May 22, 2015: The Challenge

Now that we’ve been in Seoul a few weeks, we’ve started to find spots that bear revisiting. One of our favourite spots is, admittedly, our favourite because it reminds us of home. Beer-O-Clock is a Canadian owned bar we find ourselves attending regularly. It’s not just their selection of familiar beer or the Canadian bar tenders that bring us back, but something they offer called “The Challenge.”

Nearly the first thing you see when you walk in, is a large score board hanging above the bar. It has somewhat less than 100 different national flags on it, each with a handwritten “score” below it. Most flags have scores in the single or double digits.

You’ll find the Canadian flag placed squarely in the center of the board, with a score of nearly 600 written neatly beneath it. And slightly to the right of that, an American flag with a similar score.

Every foreigner who walks in finds themselves eventually asking about the score board. Points are earned by completing “The Challenge”: ten predetermined shots. It can only be completed on an individual basis, but you can take as long as you like.

For particularly competitive folks, there’s a leaderboard for fastest completion of the challenge. The current number one spot on the board, for 2015, is held by one Lisa Marie, a Canadian (naturally), who completed the challenge in 12.90 seconds.

Aside from the challenge, the food is great, the beer is reasonably priced, and the staff is friendly. A winning combination.

We found ourselves sitting at their bar on a Friday night. Partway through my first beer, half a dozen very young American army grunts barreled through the door, demanding “The Challenge.” The bartender looked from face to face, “Which one of you is doing it?”

They seemed a bit confused and, after our bartender explained the rules, a few of them ordered beers while they dared each other to do it. One tapped out immediately, he had to get on a plane in the morning. They spent the next half an hour alternately trying to con each other into it and bowing out.

By this time I’d finished my beer and a rum and coke. Next time the bartender came around I asked “Can I have ‘The Challenge,’ please?”

Such nice young Americans!

The army grunts groaned collectively. I smiled, “What? I got tired of watching you guys pussy out.” Adam giggled into his beer. He was refraining, as he had work in the morning and the common sense to know that “The Challenge” was a terrible idea. Plus, one of us had to stay sober to make sure the other one didn’t make a mess. Puke in the bar and you get five points removed from your country. (Japan currently sits at -17).

A few minutes later two of the Americans buckled and joined me. They tried to best Lisa Marie, but only managed to get everything down in 20 seconds. I cheered and clapped for them as they did it. I might be stupid enough to do the challenge, but I’m not stupid enough to take on Lisa Marie on my first attempt.

The grunts cleared out shortly after that, I imagine they didn’t want to forfeit points. It took me 45 minutes to drink my challenge.

On the way home, while very drunk, we stopped at one of the carnival games that line the bar district of Hongdae. There was one that had caught my eye on the way in and, now that I was blasted, had to try. It was a tile punching game. There were four stacks of tiles, of increasing height, spaced out in front of the booth. For 10,000 won, you get to try your luck with the smallest and second smallest stack. I put on the protective glove they offered and blew through my stacks of tiles, winning myself a stuffed panda. We call him Po.

I’d love to end the story here, winning at everything. But, truth be told, I was terribly sick when we got back to the flat. And I spent the rest of the next day in bed, recovering. But knowing that I was sharing my fate with two army servicemen, and that I had Po to cuddle with, made it worth it.