Steve Tainton

The drinking habit

Off the wagon and back on the gravy train

When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading.
-Henry Youngman

Shortly after I returned to Japan with valid visa in pocket I decided to stop drinking for a month. There were several reasons for my decision, but primarily my head and wallet were both hurting after too many welcome back beers. My month off the souse was somewhat of an epiphany for me, though I’ll admit I haven’t yet become a teetotaler to the end of time.
One of my workmates mentioned that there was a high incidence of alcoholism among teachers as a profession. Although I have no proof in support of this, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were true. There is something intrinsically repetitious and frustrating about teaching insofar as no matter how well you impart an idea, there is always a fresh-faced student waiting in the wings to not get it all over again. Teaching English to non-natives may exacerbate frustration levels due to the simplicity of the concept (English) to the teacher. Listening to the same, seemingly simple mistakes being made again and again I like sing-a-song I like go to shopping grates with time. Eventually, it may drive some to drink.

To be honest, the English-teacher-abroad lifestyle doesn’t at all aid in maintaining sobriety. For those that teach in secondary schools, there may be regular working hours, but for many of us in the private industry the day often begins in the early afternoon and ends late in the evening. What could be more conducive to a drinking lifestyle than a job that allows you time to sleep off your hangover on a daily basis? Not to mention that wrapping up work and 8 or 9pm gives one just enough time to do nothing (sports, study, etc.) other than have a beer or five. Add to the mix public transportation (Japan) or cheap taxis (Thailand) and what’s to stop a teacher from a high degree of alcohol induced impairment – ‘cause it sure ain’t the fear of drunk driving (though Japanese police can issue citations for drunk cycling – boozed up Lance Armstrong would-be’s take note).

Working with people of different nationalities may remove some of the commonalities we take for granted back home. Even if I didn’t loathe baseball, it wouldn’t provide me any small talk fodder with a cricket fan from Liverpool. I played a bit of (American) football in high school, but that just kicks off the ‘who’s tougher’ debate with a rugby lover from Brisbane. Never to fear, we all enjoy a drink so why not start there and let the rugby players don’t need pads guffaw kick up later. Certainly when trying to work through language barrier booze is better than caffeine, at least you believe that you’re speaking the target language much better than you ever have, but then again you also believe the person you’re speaking with is looking much better than they ever have.
Finally, though I could probably go on citing reasons until I got drunk on my own BS, most English teachers living in Asia are fairly young. It’s over to fill in the appropriate Asian country for a year or two after graduating University name after which it’s back to English speaking country of your choice to start working as a depressing low-level white collar job here . For those of us getting on in years it may be tough to keep up with the younger crowd, but common sense and wisdom won’t stop us from trying. Of course, there is the other end of the spectrum, the seasoned-souse-hound who has drunk himself out of his home country and over to lands-more-forgiving, as long as he slurs his speech after class it matters little. With coworkers like this, who needs enemies?

The title of this article should really be On the wagon and Back on the Gravy Train as a fair drinking habit is also fairly expensive. I dare not calculate how much money I have poured down my throat and pissed away over the years, but I am sure it wouldn’t be far off the price of a compact car. Drinking at home is always cheaper, but Asian apartments aren’t spacious enough to entertain and solitary imbibing does get a bit depressing. On the other hand, internet forums get most of their most colorful comments at 2:13 am in atrociously spelled rants, so I guess there are those for whom a bottle of Samsung, a liter of Coke and a high-speed connection is all the social outlet required.

I should wind this up by tisk-tisking and, in an annoying, aunt-like way tell you all to drink in moderation or give up the devil water. But where’s the fun in that? We’re all adults. We make our choices. If we wake up one morning, pounding head filled with remorse for that puerile posting we did the night before, then we’ll change our ways, right? I mean, it’s not like you can teach your native language with a hangover.



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