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The Russian

Over the past few weeks, I have been jumping around the timeline of my life. So, let's go back to just after I left Lena, the lady who agreed to let me work for free in exchange for sponsoring my visa.

As I mentioned in a previous post, she could not afford to pay me anymore. It seemed that one of her English schools was not doing so well financially. She wanted to have me take a part-time salary but keep her as my main priority. She also suggested that I look for another job to supplement my income. I went back to the job-hunting source of the day, the classified section of the Monday issue of the English language newspaper, The Japan Times, and started looking for possibilities. The first interview I went to was at a bookshop in Sagamihara called The English Resource. It was run by a Navy vet and his wife. Because I had such a difficult time finding a job when I first came to Japan, I did not expect to pass the interview. Despite my pessimism, I was bound by my life credo, always keep moving forward. I was shocked when the owner, David Harrington, offered me a job on the spot.

In total, I worked there for about three years, from 1993 - 1996. That job gave me my first formal training and how to become a Jack of all trades. We were required to work the sales floor of the bookstore and teach classes at the English school. David said it was because we needed to understand how the materials were being used if we were to sell them affectively. While that logic is sound, I knew but he also wanted to get his money’s worth from his employees by having one person work two jobs. In the bookstore, I learned how to deal with customers and speak to them in a way that was professional , informative, and welcoming. I actually liked working in the bookstore much more then I liked teaching in the school.

Teaching English is difficult. Imagine, if you will, having to share your knowledge about a topic with someone who doesn't want to memorize or study vocabulary, have anything to do with workbooks or drills, would prefer not to have any sort of lecture at all, and just want to have English conversations from which they hope to get all the information they needed to master the language. In other words, imagine having to teach someone who believes that the way to learn is through the use of magic. That's what it amounts to. Language learning requires that you sit at a desk you memorize vocabulary and grammar rules then put those into practice by reading, speaking, listening, and writing. Now imagine these people, who believe that they can learn everything they need to know about the English language by simply having conversations, actually having no ability whatsoever to communicate or understand what you are saying to them. It is an impossible task that is so frustrating and mentally draining that the CIA and the FBI must be using it somewhere for some sort of torture. Unfortunately, the demand for this in Japan is so high, and the potential to earn money from this so great, almost all of us English speaking immigrants, who were not transferred here through some corporation, had to go through this English teaching process.

David was a master add it. He taught me how to divide the class time in order to hold the students attention . It's a technique that I still use today. “Think of any Hollywood movie. If you don't keep the action moving, think of how boring that movie is going to be. In your class you have to keep the action going. To do that, I want you to divide a one-hour class into 15-minute segments. I want you to move from one segment to the next. Keep the flow going just like a Hollywood movie.” It was profound advice. Once I was able to master the flow I could keep students’ attention and create the illusion that the class was fun or interesting. Unfortunately for me, that made me somewhat popular among the students and so my duties as a teacher began to grow despite the fact that I really did not want to have them.

In the bookstore, we have to learn how to do everything from ordering books to managing inventory. At one point David decided that he would make a catalog. He asked if anyone knew how to use the computer and I was the only one who had any experience because I took computer classes in junior high and use computers in high school. “Great!” he exclaimed, “You are now the director of in-house publishing.” I had no idea what I was doing, none whatsoever That's what the boss wanted so I would do my best to get it done. The other problem was I am very much not one for finite details. I am a dreamer, a planner, an analyzer, and innovator but I am not built too precisely execute minute details. I have tried and I have tried but it is not in my DNA. I know if you've been reading these posts regularly you've seen the typos. No matter how much I check there's always one that gets through. So, making this catalog was a real struggle for me. Add to this the fact that I knew nothing about graphic design and layout.

I spent many hours researching tools for design. I got my hands on Adobe illustrator and Photoshop and taught myself how to use them so that I could do the job. I looked at graphic design books and tutorials in order to get a general grasp of the concept and I tried as much as possible to put those into practice. The first catalogs were rachet as hell, but little by little as I gain more experience they started to shape up rather nicely. We were also printing the catalogs on some kind of printing machine. I don't remember what it was called but it very much is reminiscent of an old timey printing press. It wasn't precise or pristine like using a laser printer so getting a catalog to look good on that thing required a lot of patience and practice.

Looking back on it, I gained a lot of life skills from working at that book shop: learning how to manage a class, learning the basics of design software, which I still use today, learning the basics of graphic design, which has saved my life so many times in the past. I also learned how the publishing business works, how a bookstore is run, how to work with customers and clients, how to use textbooks and study materials affectively and be able to explain them to others. This one is particularly helpful because as I'm writing this I'm also involved with writing a textbook that will be due out next April in 2022. All of this awareness came from that experience.

