, I would open and close the door just to see this logo appear and
disappear on the ground. The interior of the car was equally impressive. Blue ambient lights
outlined the control panel and counters.
Huh! Maybe I could get used to this. It wasn’t the cute and cuddly car I was used to,
but it was my dad’s dream car. I remember the day he pointed it out while we watched “The
Intern.” Robert De Niro would steer this car to Anne Hathaway’s driveway to pick her up for
work. My dad would pause the movie to make a grand statement that he would get that car.
He looked different driving it, too—more powerful, important, and confident. I found myself
liking this new version of my dad.

After entering university, my hours were no longer 4:30, 5:00, or 9:00 p.m. sharp. It
was different all the time and hard to keep up with. I relied less on my dad to get me to places
as it began to conflict with his work schedule. I would navigate the public transportation
system more often, using the subway to get to school. Then, I would venture up this small
road on the highway to reach the bus stop where the school shuttles were. However, night
subways seemed sketchy, and no school shuttles were available after seven. Eventually, I
would call my dad to pick me up from random places: sometimes, in front of my university’s main library, Mexican grill restaurants, or even board game cafes, I would go with my
friends. “Just give me a thirty-minute heads-up!” My dad’s flashy, snowy white car would
come to the rescue no matter where or when.
My friends always grumbled about public transportation costs, the toll of standing
throughout the ride, and how long it took to get back home. Yet, I couldn’t really relate to
these concerns. Because I would be all stretched out on the front seat with my seat put back
as far as it could go, wrapped under the striking red blanket, peacefully asleep under my dad’s
watch. True, this car didn’t offer the smoothest ride like the greyish-silver one did, but the
bumpy roads cradled me like a baby’s crib, rocking me to sleep.

Although I had a knack for identifying my dad’s car wherever I was, there have been
instances when I just didn’t realize he was there. On one occasion, it happened during a fall
retreat when I was eleven years old. Another time was during my basketball tryouts at the age
of fifteen.
I was happily running along with my friend. There were a bunch of tires lined up
against the border of the playground. This was my first big trip away from my family. Of
course, I had been on field trips and camping trips, but they were at most night-long. This one
was a full week away from home.
I hobbled dangerously on the tires, attempting to maintain my balance and avoid
falling. My friend and I let our imaginations run wild, pretending the ground was a molten
pool of lava, navigating the tires as courageous adventurers on a perilous journey.
Meanwhile, I was thinking about what my dad might be doing now, as this would be when he
usually picked me up.
Strangely, I saw something out of the corner of my eye.

No way. It just didn’t make sense, but I could swear that was my dad’s car.
The speakers blared, announcing snack time and calling everyone to gather in the
dining halls. I felt tempted to rush over but resisted, wanting another good look at the car.
“Come on, let’s go!” My friend was tugging at my arm. “Otherwise, everyone else is gonna
get all the good snacks.” The thought of missing out on the glazed donuts led me to run
along. Later, I found out it was him. My dad had driven like 60 kilometers just to glimpse at
me playing.
Basketball tryouts were nerve-racking. There were a couple of practical tests you had
to go through, but the worst of it was succeeding fifteen shots in under a minute. You had to
move swiftly from one side of the basketball hoop to the other every time you scored. I had
practiced for weeks with my dad and seemed to make it ninety percent of the time.
My dad was not a professional basketball player or anything, but the way he spoke
about shooting ranges, angles, and positions, I bet he could have been. The best advice he
gave me was to keep going even after I’d missed the first shot. He always said, “You should
think about what to do when you play badly because you’re good most of the time.” 
During the tryouts, I missed the first five shots. Even in all the epic fails my dad and I
had ever imagined, we never thought missing this many shots could happen. Time was
slipping away, adrenaline surged through me, and I debated whether I could improve on my
second attempt. Brushing away these unhelpful thoughts, I pictured it was just my dad and
me practicing back home. Miraculously, I didn’t miss a single shot after that.
After I scored my fifteenth shot, I had a few seconds left to get in another hoop. I
shot. It went in. I pumped my fist into the air. Nothing could have felt better. I just wished my
dad could have seen my dramatic success. I thought about how many times I would reenact
this for my dad.

How much I wished he could have seen it in person! As these thoughts raced through
my mind, slowly, I turned my head around, taking in the scene around me. Thirty other
students were focused on the hoops, some tossing basketballs, a few girls shielding their eyes
from the blazing sun, and others sprawled on the ground, weary from their efforts. My eyes
scanned the area, first aimlessly and then with purpose, looking over the green fence dividing
the basketball court and parking lot.
No way! I stood there, mouth agape.
If this were a cartoon, I could see the words “One Eternity Later” flash before my
eyes. I couldn’t see the greyish silver, but I could see him.
Brown horn-rimmed glasses, black bushy hair, and the same smile as mine. After
coming to my senses, I wanted to abandon the rest of my tryouts and walk over to him. He
looked at me with the calm-down-Anna-but-that-was-awesome-sort-of-face, and his eyes told
me I saw everything. Carry on.

Fast forward to the present, it’s no longer elementary, middle, or high school. It was
once four-thirty, five, nine, or some uncertain hour. However, now, it’s a completely different
place and a completely different time zone. My dad is in Seoul, and I am in San Francisco. I
talk to my dad every day on the phone. It’s a day ahead for him and a day behind for me. It’s
night for him and morning for me. And vice versa. It’s strange not having him pick me up or
take me places. 
Walking down Shattuck Avenue, I thought about how eighty-three days were left
before I could see him again.
No way! At a distance, I saw something. It was a snowy white car. I had to squint to
discern it properly. I couldn’t believe it. It was that car from “The Intern.”

I was certain, beyond a doubt. That was my dad’s car!
It picked up speed, coming closer to where I was standing. With eager anticipation, I
tried to discern who was behind the wheel. It couldn’t be him. And it wasn’t him. Then again,
how could it be? However, catching a glimpse of the car I would soon see again in December
made me smile.

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