On the typhoon day, let’s meet a 14-year-old typhoon boy Joe.
Joe looked stupid, but he wasn't. When Joe sat there in the class, it seemed the purpose was simply to sit there: his eyes were wide-open, but his mind was obviously setting somewhere else, wherever that was.
But sometimes, maybe 3% of the time, probably on a whim, Joe was suddenly attentive and asking me questions, and I would grab those precious moments to answer them. He could understand conjunctions or make sense of subordinate clauses in a matter of minutes. When Joe was quick, he could be really quick.
One day, Joe's father came to the cram school and peeped through the classroom window; there he saw Joe was spacing out again. Joe's father was furious. After the class, right in front of everybody, he scolded Joe for not being attentive in the English class and for wasting the tuition fee he paid. Joe didn't take it well; he doubled the volume and yelled back – he was virtually screaming at his father, saying things like his father's inconsideration and all that. The father's face turned blank. He turned around, got out of the school, and got in his car. Joe, still shouting and yelling hysterically, was one step behind. He went over and kicked his father's BMW repeatedly like a piece of junk. Not saying a word, the father just drove away, leaving Joe there crying and screaming, with tears smeared all over his face. We teachers and students were puzzled by the scene.
Other students told me that this happened a lot. It always started with the father's criticism to Joe, and Joe would get offended easily, but the situation had never got so out of hand. Of course, gossips about the father being powerless or Joe reckless followed. I don't know; maybe Joe was tired of never getting credit for any progress he had made.
Shortly afterward, I was at the bus stop. Joe walked toward me. He looked calm now.
"Weijen…I…can you lend me some change to take a bus?"
"So, you didn't get in your father's car." I struggled through my pocket for coins and gave him 15 dollars.
"I need only 10…I have some too. Here." He returned me the 5 dollars.
"Boy, next time…don't shout at your father in public,” I said, “do that at home." Joe gave me a bitter smile.
His bus came, he hopped on the bus and off it went. He did not say "bye bye" to me; he was not in the mood to say "thank you" either.
I don't understand. Did Joe have to make such a scene in front of everybody just because of his father's negative remark? Did it matter that much that Joe had to stay attentive in class all the time? If Joe didn't learn English well, so what? No big deal, really; life goes on. Joe still had that 3 percent of time paying attention. The percentage should increase when he gets older. It will.
*Joe is not his real name.