March 24, 2023

Krabi, Thailand

We all have met people that we just dislike from the get-go. For whatever reason, they rub us the wrong way, and we prefer to not be near them. 

I developed quite an arrogant spirit when I was growing up in the Jehovah’s Witness faith. Being told that I was an “exemplary young man” (they didn’t use the term ‘rockstar’) over and over by those senior to me went to my head. I often judged my peers in the church against my religious achievements and abilities. Sometimes I look back in discomfort at how insufferable I must have been at times. 

One of my classmates in the CELTA course was a young American in his mid-twenties, Anthony, who was living and teaching English in Hong Kong. He was quite intelligent, and possessed some good skills. However, he was often unpleasantly arrogant, to the point that few in the class really liked him.

Maybe Anthony had been told he was a rockstar all his life. And perhaps I let my feelings about his deportment show more than I intended. Whatever the case, we didn’t really get along. Again, he was not part of my six-person teaching group, and he rarely joined us for dinner after the teaching practices because he had discovered the bars in Chiang Mai, where he often dragged his CELTA roommate, Taha, to be his wingman or whatever. So my interactions with him were limited to the input sessions. But even there, opportunities for us to clash came up.

While I usually refrain from any type of name-calling because I’m a grown-ass adult, I do often find ways to poke the bear using more subtle means. And Anthony provided me a perfect opportunity to do so. 

The classrooms were cooled by two air-conditioning units apiece. These worked quite well, even in the late January heat Thailand offers. They worked so well that once we got settled, many of my classmates were shivering. Having just arrived from Chicago, my ability to tolerate cold was just fine, but I did empathize with my classmates. Anthony did not. 

He had the obnoxious habit of grabbing the remote controls from wherever they lay and arbitrarily setting the temperature as low as possible. He would refuse to give in when others complained about how cold it was. This behavior was something that I took exception to. 

At first, I would try to gently point out to him that not everyone possessed an inner furnace that he obviously did and that perhaps he could ease up a bit on his undemocratic climatic despotism. Of course, it was to no avail. So my next course was to wait for a classroom activity that gave me an opportunity to take the remote controls and set the temperature a bit higher, then return them to a drawer in the desk the instructor used. 

Invariably, Anthony would notice that someone had made a change in the arctic conditions and go on a hunt for the controls. Sometimes he was successful. He also cottoned to the fact that it was me who undermined his environmental authority and usually had shit to say about it. Whatever. 

One day, however, Anthony ran late for class. Which was unusual. But, not completely unexpected on this particular day. We were in the late stages of our four arduous weeks of study and the majority of the students received a text message in the group chat we had created for asking and answering questions about the assignments. This notable message came from Anthony asking, “Does anyone have a plaster???”

Now, being American, I would normally have not understood what was meant by “plaster”. But I had spent almost a month in the company of at least six classmates from various parts of England, so I had picked up quite a bit of their version of English. What I would have called a “bandage” or more colloquially a “Band-aid” is referred to in the UK as a plaster. Why would one need a plaster? Because they had a booboo. 

Another classmate messaged, asking him why he needed a plaster, and poor Anthony explained that he had slipped in the bathroom and smashed his face into the porcelain sink. And most of us knew that this misfortune had most likely been the consequence of his having consumed large quantities of alcohol in one of the bars on Loi Kroh Road in the city the night before. A quick poll of those in the chat group probably would have shown a 70/30% split among those who thought this was comeuppance and others who felt pity for Anthony’s predicament. 

At any rate, I entered the classroom long before my nemesis. I used that time to set the air-conditioning to a reasonable thermal reading, then put both remote controls on the bright blue tabletop I shared with five others and covered it with a cleaning towel of a similar color.

When Anthony showed up, his nose swaddled in white ‘plasters’ with dried blood on the edges, many of us locked eyes and tried not to smirk too obviously. Even Adam, the instructor that day, had to turn his head a bit to hide his blatant amusement. Anthony took the remaining open chair at the table behind me. 

I guess he was more focused on his pain than the hellish conditions in the class, because it took him about 20 minutes before he was up out of his seat patrolling the room for the remote controls. At the moments he had his back turned to me, I would momentarily lift the blue rag that was used to wipe the whiteboards, exposing the white remotes to the rest of the class. 

This went on for at least two minutes before Anthony walked over to me and demanded to know where they were. I acted innocently dumb and shrugged my shoulders. He then proceeded to grab my backpack from my chair and to search the pockets, insisting “I KNOW you have them!”

Now, up until this point, I was happy to quietly let him make a fool of himself. But now he was invading my personal property, and I wasn’t about to take that sitting down. As I went to grab his wrist to stop his illegitimate search and seizure, Adam stepped into the developing fray and told Anthony that he thought he had seen the remotes downstairs in the office earlier. 

Anthony dropped my bag in disgust and walked out onto the veranda and down the stairs. As soon as the door closed behind him, the entire classroom erupted in laughter. Adam was able to go back to teaching our lesson and we enjoyed a few minutes respite before Anthony returned in disgrace, having been unsuccessful in his quest. 

As soon as class was over, I stood up, took the blue rag away, and walked out the door.