I spent the most fruitful and fun years of my English-teaching career at a
place I have fake-named NU, “Nangaku” in Japanese, a private university in
In the late Nineties, I launched a website to promote my local cult of
personality and spread NU gossip through regular features like the “Great
Women of Nangaku Interview” series, justifed in its subtitle as “The column
that exists solely so that Muggins can have dinner with a beautiful woman.”
I was concurrently teaching an English class for “repeaters,” the students
who chronically failed required English courses and were thought to need
special treatment, though many of them—including students fluent in English
by virtue of having lived in the West—struggled to pass even this remedial
Synthesizing these two interests, I offered potential
failers of my class a chance to earn bonus points in exchange for letting me humiliate
them in an interview for the site. Four leapt at the chance, all of whom should
have graduated several months before the interview took place.
It’s been a slow month for the creative juices here at the Josh Muggins
Blog Factory, so please forgive this recycling of an old chestnut. It reminds
me of happier times when students were like friends and we could rip on
one another. I’ve nothing remotely like that the lean my elbows on nowadays.
Muggins: Thank you all for
participating in "The 1999 Lazy Bastard Roundtable."
Muggins: I'd like to begin with the question: "Who, exactly, is the
laziest bastard in the entering class of ‘95?"
[Silence. Kentaro slowly raises his hand.]
Muggins: Kentaro, you nominate yourself?
Kentaro: If you evaluate on the credits that we've got, I am the worst.
Muggins: Really? How many credits have you earned so far?
Muggins: Eleven??? In four years, you have acquired 11 credits? That's
almost three credits per year! Way to go! But Akira, you also need more than
100 credits now, don't you?
Muggins: How many credits have you earned so far?
Muggins: Much better condition, then. And you are not in bad condition
at all, are you Mr. Suzuki? What do you need to graduate?
Masanobu: Just French class.
Muggins: Oh, only one class? You have to stay here for a whole year for
just one class?
Masanobu: For a whole year!
Muggins: And what's your story, Mr. Kitamura?
Kitamura: I just need 10 more credits.
Muggins: Well, you are not particularly lazy, then. How about Mr. [Daisuke]
Bando? He needs about 100 credits, doesn't he?
Muggins: Well, don't you think he's lazier than you? After all, Kentaro,
you've been coming to this [English] class almost every day!
Kentaro: All classes I'm taking this year, I've been attending quite
Muggins: Maybe your position as "laziest bastard" will be
endangered, and Mr. Bando will surpass you. Are you worried about that?
Muggins: You don't mind no longer being the laziest bastard?
Kentaro: I don't want to be the laziest one!
Muggins: What about Daimu [Izumi]? Daimu must be a strong candidate for
All: [Laughter, but no comment about Daimu]
Muggins: Does Daimu still have the same girlfriend that he had when he
was a freshman?
Masanobu: I don't think so. You'll have to ask him.
Muggins: Because, when he was a freshman, he told me that he didn't want
to leave the university. As soon as he leaves the university, he has to get
All: [Nervous laughter]
Muggins: Now, Akira, you have an unusual excuse for not getting credits
last year. Please tell us your reason.
Akira: Um, I fell from a fourth-floor balcony and I was in hospital for
half a year.
Muggins: Now, I believe you.
Muggins: But, every time you tell that story, your friends begin to
Masanobu: I didn't see Akira fall, but I saw him four or five days
later, after he fell. It was horrible! You can't laugh.
Muggins: If it's not too painful, can you explain how you fell from a
Akira: I don't remember because--
Muggins: You were on drugs!
Akira: No, no! I don't remember. I hit my head. Probably too much
Muggins: How about you, Kentaro?
What's your excuse for still needing 100 credits?
Muggins: Until last year, did you often go away for a long time?
Kentaro: Yeah, I did.
Muggins: Was there any reason for that?
Muggins: Just, being a lazy bastard, huh?
Muggins: Did any of you ever
feel that you deserved to pass a class, but the teacher failed you anyway?
Masanobu: Oh, all the time! I've been taking this French class, this
beginning course. I've been taking that for the last five years!
Muggins: Do you always have the same teacher?
Masanobu: No, no. Different teachers, but French teachers.
Muggins: I hate French! I hate the French people!
Masanobu: To tell the truth, I hate French, too.
Muggins: Well, it's too late to change now. Kentaro, you've only passed
four or five classes. Did you ever feel that any teacher failed you that should
not have failed you?
Kentaro: No. Just the opposite. The teacher that I thought would not
give me credits, gave me credits!
Muggins: You didn't pay anything?
Muggins: Oh, that's a good deal... You've all lived abroad, and you all
speak English very well. Why is it always that the returnees from abroad are
the ones that never pass English class?
Muggins: Can anybody explain that to me?
Masanobu: People like us, we
didn't study much grammar at school. We didn't learn English the certain way
that they do in Japan.
Muggins: So you can't get used to the way they study English in Japan?
Muggins: Hmm, that's a good answer. Well, I guess you two [Masanobu and Kitamura]
will graduate some day...
Kentaro: What about us??
Muggins: Well, what about you? Do you think you'll graduate?
Muggins: You know, you have to graduate within 8 years--that's the rule.
Are you going to make 121 credits in the next four years?
Kentaro: I'm going to take 60 credits this year, and the same the next
year, and write the graduate thesis in the third year. And hopefully I'll be
able to graduate in 2030--I mean, 2003!
Muggins: I think "2030" is more likely... No, no. That's a
good ambition. You should try for that. Akira, do you think you'll graduate?
Akira: Yes, the same as him.
Muggins: Do you have a plan to do something after you graduate?
Akira: Um.......not exactly.
Muggins: Kentaro, what will
you do if you ever graduate?
Kentaro: Um......look for a job??
Muggins: In closing, do you
have any advice for future lazy bastards, for young people who don't want to
graduate? How can they avoid getting credits?
Kentaro: Um...stay home and watch TV?
Muggins: That's a good idea! Akira, how about falling out of a building?
Do you recommend that?
Akira: Yeah. They'll survive, maybe.
Muggins: Well, we certainly hope so. Then, thank you all for your
participation in this Roundtable.
All: Thank you.