Everyone needs an “in”. Mine is working in an English academy. It’s a way of meeting people, I suppose. That’s how I try to view it. This particular school is run by 2 English misfits in their mid-forties. One seems to be the classic backpacker-English-teacher-turned-school-owner, strung out after years on the dope, a gentle giant who wanders the classrooms and common rooms like some old eccentric relative that is best ignored. The other of the duo is a nervous, socially-inept forty-something, who dedicates all his free time to triathlon training and uses his holidays to compete, ostensibly against himself, all over the Iberian peninsular. And one can imagine that he enjoys the long hours of training and competition as much for providing a pretext for him to not have to speak to anyone else, as he does for the mere challenge.
These two are certainly testament to the lack of aptitude or acumen required to own an English school in Spain. It’s always been easy money and now, despite the acute problems the Spanish economy faces, is boom time once again as the people of Cadiz, statistically Europe’s capital of unemployment, seek to prepare themselves for flight to northern Europe to find work where everybody has a friend who’s “doing really well for himself”. The English schools are full; the English industry here a big illusory basket brimming with freshly laid eggs. Of course, the schools aren’t complaining.
Well, they’re not complaining about business, at least. But our misfits did have something to say about my attire. The triathlete approached me on Monday asking if I had any trousers. I had a moment of panic thinking that the dream where I go to work semi-naked had become a reality. Apprehensively looking down, I was relieved to realise that the reference was to the style of trousers. My jeans are smart but they aren’t trousers and, since so many people of his ilk seem to live in a world of convention where objectivity would better serve, I understood that I was being asked to accept the purely sociological notion that trousers were somehow more smart than jeans.
I did mull this over momentarily, admitting to myself that he was far from the only person who bought into this disregard for logic. And, that being so, he was likely to have a point on some level, even though his point depended very much on the principle of the tyranny of the majority.
“No,” said I, truthfully. I don’t have any trousers. At least not here. He thought aloud, practically admitting defeat, knowing that it was unjustified to expect someone to buy some trousers for a job that was only worth about 30 Euros a week to them. I left him muttering to himself and went to make a cup of tea. No more was said that day.
On Wednesday, the strung-out-old-relative approached me beside the kettle, moments before class. Smalltalk was had. Football was mentioned. The weather was discussed. And then, as if (conspiracy of conspiracy) the smalltalk was a mere lead-in, I was asked again about trousers. It’s strange, I thought, how these curious animals had yet to ask me a single pertinent question about my approach to teaching, my needs as a staff member, or my opinion on whether my class members are likely to be ready to take the exam they are supposedly preparing for this December. Neither have they confirmed my hourly wage, something which I perversely feel the longer it goes on, the stronger my bargaining position. But the two of them instead seem singularly fixated on the eradication of denim among their workforce.
“I don’t think I’ll be buying any trousers for my 2 hours a week of work,” I asserted. “It makes no financial sense for me.”
“You can get 2 pairs of chinos for 50 Euros. They’ll last you all year,” came his reply.
I smiled as enigmatically as my face would allow, leaving him to work out whether it was a gesture of submission or mockery.
Fucking chinos, I thought. Where am I? 1993? I’d rather the naked dream came true than be seen in a pair of those twat pants!