Friday 7 September 2012

In Defence of the ALT I

Book One – Larry Cotter and The Laboured Metaphor

Regular readers will remember that I used to work in a gym. This meant that occasionally friends and acquaintances would ask me for advice. And because they were getting this advice for free instead of investing any of their hard earned cash in it, they generally ignored it completely.

One such friend, let’s call him Larry, asked about getting buff and ripped. Genuinely, he really used the words ‘buff’ and ‘ripped’ with no airquotes or other obvious sarcasm. He asked me this in the pub whilst cramming a pork pie into his mouth. He said he’d seen some infomercial for an exercise machine during one of the rare occasions he’d taken a break from playing Call of Duty online and trading homophobic insults with teenage boys from Michigan.

This machine glorified in the name of the ‘Ab-Quad-Glute-Blast-Tone-Uperometer Turbo Stealth Max,’ but for all the world looked like an exercise bike with a random neon stripe painted on. It was being shilled by a couple of fitness models who had clearly never even set eyes on the thing before stepping onto the set of the commercial.

Now, to be perfectly honest, Larry was at the time in possession of a physique that could have benefited from pretty much anything. Some might have described him as ‘an endomorph.’ Some might have preferred ‘rotund.’ He himself liked ‘cuddly,’ whereas the rest of us favoured ‘fat fuck.’

Clearly this contraption he wanted to buy was an overpriced gimmick being hawked to the credulous, and it was going to take a damn sight more than a glorified exercise bike to fix Larry’s problems. He needed to make major, root-and-branch changes to his diet and lifestyle to get anywhere near the goals he claimed to want for himself. That said though, he was in such bad shape that frankly any activity that didn’t involve sitting on the sofa shoving Doritos into his face would have been a step in the right direction.

So, because we all know that a journey of a thousand steps doesn’t start with building Rome in a day, I told Larry, “Yeah, why not? You’ve not really done this kind of thing before though, and it’s pretty expensive. You want me to come round and give you some advice on how to use it effectively?”

“Nah,” says Larry, “I played California Games loads when I was a kid. That had a BMX level. I’m sure that’ll be enough.”

“Well, you’re paying for it Larry. Your choice.”

Fast forward six months. We’re in the King’s Head again and Larry is on his second packet of pork scratchings. The change in his physique is remarkable for its total absence.

“How’s the bike going Larry?”

“Great, I really think it’s going to help me bulk up.”

“Looking pretty bulky already there, mate. And anyway, you know it’s not going to help you with that so much, right? You want to build muscle, you’re going to have to lift some weights.”

“What, it’s exercise, ain’t it? It’s all the same.”

“If you say so mate. How far and how fast are you going every week?”

“What? It didn’t come with instructions, so I don’t really use it. I’ve just left it in the corner of a room. Makes me feel fitter just having it around, mind, and it’s something to talk about when the folks come to visit. Makes them think I’m at least making an effort in that direction. I’ve been meaning to ask though, how do you make the speed go up?”

“Pedal faster Larry. Pedal faster.”

And we’re sixth months on again, in the snug, and this time Larry’s pig-based snack of choice is scotch eggs. He’s still a fat cunt.

“Hey, Kamo! You know nofing about training! That Ab-Quad-Glute-Blaft-Tone-Uperometer Turbo Ftealth Max is fucking ufelef! Itf a complete wafte of money!”

“Wait, what? I told you it wouldn’t do what you said you wanted it to. Sure it’s overpriced and gimmicky, but it’s still a decent enough piece of kit if you could actually be arsed to use the fucking thing properly. It’s more than just another place to park your fat arse when you’re watching TV, you lazy twat.”

I was getting quite worked up at this point, you may have noticed.

“Listen, chunky, you can’t just spunk a load of cash on it then stick it in a corner. It’s your fucking lifestyle that needs fixing. It’s not going to do the hard work for you.”

“That thing coft me a fortune! I’m not feeing any changef!”

“You’re not doing anything different, Jabba! What the fuck do you expect? Everything’s exactly as it was; you’re still a chubby wanker with no clue how to change that, except now you’re a chubby wanker with an expensive and oversold machine taking up space in his living room.

“You don’t really need it, you just want it ‘cos you’re too fucking lazy to make the changes you know you should! If you really wanted to get fit you could just go for a swim and eat some fucking fruit every once in a while. And for fuck’s sake swallow your food and stop spitting breadcrumbs in my face!”

At this point Larry lost it and made a lunge for me.

“I’ll fmaf you! I’ll fmaf you fo hard!” he bellowed in the clammy heat of his fat-rage, spraying the immediate area with partially masticated processed meat product.

Fortunately his massive girth rendered him less than light on his feet, and like some bull-seal crashing his blubbery mass down the intertidal zone he flopped out of the snug and into the games room. Where he promptly got jammed between the pool table and the ‘Das Boot’ themed fruit machine.

