Sigh. You’ll think me a terrible person for this, but this is the first I’ve really vented after a whole year of bottled-up rage. Considering, it’ll probably come off pretty soft. Here we go.
One of the most wretched examples of human failure I’ve ever had the fortune of knowing on a personal level is our school’s teaching assistant, Keiko. There are three assistants at our school, two of whom are lovely and very helpful. The other, Keiko, is a superficial, self-important mummy who spends each day encased in a glittering sarcophagus of denial. Her age is her deepest, darkest secret, though evidence suggests she is well into her 50s. To preserve her youth indefinitely, she takes a number of elaborate but futile measures, including weekly boxercising lessons, cakey gobs of makeup (usually smeared on haphazardly as if to directly illustrate her wild, groping desperation) as well as a vast arsenal of other cosmetic products, expensive “passive exercise” machines like her mechanical horse seat, constant blasting of Beyonce music, shunning of enka music (which is mainly popular among people above fifty), a wardrobe of scanty, inappropriate clothing, and most importantly, absolute denial of the existence of her kids and, by relation, grandkids. Yes, I’ve seen people ask her point blalnk, “Do you have kids?” and she has denied it with a stone, makeup-caked face. This is a breed of loathsome hag you’ve only read about in dark fairy tales.
She also keeps herself in a suspended state of airheaded joviality, also presumably a symptom of self-denial. As you might have guessed, this is quite popular with the children, who never seem to see through it, but her bubbliness combined with an utterly vacuous grasp of her surroundings or even basic human emotion will, without fail, wrench each class she “assists” off the rails of progress. Ultimately the problem comes down to chemistry. The compound known as Keiko is a volatile, poisonous mixture of three basic components–too much Japanese, terrible, English, and a constant desire to be the center of attention, even if the next oldest person in the room is only halfl her age. When her noxious Keiko fumes breach the nostrils of a normal human being, you can bet your fuckin’ ass an explosion is imminent. Don’t bother asking her politely not to use Japanese or teach the kids how to say stuff wrong, because in Keiko’s foul tongue, “Okay, sure thing” is just a code for “Well I’m older than you and this is my brother’s company, so I’ll feed these children whatever rubbish I can if it means making them adore me.” Sure enough, she’ll go on without so much as a courtesy break, snatching away the kids’ attention so she can teach them useless phrases like “I have a [sic] hay fever!” and “It can be helped!” (actually “It can’t be helped.” Not that anyone ever says that either). She’ll teach these phrases to the kids over and over, regardless of their relevance or lack thereof, simply because she’s not actually teaching, but showing off her amazing vocabulary, which she has no idea how to apply in any sort of intelligible way.
She also interrupts me constantly during lessons to vomit out scripted explanations of grammar points, which she does in such an overbearing, whizzing hurricane of a performance that no student could possibly absorb the meaning of it, especially the three-year-olds who don’t even understand the Japanese she’s using. She has zero faith in the kids’ ability to piece things together themselves, and yet she tries to explain things to kindergarteners in textbook terminology. This is a common classroom scene.
Me: “Okay, Hiroshi! What food do you like?”
Kindergarten kid: “I like apple!”
Keiko: “I like appleSSSSSS!!! When the vocabulary has an ‘a’ before it, that denotes singularity, and means ‘one such-and-such’. If there is more than one such-and-such, you have to add an ‘s’ and use the plural form. You got it?! You got it?!”
Kindergarten kid: (inserts finger into nostril)
She even randomly inserts the English word for “plural” sometimes. That’s sure to be effective. As far as I can tell, she’s just being lazy. It’s easier to just hurl out the same spiel to every single student than to try and think of an effective way to match the lesson to their specific needs. Not that she’s supposed to be teaching in the first place. Obviously she has no faith in me, either. And for someone who can barely communicate in English, it’s awfully picky to bully a three-year-old for forgetting to pluralize a noun, which is a concept that doesn’t even exist in Japanese.
