The Saga of the Nineteenth Hole (Part Two)

A change in the winds.

Strange currents from distant shores, the tremble of change on the horizon. Upheaval and horror, upset and the quaking ground. I had experienced a variety of semi-lucid regimes at the golf course and had weathered them the way one does any particularly long, arduous storm of nonsense—with pluck, beer, and a heaping serving of not giving a crap. There was very little, I felt, that could damage my calm serenity, that could shake me from the peace I had made with this ridiculous job that I had. The golf course was my Bodhi tree, and under its boughs I would find the secrets of the universe. I would know enlightenment, and nothing the world did could possibly distract me from my journey.

This was because I could not fathom Rita.

Rita was Greek and cresting the latter days of her fifties, a shock of white forging through her bushel of dark hair. She looked the way a toad might look after it had been run over by an eighteen wheeler. Also, it was an ugly toad to start with. She spoke with unearned grandeur, and an implacable Eastern-European accent despite her constantly heralded roots. She was one of the most officious, unpleasant people I have ever met in my life; my coworkers on the golf cart, who would regularly come to the clubhouse to join me in the Simpsons or have a beer after work, now regularly fled when they spotted her black corvette approaching, as though the leitmotif of the Wicked Witch of the West was suddenly piped in over loudspeaker.

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The Saga of at the Nineteenth Hole (Part 1)


I checked my stores, and I have no good photos of a golf course. So here’s Howth, Ireland, where I once had to hike through a golf course five or six times.

Names have been changed to protect the innocent, namely me.

 All through university, I maintained one summer job. My cousin told me wondrous stories of easy work, plentiful tips, hilariously lax management, and abundant sunshine. I was wooed, and though I couldn’t hold down her exact job (lacking the necessary secondary sex characteristics to drive a golf cart, open cans of beer, and look pretty), I could certainly hold down a different bummer job at a decent wage.

Working at a golf course was exactly the kind of thing I needed—sophomoric, low-impact, simple. I needed a vacation from thought, the long, drudging months of study and commuting to school, the deadlines and the textbooks. If I earned money while being completely vacant and not working terribly hard, all the better. I sometimes fantasized my sun-dappled months on the greens might fuel the teenaged summer job film that constantly reeled in my head or, failing that, an amusing chapter in my eventual best-selling autobiography. “Caddy Calamity would be the chapter title, or alternatively, “Songs of the Hotdogsmith.”

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Hooray for Jobs, or, The Month His Brain Exploded

The only flood damage photo to not include poop water. Consider yourselves blessed.

The only flood damage photo to not include poop water. Consider yourselves blessed.

It was a murky, gloomy Monday evening. Rain belched down from the sky in great greasy globs, slapping into the ground with inelegant heaves. The sky was black.

I was completing an assignment for a professional development class on teaching kindergarten, which is to say, I was probably cutting out little shapes out of felt or thinking about how best to provoke children into using Venn diagrams.  An email popped up: a school interested in an interview. And not just any school–the one in China where my friend works, the one in China I had already visited, the one in China I had written into the margins of my trapper keeper with little pink hearts all around it.

I sat in front of my computer for several minutes, contemplating how quickly I could reply without seeming desperate. My will-power allowed me exactly 19 minutes and 47 seconds, and suddenly I had an interview scheduled for days later.

Simultaneously, a gurgle emerged from the basement, several floors below. It sounded like the splash of water needing to be bailed, of a boat sloshing about in a slick black ocean during a storm. This was, of course, problematic, as our house was typically landlocked. I rose briskly and rushed to the basement to discover that the entire thing had flooded with roughly 30 centimetres worth of backwashed sewage.

I surged bravely into the deeps to rescue the power bar of the computer and the modem from total submersion, and hid them in a high place. In the bottom of our sudden submarine, water was now tickling halfway up my shins, and I refused to look at either the colour or texture of it.

Our power miraculously stayed on for several hours, at which point it zipped into silence and black for the rest of the night. Soupy heat was already filtering into our walls, and while the water down below was thankfully sinking back from whence it came, the carpets still swelled and bubbled with torrents of sewage lodged into every fibre. Placing one be-shoed foot on the basement level caused a burp of fluid to emerge, and so we decided to simply pretend we no longer had a basement and that no one would go down there.

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Nuggets of Pedagogy: Sorry to Interrupt

There is a prevailing notion in my school, one that is pretty inaccurate and a little funny. It is that I am a busy person.

Teaching in Canada, especially homeroom, is harried. You generally look like a headless chicken on your best day, and maybe a little like you are on fire and covered in bees the rest of the time because you are constantly sprinting from one thing to the next, all with a fleet of 20+ children or adolescents in your wake. You need to teach them science and get them to swim class, and also include music somehow in all of their lessons, make a call to child services, rewrite a dozen IEPs, begin logging their grades into the report cards, start setting up interviews with parents, eat lunch, do recess duty, and single-handedly write, produce, and direct the school play, and it has to all be done within twenty seconds ago. As a student teacher, I actually came to dread evenings and weekends. The time I wasn’t actively teaching I was planning on what I would be teaching next.

As an English teacher in Korea, I have free time. Oodles of it. Eons of it. I could do the work given to me twice-over every week and still clock out on time on a daily basis. Teaching the same lessons dozens of times certainly helps, and doing the same subject for this long now has left me a pretty deep well of activities to draw from. Thus I have a lot of downtime (and blogging time, clearly).

Other teachers seem to not be aware of this. When they approach me, they always ask a careful, plaintive, “Are you busy?” I wondered if this was politeness, dropping a phrase they know is a gentle conversation starter in English. But some will ask me in Korean, and genuinely check if I have free time. When I am summoned for some task that will take me far from my desk, they always look pained, as though I will respond with deep, great umbrage at their requests. “I am so sorry to disturb you. I know your work is of the greatest importance,” their eyes seem to say.

I can maybe understand the misinterpretation. Circumstance gives some of my fellow foreign compatriots much more work than I have. And Korean teachers are always busy. When they’re not teaching, the educational bureaucracy is so dense and robust that they basically drown in paper-work for untold hours of their days. But, being unable to adequately interpret most of the paperwork, I am exempt. I am exempt from the meetings. I am exempt from the discussions (including those discussions about English teaching and English planning, but that’s a whole separate kettle of fish).

Thus people approach me gently and ask if I’m busy. As they do, I’ll usually minimize the youtube video, stop typing up blogposts, and join them in whatever it is they want, as I’d already finished my actual work ages ago. I come off looking like I’m accommodating, when really I’m just feckless.