Like Pulling Teeth


“Good morning, campers!”

Grunt. That guy in the corner fucking grunted. His mate sniggered after it too. Okay, so it’s gonna be one of those fucking days.

Keep it together, it’s only an hour long class. Still, with cunts like this 5 minutes can feel like a week. My normally placid and cool nature, my inner still reflecting pool, suddenly becomes a volcanic mouth of fury, and I bubble over – but only a little bit. It’s all about that customer service angle, these days.

I’ve got my materials. An article, 4 activities, a target for what they’re getting taught this week. I could’ve been put off by this whole not-giving-two-shits attitude that they showed in their first two weeks but here we are. Roll on week three! (Consider shifting to start, maybe not exciting enough?)

I was feeling in a properly good mood before I came in and all. Breakfast was decent, ham and eggs, and I got a seat on both the tram and the metro. The continent is great for having all this public transport but it’s a shame there’s hardly ever enough seats. There’s always loads of seats on the buses back home. Probably because everybody drives.

Time to stop fantasising and get into the moment. I try and break their impassive stony faces with a bit of high energy joking around. Got to be part kids’ entertainer these days to really break through.

“C’mon, c’mon!” I cajole, clapping twice like some mad clown cunt, “Wakey, wakey!”

Still nothing. Maybe the faintest glimmer of a smile in the corner of one eye. That one glimmer is my only fucking hope in this room and I hope I say the right things to nurture it. If at least somebody leaves the room cheery then it’s job well done. Cheery people tend to learn a bit more. They also, most importantly, give the least negative feedback to HQ. It’d be fine if I’d done something wrong or if they just said we didn’t fit as people, but I can tell these guys aren’t like that. These are the types of contemptible fuckers who would find some small chink in my armour, some time I wasn’t the most happy, smiley, cheery, japing motherfucker on the planet, or some time I was two minutes late, or some time I said I had to look something up because I’m not omnipotent. They expect an awful lot from us. And sometimes give nothing back.

I begin, as you’re always told to, at the start. I lead in with something basic to butter them up, get their verbal centres working, in tune, alive, here. An open question.

I get stares. The type of taxidermist animal stares like you’d get from some stupid cunting weasel who stood in the road a bit too long before getting obliterated by a lorry. Miraculously, its eyes and vacant look survived, multiplied, and are now populating the faces and expressions of everyone in the room. That glimmer from the corner of one eye is gone. I repeat myself a couple times – nice and slowly like, really gentle in case maybe their ears were too plugged up or it was too early. The silence continues. It is brutal.

A girl whispers to her neighbour, who giggles. Some cunt looks at his phone. Another guy is sleeping in the corner. It’s not even mid-afternoon but all these guys look like they’re half dead. It feels like I’m about to join them.

It’s as though I’ve been impaled, some swift, sharp, shard, right up the jacksy. Or maybe rather stunned with some sort of dart, then pickled in spite and misery, and hung on the wall, with some Latin inscription that says “Incompetent Teacher” underneath, still breathing, mouth wired shut to quieten my complaints.

We get through the first part of the lesson, an activity designed to take two minutes, in about 20 minutes. The next part is supposed to take 20 and could well take 200 if it scales up at the same rate. What a horrible day, it starts to rain outside and I hear the crack of a distant thunderstorm. The wind rises.

Moving swiftly on to the next part, I start explaining the rules of the next exercise. They aren’t interested. Two of them are picking at each other’s fingernails, one is doodling in a jotter, one guy is making an attempt at looking interested. So shines a good deed in a weary world. Shame this world is intractable, unchangeable. There’s nothing else that can be done at this stage. This is a fixed point in time and space. Even if there’s a maelstrom of indignity flying around it in my head. I turn towards the culprits.

It’d be too easy to just blame myself. After all, I’m supposed to be Mr Teacher, Mr In-Charge. It’d be far easier to blame the students for their laziness and their self-affected “too cool to try” attitude. It’s a shame mediocrity is looked at as cool. Nah, I put the blame where it belongs, with whoever decided that I and them should be in the same room, staring at some activity which is too hard for half of them, too easy for the other half, and with no personal input permitted from me. It is a riddle who thought this would work, but it’s just a game of extraction from some HR department or some marketer somewhere who saw the chance for a quick buck selling an education and duping some people who aren’t allowed to choose but are just told it’s important that they do it. Add paperwork on top of that and it’s no wonder educators are running for the hills and starting resistance movements.

After the interminably paced class winds down to its final death throes, I extract signatures after some pointed pointing and diagrams, then I jog on to a new adventure. A train ride takes me away from the smog and the din and the indecipherable wailing of the man on the street – I hope he gets help, whatever the matter is – and into the countryside.

It’s opener there
In the wide, open air.

Out there, I find my guys. The watermen. They’ve known each other for years and are actually at the same skill level. For these guys, I can put my skills to use. Anger subsides and abates. It is peaceful. The storm cloud broke over another part of the city. And we clink glass.


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