Preacher, Leave Them Folks Alone

To continue the saga I started describing to you yesterday, assuming the band-aid around the tip of my left middle finger allows me to type without making too many mistakes, while trying to fill out the student evaluations during class so I could get them to Cheryl, the head teacher, by ten a.m. (and when I looked at the clock it said 9:35, even though I’d only completed two out of seven of the forms), I had to pause in my virtually effortless labors in order to answer another student’s question (the nerve of these people!), which was about a question I’d written on the board, copied from the ESL/EFL masterpiece, Conversation Inspirations (will have to get you the author’s name later, though I’ve been using her book for so many years you’d think I’d know the bloody thing by now):

“Do you believe in love at first sight?  Can you ever be sure you’re marrying the right person?”

(My answer to the second question is:  not if you’re too drunk.)

I admitted to the student that I thought my eye had jumped down the page in a saccade while I was copying the words out of the book on the white board, and that the two sentences didn’t belong together, but when I double-checked it turned out that sure enough, they did.  

“What do you think?” I asked the student.  The heavy load of caffeine in the super-charged thermos of coffee I’d drunk on the way to work an hour before didn’t let me give him time to respond before I answered the question myself (unless I just got tired of waiting, since he just stared at me as if I were a piece of re-animated road pizza):

“Well, I think the thing we call ‘love’ is actually just attraction.  It happens all the time.  I mean, you look at a beautiful woman and say, ‘Oh my God, I’m in love!'”

[An English friend of mine I knew and loved in Japan (but not in the same way) many years ago said it better when a fetching young Japanese woman caught his eye:  “I’m in lust.”]

I then quoted singer/songwriter James O’Connell when I said, “Love is a big thing,” and said it was impossible to love someone at first sight, since there’s no way you can know someone without having even met the goddamned person first.

I went on to add that the thing that we think of as love doesn’t exist and is bullshit manufactured by Hollywood, fairy tales, the music business, and the advertising industry to keep us miserable and keep us in line so we don’t get too uppity and start demanding our rights.  Think about it:  how do you feel whenever you go to some stupid restaurant and the song playing on the radio is sung by some wanker with his teeny balls in a vise and he’s whining and pining for the one that got away?  Who needs to hear that shit?  Nobody.  Don’t we suffer enough without having to listen to some preening turd bemoaning his outrageous fortune when he’s probably getting laid more than Zeus, Aphrodite, and Dionysus out on a bender together?  Just because his special one found out he wasn’t so special after all, and he can’t stop thinking and singing about her, does that mean we have to buy his latest uninspired waste product so he can have another set of live mermaids installed around his swimming pool?

(Most of this, by the way, I didn’t mention to the students, although I did manage to convey my cynicism about the hollowness of what passes for love these days; admittedly, this mainly derives from sour grapes, since I’ve been stuck in an inadequate marriage for several pointless years and it’s my own idiotic fault for thinking I could make it work when the writing on the wall practically reached out and wrung my neck, saying, “No, it can’t, you stupid fuck!”)

The students regarded me with impassive faces that silently said, “My, what a cheery fellow!”

Stoicism ranks high in Korean society, and for all their complaining about certain things, few Korean people air their dirty laundry in public (or if they do I’m not aware of it, since I can’t make head or tail out of the language).  I suspect that many of them suffer from marriages as harrowing as mine, if not more so, but keeping up appearances is crucial in a society where everyone judges one another (and themselves) mercilessly.  I’ve heard couples fighting through the walls of my apartment building and those of a motel I stayed in years ago, back when the country was still a military dictatorship (although that drunken couple punctuated their screams and yells and crescendos of breaking lamps and furniture with hearty commas and full stops of diabolical laughter).  And of course I’ve heard the quarrels I’ve had with my own wife loud and clear.  When we’re in the mood to fight, we don’t need microphones to get our points across.

After the class was over, I told Cheryl the head teacher that I still hadn’t finished the student evaluations and asked her if I could have a little more time.  I thought I’d have to work on them during the next class (A), my last hour with the other, far better group than the shiftless assembly of schmucks I’d just finished with (B).  To my relief, she said she didn’t need them until lunch time, saying she’d just have to gobble her food that much faster.  (To give you an idea of how quickly most Korean workers eat lunch, the cafeteria opens at around 11:45 and generally clears out by 12:15.  If you think that’s fast, in the Korean army, the average meal lasts five minutes.  Don’t forget to swallow before you chew!)

I had a break at eleven, when I’d be able to finish writing the evaluations.  That meant I could shoot the shit with beloved Class B.  I gave them the same set of questions on “Men, Women, and Relationships” I’d given Class A, but I forgot to give them time to talk.  It was either that old devil caffeine at work, or some sort of maniacal demon given birth to by too many years spent watching television as a child that led me to monopolize the discussion.  Most of the students didn’t seem to mind, however, unless they were just being polite (a virtue in shorter supply in Class A).  At the end of the hour, one of them even said, when I apologized for having dominated the airtime, “That’s okay.  It’s a listening class.”  

(This same student later said, during the graduation ceremony, that he intended to spread the word about the program to his co-workers back at the office next week.)

Speaking of long-winded presentations, I guess I’ll have to wait till tomorrow to tell you about the students’ speech contest and the disaster that followed during the graduation ceremony.  I was going to write about it today, but I guess I got sidetracked by that old devil A. D. D.

As Steven Wright says, “If you can’t hear me sometimes, it’s because sometimes I’m in parentheses. . . Does anyone have any questions?”

(Between songs during a live concert recording, David Byrne of the band Talking Heads asks the same thing; I wonder if he got the idea from Steven Wright.  I’ve never, however, heard my wife’s pastor offer his well-fleeced flock the chance to ask questions.  That might undermine his plot to keep them digging their own cross-shaped graves until the day they die broke and indebted to his evil, bloodsucking church–which reminds me, I have to go there today and talk football with Jesus.) 





2 thoughts on “Preacher, Leave Them Folks Alone

    • thanks, menomama. i know the feeling all too well, and i’m sorry to hear it’s contagious. perhaps i can prescribe you some dramamine? (that reminds me, i want to see robert redford’s new movie, “all is lost.” i’ve heard it’s great. have you seen it?)

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