Why do I bother?

It's four months ago, and a man in early middle age wants help with revision for some exams that were coming up.

That's "revision" as in "hasn't opened any of the textbooks yet". More specifically "wants a teacher to read a few thousand highly technical pages for him on phonetics, phonemics, morphology, syntax and chomskyian grammar...boil it all down to bullet points and tell him the answers to the exam questions".

Oh, and something similar for a Lit Crit exam on Jane Austin and Shakespeare. Which he also hasn't started to read, after nine months of "home study".

Well, I like a challenge, and I taught myself most of the technical stuff in my 20s, and I'm enough of a scholastic pervert to enjoy talking about it. Plus, this charming man likes to feed and entertain friends at his home, so I become a dinner guest.

It takes three weeks just to hammer the phonetic alphabet into his skull - two hours a night, six days a week. He decides not to take the Lit Crit exam this year. I mention that he hadn't yet started paying. And he stops answering calls or coming to lessons.

One month later, slightly less charming, he calls my boss to charge him for the food he'd given me. They tell each other to fuck off.

Last week, a teenager walks in at midnight, just as I'm packing up. Says he wants to spend a month in England, learning English at a good school, and could I arrange it all please?

No, not tomorrow during actual working hours, now please. It'll only take two hours or so.

Oh, and he wants to leave in under a week.

Fortunately, I've already navigated the bureaucracy involved in student visas and overseas study - for another student who changed his mind three times before signing up with a school I used to work for, getting the visa, saying he'll buy the plane ticket...and vanishing into thin air. Neither I nor the school have been able to contact him.

So I spend a few hours making the arrangements. The school contact me a few days later to say he's not answering phone or emails, and do I know what's going on?

He seems to have changed his mind without telling anyone, and gone on holiday instead. My opposite number at the school in England says this is normal.

Yesterday, three businessmen arrive who're planning to spend five years in America...starting in a month. So they think it might be a good idea to spend the time brushing up their English, for an hour a day.

Today, they decide they want to study at a different time, so I add them to the highest level group, and we spend a happy hour picking apart the vocabulary of food shopping - the differences between a box and a carton, a packet and a bag, a jar and a bottle.

Afterwards, they say they want to change groups again, but there's no other group at the same level for them the change to, and no spare slots in the timetable to make one.

Two hours later, after I've packed up, gone home and relaxed with my nightly bowl of pasta and episode of Star Trek...I get a call from the boss. They've, erm "asked" for a special meeting, right now please, to discuss their needs. Which are:

* A special class just for the two of them - one's dropped out
* Six days a week - seven if possible
* Two hours a day - minumum
* A different syllabus - because they only want conversation and grammar, and learning new words is too hard. Yes, that's what I thought.

By rearranging everyone else's timetable, I make space for them. Which is when they mention they want a discount.

We make an offer - about 20% off. They want a bigger discount. We do not make another offer.

They decide they don't need any tuition at all for their five year plan. Not if it involves paying more than half the going rate, and especially not in advance.

They leave, without paying for the two lessons they've already had.

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