We were on our way to make a slightly insensitive joke about our own homunculus in an oddly named place when all of a sudden our boss appears in the lobby and politely (but with some urgency) ushered us away. This was inconvenient, because as we ventured outside we met the rest of our group, who had taken a later taxi, and we wanted a catch-up. Our boss didn’t let up on the politeness at all, but her urgency doubled “please leave the lobby! Go for a walk, or go to your rooms, but please leave the lobby.”
Our group of four slowly assembled and, only because it was convenient for us, were about to amble outside in the Austrian cold. All of a sudden the drunken lost boy arrived from the bar next to the lobby, where our boss had been. The drunken lost boy is about 6 feet tall, and probably weighs 9 and a half stone (~130lbs, ~60kgs; essentially, he weighs about nothing) and isn’t actually a boy, with 14 years TEFL experience he must be in his mid-30s at least, probably closer to 40. He’s been kind of reserved and a bit timid, up until this very point, and he comes in and yells:
“Has anyone else said anything bad about EiA?”
He’d uttered and stuttered some other words, but that was the basic gist of his concern; had we insulted EiA? And the answer was “no”. So far EiA has been the best TEFL agency I’ve heard of, let alone worked for. But also, it was the first Tuesday; no one had formed that strong an opinion. I assumed he’d heard some rumours about EiA that alcohol has made him take personally.
We ambled outside, but we were no longer buzzing about the hilarity of our “Hobbit in Eisenstadt”. There was a rage in the lost boy’s eye that had just killed our buzz. We turned around and paced through the lobby and up the stairs in the hope of not enraging the monster that had been dormant in our shy little lost boy. No luck. As we walked in, he was stood yelling at our boss. Full sentences weren’t comprehensible, but “stupid woman” and “bad lady” alongside some of the more common four-lettered swear words were more than audible. Our boss pleaded that we keep walking. I asked if she was sure, and when she said “yes” I surveyed the area and noticed Andy was hanging around. Despite looking just a little like a hedgehog, Andy was a stocky guy and I felt my boss was safe with Andy looking after her. So I, and my group of put-out wanderers, returned to our rooms. As we walked, he tried to get us involved in whatever argument it was he was having.
I want to take a moment to introduce you to the drunken lost boy. For the sake of this post I shall call him Simon because that is his name, and if a 6 foot tall, dark-haired, remarkably skinny, glasses wearing, approaching-40 TEFL teacher ever approached you and says “Hi, I’m Simon” I want you to be able to turn and run away. We first met him in Canterbury on the Friday. We last met him in the early evening of Tuesday. For those 5 days he was quiet, introverted, reserved and when he did talk he was always positive. He was pleasant, but I never found him all that interesting. Somewhere among free carafes of wine on Tuesday evening, we lost him and he came back swinging and loud that night.
After I’d made it to my room I heard him on our floor. Except for of one teacher, we were all on the same floor. And I could hear him yelling about having just been fired, and then more rage and confusion. He was yelling about having gotten lost at the airport. Other than to say that he followed the wrong group of people out of the airport, he hadn’t said a thing about this before tonight; we had no idea it had upset him. Our boss tried to calm him down, but she was the target of his rage and nothing she said or did helped, despite her best efforts. His friends tried to calm him down, and so long as he could be distracted that worked. But he’d fire up again and hunt down our boss to continue his barrage of confused and loud abuse.
Eventually I had to interfere. I asked my boss if she needed help and I was asked to just hang around as a bodyguard. Simon was on the phone to our boss’ boss, the top rung (more or less) of EiA. He was stumbling and tripping over words and ideas and complaints. It was the verbal metaphor for watching a 14-year-old awkwardly fumbling while trying to undo a girl’s bra: he couldn’t do it, and every time he realised he couldn’t do it he tried to distract attention away from that fact with a compliment, but then he went back to awkwardly fumbling and making a fool of himself while everyone involved just gets embarrassed and frustrated (yes, I was an awkward teenager).
Eventually he took an option I bet every awkward 14-year-old boy with access to a girl in a bra wishes they had: “Here, talk to my [sober] colleague”. And he trust the phone in my face and said “tell him”. Uncomfortable. I wasn’t going to tell the boss of my boss that I was unhappy, especially when it wasn’t true, just to stop Simon from getting angry. So I took the phone, and I told the truth “Hi, ummm… yeah. I have no complaints. Apart from getting slightly lost on the way to Eisenstadt, everything has run smoothly. I don’t know why he has past me the phone, I don’t agree with him.” And with that I past the phone back to Simon and my hands immediately took a Wing-Chun pose, just in case that had infuriated him. It hadn’t.
“Well you can only say what you think is true” he said. And there he was: calm, rational, positive and with a hint of charm. He stood up, swayed a little (his last drink was 2 hours ago) and he started to walk out of the room. There he met our boss and he YELLED! Quickest switcharoo I have ever seen. He saved all of his rage for my poor boss, who –so far as I could tell—had done nothing wrong. I quickly sat him down on the bed, and my boss asked me to go find Andy, who was supposed to have phone the police.