Hu’ong Vy Restaurant, Saigon.
“Hey here’s another one. The Doctor Who theme. It’s classic, man,” says Hello Kitty Teacher spitting another youtube video from his tinny Bluetooth speakers.
“I teach the street children. They’re all my special friends,” he says, before adding “I know all their families as well.”
“I’m the Hello Kitty Teacher,” he says. “That’s my thing.”
“I have a thousand followers on Facebook,” he says.
I’ve had some history with Hello Kitty Teacher. I have a new job to go to and the owner wants people covering hours which aren’t a big enough carrot as they stand for someone to scooter 40 minutes each way from Saigon. I know that. I’m just not in the job yet because I’m serving notice on a teaching gig which I took at below market rates to pay the rent.
I was recently head-hunted to run the academic side of a language school 20 Km outside Ho Chi Minh City. There’s a very good chance of success and reasonable targets being set by a very decent Iranian-American guy who has the capital and business acumen but needs someone to handle the academic side. It could be a good opportunity.
I got asked to recruit on the internet and Hello Kitty Teacher vented at me on Facebook on his group and then requested my Skype so he could also vent at me by message there.
A couple of nights later we weirdly ended up on tables next to each other at Hu’ong Vy Restaurant and worked out who each other was. He said he was sorry. Had had a really shitty day. But the pay wasn’t great enough or the hours weren’t in big enough blocks and I agreed. There wasn’t much I could do about it until I was actually in the job, of course. He agreed.
Anyway. Cut to now.
Hu’ong Vy. Ext. Night.
I have an inexplicable earache that has forced me to buy a very expensive French ear cleaning kit that on use turns out to be just salt water in a can with a nozzle. It hasn’t made things better so I now have annoying tinnitus in my right ear. Doctor Who is easier on my inflamed membrane than some of the earlier selections.
“Could I request the Tomorrow’s World theme?” I ask. “It’s a classic. You probably didn’t hear it in America but it’s by the same people.
BBC Radiophonic Workshop. It’s really good.”
“No!” he snaps. “It is MY equipment and YOU are not in a position to decide!”
I’m startled by his Manifest Destiny made manifest.
“Anyway, you offer a SHITTY job, Rick! You work for a shitty LANGUAGE SCHOOL and you have no FUCKING idea of what teachers need!”
“Yeh, well, I’ve been a teacher for twelve years now. I do understand. But I haven’t even started in the job yet.”
“Hey, Doctor Who. What a fucking show!” he says to his acolytes who enthusiastically agree.
“Yeah well. I think it’s a bag of shit,” I say.
“What?” He is aghast. “You’re a fucking Brit and you don’t like Doctor Who?”
“I must admit,” I offer, “That my earliest memory is a British cliché- hiding behind the sofa, terrified by the Daleks. But really, it’s a kids’ show with some questionable qualities. Lesbian lizards and the like.”
“ALL lizards are lesbians,” someone says but offers no evidence to back up the claim.
“My nephew likes it. He’s ten,” I say.
At that, Hello Kitty Teacher throws up his hands. “I have nothing further to say to you on any subject ever.”
It turns out he does, though.
Talk turns back to our respective tables for a while then someone asks me about the job I’m about to start. Hello Kitty Teacher overhears me say the word ‘business’ and marches down the length of three tables to bellow in my face, “Oh yeh right! ‘it’s a business’ you say! That shows you don’t give a fuck about education, you don’t care about people and you don’t. FUCKING. Belong here!”
I am tipsy, a bit stoned and have earache so my reaction is minimal. “yeh, but. It IS a business. If it doesn’t make money it will close down.”
He said, “And that attitude shows exactly what and who you are.”
“I’ve worked at universities in the UK,” I said. “Honestly, all education is a business. It has been since the Eighties.”
He marches back to his table with a “Harumph!” where one of his buddies, another American guy, Daniel, I have previously offended shakes his head at me in a what-a-fucking-jerkoff kinda way.
Much later, two attractive young women- tourists- stop to ask where they can get some Valium for their nine-hour bus journey the next morning.
It seems me and Hello Kitty Teacher answered simultaneously with the whereabouts of the local pharmacy that is always a certain bet.
I’ve lived in a lot of places and been confused about many things, so when I said “They might actually have Valium but ask for diazepam because it’s cheaper” I may have been confusing chemists, countries or even continents.
What happened next was extraordinary.
Hello Kitty Teacher launched at me with the following tirade, punctuated by the jabbing bayonet of his finger. It was all in caps, as well (with some of it in bold):
“NO! THEY DO NOT SELL VALIUM AT THE PHARMACY, THEY ONLY SELL DIAZEPAM AND THE FACT YOU SAY THEY DO SELL VALIUM IS PROOF YOU SHOULD SHUT THE FUCK UP. SHUT. THE FUCKING FUCK UP. ABOUT EVERYTHING. YOU KNOW FUCKING NOTHING. YOU ARE FUCKING NOTHING. YOU SHUT YOUR FUCKING MOUTH. NOW. WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU, ANYWAY? TELL ME. WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU?”
Instinctively, I responded in kind. I don’t like bullying behaviour and never pick battles with others. Yet I still find there are cunts out there who you either deal with or get dealt by.
“Yeh?” I said.
[It was most likely still all in caps because I was actually yelling my head off. But I’ll write it properly in a piece of subtextual subterfuge to subliminally sway your sympathy.]
“Yeh? And who the fuck are YOU while we’re at it? Who the fuck are you, EH? You’re just another fucking person in the world, Daniel. Oh, Mr Vietnam. Yeh, well who fucking cares about your Facebook cult? You’re just a blowhard bloviating about bollocks.”
I said some other things after that but I can’t really remember what they were. They were dead clever and cutting anyway, because the next thing was Hello Kitty Teacher grabbing my face and pulling back his fist that was shaking with paper Hello Kitty tiger aggression.
“You will GO NOW from this place! Fuck off! Fucking FUCK OFF! GO NOW! Or I will, swear to God, fucking punch you in the fucking face! Yeh! I’m gonna fucking HIT you, man!”
Across the street, the local police officer and staff from the bar were all agog to see how events would transpire. Another comedy foreigner sideshow.
As it was, I laughed. “No you won’t. You’d have hit me by now if you were really going to do that. So why don’t you shut the fuck up and fuck off instead, Daniel?”
[I know this comes across as possibly arrogant and some people hate me in life for this. Thankfully, people in real life love me also for the exact same reason, so it all balances out. I’m a bit like Marmite which, ironically, I hate.]
With that he looked like he might cry out of his eyes with tears.
“It’s fucking DAVID. You didn’t even get my NAME right!” he wailed.
“Ah, yeh, sorry about that,” I conceded. “But it kind of proves my point that you’re just another fucking person in this world. Just like me. Just like anyone.”
As he was packing up his stuff to leave, I couldn’t resist telling him I thought he was a complete fucking wanker, “By the way.” Twice.
He said, “That’s enough! That’s ENOUGH!” but I had him on the ropes and couldn’t resist.
The crowd had thinned somewhat during the altercation and opinion among those that had witnessed proceedings was divided. The Vietnamese guys across the street were smiling and a guy I had been talking to said “Well said. He’s a right cunt.”
Daniel, whose name I had confused with David’s, then said I wasn’t welcome there again either, clearly conflating being a regular with being the owner, to which I replied, “Well, whatever. Your opinion is of no consequence at all.”
He’s American so maybe he got the Radiohead reference.
Or maybe not.