Nobody’s perfect. I’ve broken enough of my teeth in public to learn that the hard way. Also, when I went to the sixth grade dance, a speaker fell on my head and I didn’t dance with anyone the whole night because I was a shy, cynical bastard. As such, there are a lot of things about Keiko that would be overlookable–and I am trying–if only she wasn’t constantly reporting on how great she is and asking you to confirm these reports. Example:
Keiko: “Today I went to boxercising for an hour before coming to work! Isn’t that amazing? And I made my own rice balls for lunch. Don’t they just look delicious? Anyway, that said, I’ll be too tired to be of any actual assistance today, but allow me to continue ranting about all the amazing things I do that are a basic part of the average person’s routine.”
She even interrupts class to tell the kids, in Japanese, about the events of her day. And since she’s always doing so many amazing things, she’s ALWAYS “tired”, which she feels the need to tell me before, after, and during EVERY class. EVERY DAY. She must be the fucking President.
You might think her constant boasting is supposed to be facetious at first because she doesn’t even attempt to fake humility, but this is all too real. In America, complimenting yourself a lot and inviting everyone else to join in is a good way to see a person’s bitchiest facial expression, but if you do it in Japan, you may as well just explode a big ol’ busful of grannies, because it’s just about as taboo. This is a country where the phrase “I am rude” is a greeting, and you have to say it both when you show up somewhere and when you go away; the only way to not be rude is to sit perfectly still. The culture has veins that bulge with humility and self-deprecation. It used to be that if your superior died, or even if he just did something dishonorable (which was most things), you had to kill yourself. And even doing that involved a strict form of etiquette. As such, Keiko stands out like an unsheathen boner, appalling people left and right as she demands praise for each and every one of her day’s activities.
Reading this, I suppose it sounds like Keiko and I don’t get along very well, but in fact I’m the person who gets along with her best in the entire company. The other two teachers are self-proclaimed assholes–a proclamation I’m more than happy to echo–and they will take every opportunity they can to publicly disparage her. Though I’m venting now, I tend to hold my tongue about stuff like this when I’m around the person in question, if only to preserve a serene atmosphere for the kids. This, by default, has made me the “nice guy”. It’s also made Keiko like me a whole lot, and after a whole year of childish bickering between her and the other two teachers (which has led to more than a couple students quitting or almost quitting), my boss decided to pair me up with Keiko every single day for the new school year. Yes, my silent disdain for her has earned me her constant presence. We’re two weeks in now, and I feel like I’ve run a marathon through slap-happy Hell. She becomes more and more insipid each day. She fails to listen when I’m instructing the kids, and then in an unnecessary attempt to echo me, tells them to do something that she just made up.
Me: “Okay, let’s play a game. Everybo…”
Keiko: “Haaaaai~! Everybody stand up, it’s the touch game!”
Me: “No no, a different game.”
Keiko: “Haaaai~ tatte kudasa~i (stand up)! Touch game!”
Me: “Anybody wanna loan me a mortar shell so I can burst this bitch?”
Keiko: (grins vacantly)
Yesterday (as of the time I wrote this), she failed to copy the textbook pages for the kids (which is her job) and then blamed me for the pages not being ready. “I just gave them to you,” she said, growing irritable. “Why’d you lose them?” I told her in the most kid-calming voice I could muster that any materials I had were sitting on my desk right in front of me, and that no such pages were among them. “Fine,” she said, “I’ll just copy them again.”
The instant she returned to the classroom, she discovered the pages had been by her stuff all the while. “Oops!” she said, holding a mountain of fresh copies. “I guess we won’t need these after all!” And then she did it again. Our boss has asked us numerous times to conserve paper at the copy machine since our company is at risk of shutting down. Nonetheless, Keiko continues to make dozens of erroneous copies every day instead of just counting how many students are in the class.
Well, the good news, and perhaps the real reason I’m writing this, is that Keiko has recently found a man rich enough to marry, and next Monday is her last day at the company after more than ten years of employment. I just want to let it be known that I fucking hated working with her, before she’s gone and I’ve purged all memories of her from my brain. Good day.