January

2000

Televised Humiliation

I seem to show up on television an awful lot for someone who has no interest in acting; before I turned 18 I had been on local news broadcasts at least ten times, and no, never for crime-related reasons.

I went to a private junior high school for “gifted children” so that seemed to make for pretty good TV, as in my youth I was pretty much the dictionary definition of “nerd”: glasses, bowlcut, the works. But it wasn’t until high school when I started developing a different sort of personality that the roving eye of the television cameras would exact its ultimate punishment. In the fall of 1991, I had, in a fit of pique, shaved the left side of my head down to the scalp, leaving the right side to grow down to my chin. This was all part of my new punk rock image; I had got contact lenses earlier that year, and I was sick of being the Goodwill-clothed flinching nerd of my childhood. So a retarded haircut seemed a perfectly acceptable answer.

Anyways, in the winter of that year, as I was sitting in my Ecology class, word started to spread through the classroom that”The Compton Report,” a local news/magazine/expose program would be coming to our shithole ghetto school to do one of those “won’t somebody think of the children” shows that they all seem to do every couple of years. Since our high school was falling apart around us (during my senior year, a hall ceiling collapsed, amazingly not killing anybody) this seemed more than appropriate. So a week or so later, once it had been announced and made official, the cameras were roaming through classes and Jim Compton, the host, was talking to students and teachers. They came to my Technical Drawing class and interviewed the teacher, who made an ass of himself, and then made a quick sweep through the room with the camera. I tried to act natural, with my head close to my drawing, calmly ruling straight lines.

About a month passed until the announcement came that the show would air next Saturday. Everybody in the school knew about it; the adminstration was hopeful that it would draw more attention to our school without making it look like the collapsing gang-infested racist hellhole it was. Tensions were high.

So me and my Mom sat down to watch it on Saturday night. It was uneventful for the first half hour or so, although my Mom was pretty shocked to see the decrepitude of the facilities. I had willfully kept her as ignorant as possible about any of my school activities, given my predilection for ditching out on school and flunking classes, even so early in my career. But as Jim Compton started talking about the various students that attend the school, something humiliating happened.

The screen showed a picture of one of our many African American football players, diligently studying a Biology book. The voiceover droned, “Someof these students will go on to higher education…”

Cut to a shot of me, head half-shaved, hunched over my technical drawing, ignoring the camera.

Voicever: “And some, obviously, will not.”

A total silence fell across the TV room for about a half a second, and then I went apopleptic. The next Monday at school I was a combination folk hero/village idiot.

Not that that was anything unusual, or anything.

I never did go to college,so maybe that fucker Jim Compton was right. He was later elected to the Seattle City Council, but I had moved far away by then.