Wednesday, 12 January 2011

The Day I Lost My Job, I Hope

Since early December last year I’ve stopped going to my juku job. Remarkably enough I haven’t officially lost the job. That is until today.

I had told snot eyes several times that I had quit but by the end of the conversation she would invariably say something like:

“So you will come in on Monday to teach?”
“How about Friday?”
“I’ve told you that they haven’t paid me, so I’m not coming in to teach.”

She of the gummy eyes and crumpled wrinkly face was marvelous in her forbearance. She would listen to me using liberal doses of the ‘f’ word both as noun and adjective and allow me to eventually run out of steam before popping up with her succinct:

“So you will come on Monday to teach then?”

It wasn’t that her English wasn’t up to understanding me; it was more that her duty as a disgruntled employee (who had recently been given a month’s notice to quit and move on) was to persevere with pressuring me to continue teaching.

The job had been all right. The pay was lousy but at least I was left alone to teach two brothers aged 9 and 12. They were two smart lads who responded well to my bribes of games for the last 20 minutes if they applied themselves for 40 minutes to their studies. Their studies being the Aiken test: a brand of English efficiency test designed by the Japanese to test Japanese-ness as much as English, dealing with topics that often had no relevance to a 9 year old. At one point the older brother asked me what ‘dating’ was and why a boss would be in trouble for taking his secretary out to dinner at an expensive restaurant. I felt Tiger Woods should have stepped in at that point with an explanation. But unfortunately he was being treated for sex addiction so I ventured my own opinion:

“Women don’t like men having 2 girlfriends.” The child chewed on that nugget of information for a while before breaking into a frown of confusion. I decided to head the Indians off at the pass. “Ask your dad about it.”

So the job was frankly a doss, the conditions third world and the salary second world, but this only served to take any weight of responsibility off my shoulders. I could go in unprepared, give it 30%, take cheeky cigarette breaks and shoot off the moment the lesson finished to get beered up. It was almost therapeutic – like not bothering to confab with the caddy, just lining up and whacking the ball.

It all changed in November when the boss with an interest in my procreative powers decided to move out of his disorganized and dirty hovel of a main office into the disorganized and dirty room where I taught. The advantage being that the new location had more room to dirt up and fill up with filing boxes.

I went in the week of the move to teach and saw that the boss in his wisdom had decided to dye the top of his hair pink and had made the further executive decision to take up three quarters of the teaching space. The white boards with no marker pens and the tatty partitions had all been squeezed into a corner by the door. The acres of space created had been used for a scruffy brown leather sofa and coffee table. The broken computer was gone and the walls lined with boxes of papers and teaching books that I suspected would never see the light of pedagogy. The boss lingered around making loud calls on his mobile phone and another dude in a brown suit that reminded me of China lingered nearby. The kids and teachers were bunched in the corner trying not to elbow each other and doing their best to continue the substandard service above the din of the dick obsessed boss.

My two kids didn’t like the arrangement and liked it even less when the boss took a break from his power brokering on the phone to come over and peer at the lessons in progress. Kids like cats and dogs sense the mean spirited and insincere and recoiled from the boss’s friendliness like little Red Riding Hood being doubtful about her Grandmother’s newly formed big ears.

They later confided in me how little they liked the man and I did my best not to tell them their instincts were Tiger sharp and true.

This went on for a couple of weeks before I noticed that I hadn’t been paid for the previous month yet. I tackled snotty focals about this. She made some bizarre comment about the office move necessitating the withholding of payment for a few days. I pointed out the wages were done by electronic transfer and that it was a simple matter of turning on a computer and inputting in some time sheets and then going down the bank and organizing money transfers. As far as I was concerned Japanese employees were spineless cowards for passively accepting they wouldn’t be paid on time because the boss moved office.

A few days stretched to weeks. I got bored of checking my bank book to find no salary forthcoming. And being a man of limited patience I easily let drop the ultimatum that I would quit if I wasn’t paid in a week.

I wasn’t and so I took it as a given that snooty had communicated news of my resignation to the boss. This was my mistake. Of course in Japan and maybe in Asia generally you don’t do such things. All decisions come from above. I knew this was the case because every week I failed to show up for work gummy vision tackled me at our next private lesson insisting:

“So you will teach in January?”

I stayed silent because I got tired of denying. I felt like a Canute who got bored of ordering the waves to retreat and instead went off to a beach bar to look for a cocktail and a dodgy geezer to score from. Besides I still wanted to get paid. The illusion of being employed although not going to work left me almost philosophical. How long could this go on for? Was I trapped in a Kafka novel? In which case would the boss turn into an insect (surely a better reflection of his true nature)?

Conveniently December and the holidays came round and the issue could be put to one side. I continued to teach gummy oculars on the side and she continued to let fall her automatic refrain:

“If you get paid will you teach next Friday?”

I patiently explained that I had already quit and now I just wanted my money otherwise I would tell the tax office that the Juku was breaking the law and that I would make damn sure that anyone who searched on Google or Yahoo in either Japanese or English for the name of the school would encounter a first entry telling in a no holes barred way why a person shouldn’t send their kid to the school. All of this washed over sticky eyes making as little impression as England at the World Cup.

On the 4th January I checked my bank account and my wages were as absent as Tiger is from the leader’s board on the Pro Circuit. I instantly got on the blower to Vaseline iris demanding my wages. I withheld my anger because I was in the bank and I had only just a few weeks back called an employee of that bank ‘an fing C’. My niceness must have given her hope because she vocalized ruminations about me getting paid and coming back to work. I hadn’t worked at the place for weeks. I had already told my 2 charges that I was finished with the place because they hadn’t paid me. The older one must have realized that this was on a par with taking the secretary out to dinner as he looked downcast when I said sayonara.

And today I get a phone call on my mobile. My wife and kid were sleeping so I took the call.

“Hello. Mr. John?”

“Er, yes. Who is this?”

“I’m the boss from xxxx Juku.” His English then started falling apart. I knew that he was trying to say something about me coming to work. I let him drone on for a few seconds. Making him suffer the English language made me feel good.

Eventually I interrupted him, “Where is my salary? My money? Watashi-no okane doko desu ka?” He understood that and he assured me it would go into my account the following day.

That let the flood gates open. Like Tiger at a celebrity dinner with models in attendance I had the bit between my teeth and wasn’t going to hold back:

“Listen you don’t say ‘sorry’. No ‘gomennasai’ or anything. You arrogant fuckwit. You haven’t paid me for over 2 months now and you phone up and ask me to teach. If you had wanted me to teach you should have paid me.”

“I don’t understand English”

“That’s too fucking bad.”

“You teach this week”

At that point I took the mobile from my ear and held it to my mouth and I shouted at the machine: “You kept my money for over 2 fucking months. Grow some manners you fucking pink headed moron!” With that I cut off the connection.

He phoned back. I didn’t answer. Bogey scope rang while I was teaching. She said the boss hadn’t understood what I said. As if shouting and hanging up and an over-liberal use of swearing wasn’t enough to communicate my anger. She advised my wife to keep my resignation a secret until I got paid. Remarkable since I hadn’t taught there for ages anyway. I truly believed I had lost my job. Calling the boss a fucking pink headed moron must be an automatic red card. But no the parents want the teacher back.

Losing this job is proving as difficult as me quitting the cigarettes or Tiger the center folds.