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March 25, 2014

Flashback! The Last Survivors of the Entering Class of ’95 Debate the Question:
“Why Are We Still Here?”




Note the symbolic dinosaur on Kentaro's shirt


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 Yokohama.

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 class.


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."

All: ...

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?

Kentaro: Eleven.

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?

Akira: Yes.

Muggins: How many credits have you earned so far?

Akira: 26.

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?

Akira: Yes.

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 well.

Muggins: Maybe your position as "laziest bastard" will be endangered, and Mr. Bando will surpass you. Are you worried about that?


Kentaro: No.

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 laziest bastard.

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 married.

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.

Akira: Yes?

Muggins: But, every time you tell that story, your friends begin to laugh...

All: [Laughter]

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.

All: [Laughter]

Muggins: If it's not too painful, can you explain how you fell from a fourth-floor balcony?

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 drinking.


Muggins: How about you, Kentaro? What's your excuse for still needing 100 credits?

Kentaro: ...

Muggins: Until last year, did you often go away for a long time?

Kentaro: Yeah, I did.

Muggins: Was there any reason for that?

Kentaro: No.

Muggins: Just, being a lazy bastard, huh?

Kentaro: Yeah.


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?

Kentaro: No.

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?

All: [Laughter]

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?

Masanobu: Yeah.

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?

Kentaro: Yes!

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.