When I first started working in China, my students laughed at my name. A day or two later, as I talked with my manager, I was told that my name had been a bit of a problem in the hiring process. “Our last teacher was called David,” he told me. “The Chinese didn’t want us to hire another one.”
I thought this more than a little strange. If my name had been “David Hitler” or “Kim Jong-David”, then it might have been a little more understandable… But even so, I couldn’t imagine why my name – surely one of the least imaginative a parent could bestow upon a child – had been jinxed by whoever came before me.
Then the stories came out, albeit slowly. My co-workers – a friendly and talkative bunch with whom I can discuss just about anything – were very reluctant to acknowledge the existence of “Crazy David”, as he was known.
I learned a few things about him that began to explain why he was so intensely disliked:
- He was Welsh.
- He was crazy.
- He was extremely delusional.
- He had no social skills.
Okay, that’s a bit unfair of me to have added the Welsh thing to the list, but there you go. None of my co-workers had ever met a Welsh person before, and they will do whatever it takes in the future to avoid meeting another. He has forever destroyed Wales’ reputation in China.
When I enquired as to how exactly David had proven his craziness, I was given a number of stories, but the first was this: David had taken the job and quickly decided that it wasn’t good enough for him. He began insulting the staff and the school, making unreasonable demands and threatening to quit. When his demands were not met he would simply pretend that he had never made the ultimatum. In the end, after a surprising amount of patience by all concerned, my manager had accepted one of David’s letters of resignation. When David claimed that it was a forgery, my manager insisted that it wasn’t and began looking for a new teacher.
Thus, I began to picture David as a poor pathetic loser. You see a lot of them drifting through Asia; exiles from their own country due to their innate weirdness. People who are inexcusably rude or offensive in their native lands often pass off as exotic and attractive on the other side of the world. If not, they just blame the other side for not accepting them.
More stories came, and soon I wasn’t entirely sure whether I could trust my co-workers. No one could be as crazy as they said David was…
- Apparently David liked to talk about his big penis. He liked to tell people about it when he first met them, and also about how his giant dick caused a problem with small Asian vaginas. He also liked to ask people about their penises and how it fit into vaginas.
- He had been a part of various Thai and Burmese gangs during his travels. During a stint in a Thai prison, he helped a convicted murderer to escape and thus became a local hero.
- David liked to talk about race and religion. He said that blacks were the only truly racist group of people… except for Muslims, of course. Muslims were out to destroy the world, and they were starting with Wales.
- He and his girlfriend had extremely loud arguments and would beat the merciless shit out of each other in public and in private. Then they would make up by fucking so loudly that they disturbed all the other residents in their building.
- Most worryingly, David claimed to have killed 27 people. It was never made entirely clear how or when he killed these people, but he was very proud. He claimed – on other occasions – to have been in the army, so it’s possible he did killed these people in some war…
Of course, after a few weeks of David stories I wasn’t really listening. Part of me just chose not to believe what I heard. It gets boring around Hefei and I got the impression that The Tale of Crazy David was maybe an exercise in killing time.
One day in November I was in the office after class, talking to one of the Chinese staff whose job it was to look after the foreigners’ apartments. I was in the middle of explaining that my internet was broken when a short, fat, middle-aged white guy walked into the room.
“Don’t ask this silly bitch to fix it,” he said. “I know what’s wrong.” The man, of course, was Crazy David. He went on to give a long explanation of China’s dial-up internet connections, during which time the mild-mannered Chinese woman quietly walked off without protest. She knew exactly how to handle the situation.
Although I knew better, I asked David if he could explain exactly how to fix my connection. I was sick of being without the internet and I was willing to talk to a probable psychopath in order to reach a solution.
David looked at his wrist – on which there was no watch – and said that he would just come over to my apartment and fix it himself. I have always been too polite to deal with people like him, and I said, “Oh, okay,” instead of turning and running.
When we got outside he said that he would cycle over to my place and meet me there. “You want to just walk your bike?” I asked. “Otherwise you’ll be waiting over there for me…”
“Oh no I won’t,” he replied with a grin. “I have a key.”
It was true. Crazy David had a key to my apartment. It turned out that he had been the previous tenant, and that he’d cut an extra key for some awful reason. By the time I ran over to the apartment, David was already sitting at my computer, fiddling with the settings. He still had his shoes on. His dirty fucking shoes.
Immediately, the rants began.
- This school was the worst school in the world and I should get out before it’s too late.
- My co-workers would quickly start plotting against me like they did to him.
- The Muslims were already plotting against us.
- You can’t get decent bread in China.
- The apartment was a mess when he moved in but he had scrubbed it “immaculate” for me and that I should be grateful. (The toilet was black when I moved in, along with the windows and floors.)
When he was finished with my computer, he told me that we were going to lunch with his girlfriend. He didn’t ask; he told me. Being too polite/stupid to protest, I went with him to a small restaurant near the university gate.
His girlfriend was a haggard-looking Chinese woman of around five or more years younger than him. She looked suicidal with a bottle of Chinese whiskey (baijiu) in front of her, along with a tiny plastic cup. The bottle was full.
She didn’t speak any English but David seemed to have a reasonable grasp of Chinese. Even so, they didn’t talk to each other. David talked to the waitress and to the people at the other tables, who were typically amazed to see a white man. His girlfriend – whose name I was never told – just sat and smoked (women don’t smoke in China) and drank her whiskey.
David ordered two beers for himself and told me about his last school: “The curriculum, David, the curriculum was shite. A disgrace. Seriously, I’ve worked everywhere in China and I know my stuff… This school was a disgrace. So you know what I did? You know what I did? Well I went to the principal, see? I went to the little fucker and I said to him, I said to him, now, I said to him: ‘You’re gonna give me a pay rise. Fifty percent. Or else. Or else what? Or else I’ll report you to the education minister.’ Stupid bastard agreed, but I reported him anyway. I didn’t need the money. So you know what happened? I sent an e-mail to the education minister – who’s a friend of mine, I’ll have you know – and had the school shut down.” David laughed maniacally and threw back his beer. “Fourteen foreign teachers. All got arrested and deported. I told him they were working illegally and they probably were.” He laughed harder and banged on his knee.
“You know, Steve Davis taught me to play Snooker. You know Steve Davis? Steve Davis. Snooker player. World class. Nice guy. Good guy. Best in the world in his day. Taught me, me, to play snooker. Yeah, upstairs from my house…”
From this amazing change in topic, David went on to describe how he had beaten each of the greatest snooker players of the last few decades, but that fame hadn’t interested him enough to go professional. He told me that he played snooker once a week with the Chinese champion and that he beat him every time they played.
Then he told me about his son. Snap. From destroying lives to being the best snooker player on earth to his son. His son, he told me, was sixteen years old and working as a professor somewhere in the south of the country. He’d printed out a fake degree and a fake teaching certificate and gotten him a job at a big university. He laughed at having beaten the system and told me that his son was big with the ladies. “Got a big dick like his dad,” he said. “The whores here are cheap, don’t you find? He doesn’t need to pay but sometimes I treat him when I’m down there. Can’t come to China and not do it, eh? Young lad and all.”
His girlfriend, after about thirty minutes of sitting and listening to David rant, had finished the entire bottle of whiskey. Her eyes were glazed over and her head was lolling about, but she still stared at David with contempt. David glared back at her from time to time, beginning to look a little drunk himself. He’d consumed four large beers in the time we’d sat there.
When he began talking about “niggers” I stood up and said that I had class starting in ten minutes. It was a lie. I walked quickly outside, crossed the street, and bought a heavy lock for my door.