With all of this goodness I'm sure you're wondering why I quit. Why didn't I just stay at the bookstore and make a career of it. The answer to that question is simple. David and his wife were at war. Over time the battles became more intense.

While sometimes sketchy and tricky in business, David Harrington basically had a very kind heart. He wanted to see the business do well and he wanted to see his employees do well too. His wife, Hisako, was a heartless demon spawn who got pleasure from causing torment and paying to others. At the book shop, she was infamously known as the Russian. She got that name because we added bitch to the end of Hisako. To all of us she had become Hisakobitch (Hisakovich). I was surprised to find that David knew about our nickname. One day we were in the bookstore and he suddenly said, “Oh , here comes the Russian.” He gave a look as if to say, “Yeah I know about her nickname and I LIKE IT!”

Not only was Hisakobitch unnecessarily cruel, but she was also deeply racist. Either this was something that she had inside her for the whole time or she picked it up from the redneck sidepiece she used to bring to the store. She hated me and took every opportunity to abuse and harass me. She never said anything overtly racist to me. I only assumed she was because her hatred was so intense and so irrational it could only be because of racism or because David liked me, so she therefore had to hate me. It was that, or I really was a shitty worker who had been deluding myself the whole time.

One day, I was in the school teaching children about Halloween. I had given them an assignment to complete while I waited. As they were doing the assignment I was sitting at the teacher’s desk which was no more than 2 or 3 feet away from the students. The Russian walked into class and started to stare at me with the most evil and hateful stare. She then left the room. Later that day, she sent me to the warehouse to clean. It was a dark and dusty place that no one ever really cleaned. Sending me there was her way of sending me to the gulag.

After a few hours had passed, she came to the warehouse to check my progress. “What have you been doing for the last several hours ?” She sneered. I had actually managed to get the place well organized and cleaned in the few hours I had been sentenced to work there. Suddenly, she said to me, “If it were up to me you would be fired right now.” She claimed that by being 2 feet away from the students instead of joined to them at the hip, I was spitting in her face and could no longer be trusted. I really didn't understand and wanted to have clarification. I tried to explain, “The students were right in front of me the whole time happily working on their assignments. Can you explain to me please because I don't understand what I did wrong.” Her eyes grew smaller and tighter as she stared harder at me. She had the look of someone who was imagining themselves stabbing another person over and over again. Then she exploded, “If you don't know what you've done wrong, then you don't deserve to work here. Get out! You're fired!”

I was shocked. How could I've done such a great job and dedicated so much of myself to learning, growing, and developing in order to end up in a dusty warehouse with a short Russian and fired for some obscure reason. Immediately her words started to echo in my mind, “If it were up to me…” is what she said. That meant she actually did not have the power to fire me. I went to the school where I knew David would be teaching and I started to pack up my things. I could have waited till after his class, but I wanted him to know what happened. “What are you doing I'm teaching a class here can't you pack that up later?” I put on a miserable expression and replied, “I would but your wife just fired me.” the look on his face was one of astonishment and anger. He wasn't angry at me. He was angry at his enemy, this woman who he had been at war with. I imagine that at home she probably urged him to fire me for all sorts of reasons. He immediately told me to take over his class and he went after his wife.

I don't know what happened after that. The battle must have been fierce. He disappeared for a couple of days and I was not fired.

I can’t recall how much time had passed from that moment till when I actually quit. Despite David having rescued me from his wife that moment caused a chain reaction within my psyche. I began to question the merit of working so hard for someone who would treat me so horribly. In my mind, I had given my body and soul to the company and Hisakobitch’s action was a great stab in the back. On top of that, I really did not like teaching classes and wanted more work in the bookstore. David knew this and promised he would make it happen. I found out from my friend that he had no intention of keeping that promise. His true plan was to keep me in the school and assign my bookstore work to someone else. Basically, he lied, and that lie was the last straw. The day after I found out, I submit it my letter of resignation. I was still on the fence even though I had the letter in my pocket. The Russian made some snarky underhanded insult to me and David laughed. In the echo of it I was broken. I quit immediately. I even cried like a fool. I had no idea where I was going to work or how I was going to earn money. I just knew that I had to go somewhere where I would feel appreciated.

After I left, the war between David and the Russian had escalated to the point of implosion. The bookstore and the school both burn down with their marriage. The Russian was carrying the proverbial gas can and the book of matches that set it all alight. When it was all over, she moved to rural America to be a full-time member of alt-right society. David focused his attention on publishing his own textbooks. We still keep in touch on social media and meet every few years or so when he's in Japan. He happily remarried and has a new beautiful family. Hopefully, his hell spawn Russian days are far, far behind him.


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