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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Al Lopez is alive and well and living in Australia

Back in the early 1990's, when I was living in Tōkyō 東京, I had an interview with NOVA. At that time, NOVA had yet to become the Eikaiwa 英会話 industry behemoth that would eventually go down in flames in October 2007. The interview was held in an open room at the school's branch in Shibuya 渋谷, and the person who interviewed me was a 40-something American named Al Lopez (no, not the former catcher and Cleveland Indians manager). Mr. Lopez chain-smoked throughout the entire interview, but that isn't what I remember most about the experience. I was still working for a small school called FIES (the Friendly International English School, with branches in Shibyua, Shimokitazawa 下北沢 and Yokohama 横浜, and now long since defunct), and Mr. Lopez asked me why I wanted to change jobs. When I told him that the main reason was the below-industry standard salary of ¥230,000 a month I was making there (this was before the collapse of the "bubble economy" バブル景気), he proceeded to give me a long lecture as to how, in his opinion, I was earning a "fair wage", and that if a school was sponsoring an employee's working visa (as was the case with FIES), said employee should remain "loyal" to his employer and not seek a higher paying job elsewhere. I said nothing during the dressing down (it was a job interview, after all, and I was looking for a better income), but then a few moments later, Mr. Lopez let it slip that NOVA was the fifth (that's right, the FIFTH, as in the number "five") school that he worked for in Japan! So much for "loyalty to one's employer". I didn't get the job with NOVA, thank goodness, and over the years I met a number of former NOVA employees who remembered Mr. Lopez with something less than affection. In short, not a single person had anything nice to say about the man.

I was reminded of good ol' Al today as I checked my blog and found several nasty comments from an anonymous writer (they always are in these situations), poorly written, with atrocious spelling, punctuation and grammar errors (people who have mastered the not-too-difficult skill of writing in English usually don't leave abusive hit-and-run comments on other people's blogs). It seems he/she/it was greatly offended that I didn't find the Taiwanese singer Jolin Tsai 蔡依林 attractive enough, and that I wasn't a fan of the great taste of Taiwan Beer. Over the course of three postings, Mr./Ms. Anon raked me over the coals for "hating" Taiwan and its people, as well as for being an alcoholic, a lousy father to my daughter and an all-around sad case of a human being in need of some psychiatric counseling. Then I came to the very final sentence, which I quote in its mistake-filled entirety:

"i left TW for OZ many a moon ago because OZ rocks and Taiwan sucks."

It seems the spirit of Al Lopez lives on in the land Down Under! (at least in the rantings of one netizen there)

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