Our Dirty Little Secret – The Leftovers
You sat next to them in your TEFL course and work beside them in your schools. And you may run into them in the evenings or weekends but, when you do, you desperately try to avoid them, ducking behind aisles in the grocery store or leaving quickly from
your favorite restaurant. Who are they? They are “The Leftovers”.
It’s difficult to find any of the Leftovers back home. They are well hidden in their parents' basements, playing World of Warcraft 16 hours a day surrounded by a stack of dirty dishes and smelly laundry. With little money and no friends they are the western version of the India's Untouchables caste. Unseen, unwanted, and unloved, these are the segment of every society that has some hole in their personality, some fatal flaw that makes them unable to succeed in normal society. And even though they exist back home we rarely see them and are almost never forced to interact with them. And yet we cannot turn around in the ESL staffroom and not run into them in droves. Why IS that?
As an ESL teacher they can have a job! And let’s face it, for the low-level jobs, if you actually show up sober and wearing a decent shirt, it’s pretty tough to get fired. The fact that a teacher has a white face goes a long way in Asia and in these low level jobs it might account for 50% of the job or more. Sad but true, but a boon to the Leftovers who have few other skills, technical or social. Thus, for perhaps the first time in their lives, they have a steady income.
And as a result of that income, as an ESL teacher they can get a girlfriend! Of course the most popular variety of girlfriend for The Leftovers is the rent-a-girlfriend variety, easily available in a gogo bar near you. Well, after all, if you were a member of the world's oldest profession, wouldn't you rather sleep with one oddball instead of 20 a week? The more fortunate may find a girl who just worships Westerners or, in same cases, does not speak English well enough to realize her boyfriend is half crazy. And regardless of the circumstances this is an actual opportunity to lose their virginity before they kick the bucket.
They have a voice! Huddled in their rooms at night, hiding behind fictitious user names they dominate every ESL discussion forum created. Always angry, usually whining, constantly attacking especially those who are even a bit more successful than they are. And let's fact it, that includes pretty much everyone and everything.
So what are our alternatives? Yours truly has done a considerable amount of research on the issue and it would appear that it’s illegal to simply exterminate them in many countries and even most US states—Liberal lawmakers be damned! So I would suggest the following:
Laugh at their whacky antics. Let me tell you one of my favorites. There was this leftover working in Yala, Thailand. Yala, for those of you unfamiliar, is in the predominantly-Muslim south. In fact, it's one of the three provinces where religious differences often lead to violence. That's probably how this particular Leftover got his job—Westerners are advised against travel in Yala so few would be dumb or desperate enough to live and work there.
So Mr. Leftover, a devout Christian (why is it that leftovers are either very pushy religious freaks or very pushy Atheists?) decided it would be a great idea to inform (in other words, berate) a young boy that wearing a Bin Laden t-shirt was offensive and that Bin Laden was a very mad man—a terrorist. Yes, he did this. On the street in Yala. No, I am not joking nor am I making this up. This is a real event.
A crowd gathered and Mr. Leftover began fearing for his safety and retreated into the nearest post office. Soon 250 angry Muslims of all ages were waiting for him to leave his sanctuary, a few of them at least intent on having a less-than-civil discussion with him. The press soon arrived as well. Desperate, he called his Thai boss and she told him to channel Robert De Niro and….cry. Yes, cry his eyes out and apologize profusely. And this is how Mr. Leftover managed to survive the event—an event that managed to make the Bangkok Post. And, you may be astounded to know that this particular Mr. Leftover once owned one of the more influential ESL websites for its time. Amazing but true.
And most importantly the Leftovers make the rest of us look good. No matter how old and out of shape we become they are an example to our girlfriends of what they might have to settle for if we were not around. And no matter how hung over we are at work, no matter how flimsy our lesson plan is, how wrinkled is our shirt, we look like super teacher. Hey we may even get a raise out of the deal! So raise a glass to the leftovers. Maybe they have a purpose after all!
The sad truth is that this article is rather accurate.