This was ironic, considering my previous advice to him. An irony Larry failed to appreciate when pointed out to him. As he clawed angrily yet ineffectively at his surroundings with his meat-stick fingers we took it in turns to stand guard and occasionally prod him with pool cues, lest his sheer bulk prove too much for the slate and steel entombing him.

Eventually though his fury abated, as fatigue and hunger took their toll, and his impotent guttural roar was replaced by a mournful lowing, as with a heifer calling for her lost calf. A calf who that very morning had been transported to the abattoir to meet its inevitable demise. Just as Larry too was eventually spirited away to embark on the next stage of life’s mysterious journey, his face a mask of wistful tranquility suggesting he was finally at peace.

Don’t cry for him. It’s not what he would have wanted. He’s happy. He’s in a better place now.


  1. This is genius.
    Thanks for not spelling it out literally. Some folks are still waiting for the ALT part not knowing they just read a of the greatest analogies on the subject.


    1. Cheers, and thanks for the RLS add.

      Dunno about not spelling it out. It's right there in the title and subheading, and it's laid on pretty think throughout the rest. I was really worried I was over egging it in parts; we're not exactly talking Swiftean levels of satirical allegory here.

      Though next time Larry will indeed visit a land populated by small people (oh dear)...

  2. Ya know, I read all of you guys who talk about the real japan and how stupid many foreigners act when they get there and I think I would probably fit into that same category. I need to stop watching that Cool Japan propaganda on NHK World. Sumo season starting up on sunday, Woo!

    1. Hey, if Cool Japan's fun for you then keep watching. Nothing wrong with consuming media with a definite agenda to pursue, as long as you know what that agenda is and factor it in to your thinking.

      The way a lot of foreigners act when coming over here isn't stupid per se (well, maybe it is a little. And by 'a little' I mean 'a lot'). It'S just that so many have expectations that don't match the reality. That's always going to happen to a degree, but in lots of cases it's far, far more severe than 'to a degree'. This is a theme to which we shall be returning...

  3. Haha, I just have to admit that I don't get it at all! Cut us guys/gals who never worked as English teachers some slack!

    What's an ALT by the way (Ok, that much I know) ;)

    1. Really? This is kind of your field, isn't it? Flogging health related equipment to people who may or may not know how to use it effectively?

      Imagine a client purchased one of your finest, top-of-the range Megashock electrostim anal probes (TM). And three months later you get a call saying it's just not thrilling him like he thought it would. Being the consummate professional that you are you go round to observe him actually using the device, and discover that he's sticking it in his ear instead of the more traditionally recommended orifice. Does the failure here lie with the costly purchase, or the inept purchaser?

      I much preferred being compared to an exercise bike. See what I do for you, Mr S?

  4. I was just telling a poor young boy not to take any shit for being an ALT. He'd just got the job, and was apologizing for being excited to have a job people make fun of. I told him that he'll get shit from people, but everyone's been a fucking ALT. Not quite true, but his gf and the people they know are employed by international schools. Seemed a nice kid, so might not be a cock at it. Plus he came to Japan with a smoking gf, so won't diddle the school nurse right away.

    Oh, in the clearly-been-in-Japan-too-long file, I met two beautiful British girls that night (as in, they have become more exotic than the locals). Look, I share the national DNA, and let's just say I'd want a daughter of mine to look far more like their J-mother than me, or my relatives.

    1. My wife is smarter than I am, harder working, and just simply more attractive. Once all the growing's done if the only thing I end up having passed on is my height I'll be a very happy man :)

    2. "My wife is smarter than I am, harder working, and just simply more attractive." Christ yes. The last item made me take mine home; the first two made me take the 'life-sentence' option.

  5. I was an ALT in a town of 10,000 and no other foreigners to hang out with. The previous ALT was a middle-aged lady who was considered the greatest foreign teacher in the history of foreign teachers. I took shit all year from almost everyone with that job... One of the best years of my life.

    1. I was involved with some extra training recently for an ALT in just that position. Inexperienced and unlucky enough to be following someone who knew the job inside out.

      What made matters worse was the supervisor, who was one one of those teachers who knew exactly what they wanted, but was incapable of describing it in anything other than the vaguest terms. And would then get annoyed that the outcome wasn't exactly as they'd hoped. As you say, fun times...

    2. It truly was a great year, though. By the end of it, they had asked me to stay forever. However, Tokyo called...

  6. Oh, here comes that deja vu, the 'officially invited, but not really welcomed' one.

    1. Oh yes. You are of course always welcome here, though. Nice to have you back around the place.

    2. I promise to not break anything or ask for help if I get stuck.

    3. Good. We've given you your own desk. Over there, in the corner. You don't mind sharing it with the printer and several hundredweight of out of date textbooks, do you?