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I worked at a TV station when I was in college. It was a really fun and interesting job and I learned a lot of things that remain very useful to my life. I'm really grateful to the people I worked with at OTV, and I hope they're all doing well!

This story, people will likely notice, has some things to do with a conversation society is having around cultural appropriation. I think this is a frame through which some people who might be resistant to the idea that cultural appropriation is disrespectful or harmful could better understand it. But I don't think it's the same thing...for a bunch of different reasons.

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Good morning, John. Let's talk about screwing up today.

The first summer I was in college I worked at Walmart and it was a weird experience; I made a lot of friends, cleaned up a lot of poop? But that is a story for a different day.

My second summer out of college I worked at a community access television station called Orange TV in Orlando, Florida. It was a pretty cool job: I got to do whatever! I did graphic design, I did camera operation, I did sound. And I learned a ton that is still relevent to my life today.

Like, for example, that it does not matter what you know about lighting or screen writing or cinematography, you are dirt if you don't know how to properly coil a cable.

I also learned a thing or two about screwing up, uh, my very first assignment at Orange TV I went out and we were filming like this banquet-y thing and I was on sound, and I could tell that the audio wasn't great..I didn't know for sure that something was going wrong, but I was pretty sure that it wasn't right.

Later, without me telling him about this, the camera operator checked the audio and was like "oh, that sounds real bad" (it was on the onboard camera mic and not the handheld mic).

So all the footage we'd taken at the beginning of the shoot was completely useless.

He managed to not go off, which was impressive, instead just telling me if something seems wrong you should tell someone.

Yeah, good advice!

So the year 2000, back then I was 19/20 years old. I did not have great fashion sen-I still don’t. Also--h-haircut! Ahh!


John you know this, I wore a lot of thrift store clothes. One day, a-a fair ways into my short tenure at OTV, we were getting ready for a shoot in a parking garage.


The shoot wasn’t in the parking garage, we were shooting a community event at a--you don’t care.


The produce on this shoot, was this little guy but he was like super solid, and he had a moustache that was like perfect silver, and like very straight on the bottom.


As far as I was concerned, he’d been in TV since the beginning of time. I was very much respected him.


We were just breaking from getting our instructions, uhh, and he comes over to me and he pokes me in the shoulder and he says “Green! You out-rank me.”


And I look down at where he’s pokin’ me in the shoulder, and it’s a patch. And it looks like that.


Turns out my producer was not always in television. He was at one point in the air force.


I will never forget that “Green! You out-rank me.” that he said to me because, like it was 90% joke, but it was 10% frustration. Frustration with me, with society, I don’t know. But I was horrified.


Like, I knew that I was wearing a military jacket--I hadn’t even really considered that it was once someone else’s. I also wasn’t worried about like stolen valor here, I don’t think anybody was gonna to confuse me, a 19 year old kid in too baggy jean shorts for a Master Sergeant in the air force.


And my producer wasn’t concerned that I was portraying myself as a member of the military--he didn’t think I was trying to fool anyone.


But he had, like, opened my eyes a little bit to the fact that there were symbols on my body that I knew nothing about.


Symbols that were part of other people’s identity, of their-of their work, of their pride. And the sum total of everything I knew about that, was that it looked cool.


I still don’t know what a Master Sergeant is, I didn’t even know that the jacket I was wearing was from the air force. It could’ve been any branch of the military.


And let’s be honest, like, as a young lefty, I a little bit looked down on that career path. And yet, I was wearin’ the jacket, ‘cause it looked cool.


John, I remember specifically that I kept that jacket for a little while thinking I would probably wear it again at some point, but I didn’t.


Every time I looked at it I thought, “You know, what I know is that I don’t know.” Like I don’t know!


When my producer poked my in the shoulder and gave me that 10% frustration, he had told me that something didn’t seem right.

And what that thing is, is not as simple as whether we’re on the on-board camera mic or the handheld.


It didn’t mean I was a bad person, it just meant that it was complicated, and I didn’t really know what was up.


And it turns out, there are other jackets in the world. So I wore one of those. John, I’ll see you on Tuesday.