Thursday, November 29, 2012

The joy of elaborate student pranks - comedian Jose Barrientos fakes an accent for an entire public speaking course

People judge us based on first impressions, like what we wear and how we speak. Those impressions may be very wrong. Yesterday ABC News had a story about how Jose told his Speech 101 class at Los Angeles City College that he was a recent immigrant, his family were piñata makers, and that he used to ride a donkey to school. For his last speech he finally revealed how he normally speaks, and got a perfect score. The video shown above tells his story. WARNING - there is lots of profane language. You can also watch him doing eight minutes of stand-up comedy without that phony accent.

How you dress also can throw people way off. Almost four decades ago, when I was in the Air Force Reserve, I was at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base for the altitude chamber course that everyone had to take before going on flying status. Three months earlier I’d come back from basic training, tech school, and on-the-job training to be a medic in an air evacuation squadron. My rank was still Airman Basic (E-1) so I still didn’t even have one stripe on the sleeves of my fatigues. The first morning was boring classroom stuff. Everyone was glad when we stopped for a coffee break.

Ahead of me in line was a man wearing an unusual blue uniform. When I asked him where he was from, he told me that he was a Wing Commander in the Royal Air Force (officer rank equivalent to a major, O-4). He was on an exchange tour, and was going to Scott Air Force Base (near St. Louis) to fly jet transport planes. I told him that I’d worked as an orderly in the hospital there for a month. Eventually our conversation turned to the topic of metal fatigue. I noticed that he was becoming very perplexed at hearing me talk like an engineer. He’d looked at my sleeves, and hadn’t seen any insignia. Then he’d looked at my collar, and cuffs, and still couldn’t find anything to identify my rank. Finally I told him that I was in the Air Force Reserve (working one weekend each month), and that during the week I was a graduate student in metallurgy at Carnegie Mellon University.

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