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Hi there, moth family, the moth has always been dedicated to creating safe environments that foster empathy, and we build community with stories. The moths live shows are canceled through August 31st, 2020, but we're producing virtual moth main stages and stories slams each month. We'll also be bringing you new episodes of The Moth Radio Hour and our new weekly podcast All Together Now Fridays with The Moth. Check out all of our social media platforms and our Web site, The Moth Dog and our YouTube channel for more details and all sorts of content during this time of social distancing and self quarantine.
We hope that listening to personal stories can help us feel more connected to each other from all of us here at The Moth. We hope you and your loved ones are staying safe and healthy. From PUREX, this is the Moth Radio Hour. I'm Sarah Austin. Janez, in this episode, mistakes and missteps and the regrets that followed and one bold move with no regrets at all.
We'll hear stories from the Newark Airport, Washington State, the countryside in Zambia, and two stories from our Houston slams.
And we'll start in New York with a student in need of a haircut. Alfonso Lacayo shared this at our first high school grand slam at Housing Works in New York City for a very enthusiastic crowd. Here's Alphonso live at the math. OK, so I'm in fourth grade, going to fifth grade, and it's the end of the summer and I'm getting ready for school and I got my school supplies, my school clothes, my super cool new lunchbox, the new J's on my feet.
You know, the new Jorda sneakers.
I'm say it's only really one thing I'm missing.
And you I like when you're a kid, you don't really care how your hair looks like.
You don't really take care of you like you don't really call me to Washington.
Maybe that's just me. Or maybe that's just so.
At the end of the summer, my hair was kind of just like this thing on my head and it was terrible, was revolting, like it was the way I want to look at it.
And so everywhere I'm going, my friends are like, Yo, Afonso, you need a haircut. My sister is telling me you need a haircut.
You know, my mom's kind of cool. And she said, I'm a get you a haircut for you go to school because you look like a fool, you know, and.
So one day, and I'm kind of just like, you know, I agree.
And so one day I go to my cousin's house and it's my older, older, older cousin and my other cousin around my age.
So I'm sitting there and play video games and my other cousin around my age and I'm playing video games.
I kind of notice my older cousin kind of staring at my hair and all of a sudden he says, you know, I could cut your hair right for free.
And I'm like, Really, really? Because that be great.
My mom's watching. And she said, I need a haircut before I go back to school. So this'll be awesome. And so nobody I didn't really know better, like nobody was there to say, stop, this guy is not a licensed barber. He's not qualified to come in. This is not what he does. It's just not. And so my cousin takes me to the backyard, to the garage.
And the garage is dark and it's not really much light except for this old rusty lamp and, you know, like in the movies, when they find some ancient artifact in the dust on the table, it just slightly.
That was that land, that was it. So my cousin, you know, starts to cut my hair. There was no mirrors either, you know, you know how like you know, like when you go to a barbershop, there's a giant mirrors. So I hear you could kind of look up and say, you know, I like that. That's nice.
So my cousins cut my hair for like 25, 30 minutes. And all of a sudden he stops and he's proud of his work, he's like, Danny Boy, cut me off. And I get up, you know, I'm like, OK, now I'm ready for school, you know, I want to go play video games. And so I knew there was something wrong. I knew there was something wrong.
Because as soon as I stepped foot into the house, my other cousin around my age looks at me and starts dying, crying, laughing all over the place hysterically.
And I like jokes, you know, I want to know what's funny to.
So I go to the bathroom and I come face to face with the mirror.
I couldn't believe what I saw, guys. My hair was back here. And this was all a sign like I had like this windshield thing going on. If you look closely enough into my forehead, you can see your own reflection. And it was crazy. It was just glistening. And I was kind of crazy when I was a kid. So I started looking at all over the place. You know, I'm screaming everywhere. Why? What am I going to do?
Oh, my God, why have you run me this way? I'm supposed to go to school. What I'm going to do.
So later on, I get dropped off at my house and I see my mom and she looks at me and she kind of just like shrugs it off. You know, she's like, oh, well, you know, I told you I was going to get you a haircut. Should await. And I can look funny.
And so that's what happened, I looked funny for the first two to three weeks of school.
People laughed and made jokes and I don't know if I could tell. I keeps it fresh. Now.
So basically, I trusted my cousin once and I will never trust him again for anything.
The mom first met Alfonso Lacayo when he was part of her education program as a high school student at Dream Yade Prep in New York City. Alfonso is still living in New York. And right after this bad haircut, he met Al, the barber who has been cutting his hair for over seven years. He says Al is a barber I can rely on.
Our next story takes place at the airport, Norine King told this at a story slam in Seattle, where we partner with public radio station KUOW. Here's Norene live at the moment. So I'm from New York, originally from Woodside, Queens, and every year we used to go back to New York to visit my mother who still live there. And when we went back, I took my two daughters. It was just me and them. My older daughter Leah, was about four years old and three months.
And my younger daughter Maev was about two years and three months. So on the way there, we took a redeye and my two year old daughter, who I did not purchase a ticket for because she was two years and three months asleep in my arms in her pajamas.
And nobody knew the difference. Everything was fine.
I'm saving money on the way back. So now this is Newark Airport. The airport was packed, you know, after the holiday.
It's Sunday. There's thousands of people all over. Flights are canceled.
We get on the line. It's about six o'clock. And this is before the days of everybody has on their phones. You know, you have to go up to the counter and check in. So we were checking in, waiting on the line. There's so many people in front of us. And I come up with the stroller, with the two girls packed with stuff. You can just see their two little faces and they look pretty identical at that age and all just filled with stuff because all my luggage is on it.
Go up to the counter and the woman says, you know, can I have your tickets? I said, yes, here they are. And she said, well, where's the other ticket? And I said, Oh, I don't have a ticket for her. She's she's not two years old. And I hear my daughter say, Mommy, why did you tell the lady Maev isn't to.
She's two years and three months. So, yeah, I turn a little bit and I come back to the counter and the lady said, How old is your daughter?
And I said, as quiet as I could.
She's not too, which is usually how everyone describes how old their kids are, so. My daughter says again, Mommy, you said it again, her birthday is September.
There are so many people behind me and they are hearing it, they're part of the whole thing and it's so crowded and she says, I'm getting the manager, I couldn't believe it.
And I'm like, what am I going to do? So imagine me bending down to the stroller to get to my daughter's height and saying, yeah, when the man comes out, I assumed it would be a man.
When the man comes out, don't say anything. Don't say anything.
But, Mommy, you're telling a lie to the man. Off nothing, and then the man came and I stood up and he said, where are your tickets? And I said, they're right here. He said, Where's the other one?
I said. Trying to get away from her daughter. I don't have one because she's not too. And he said. Oh, really? And Leah says her birthday is in September. Mommy, why are you saying this? Why are you saying this? And I, I wanted to be invisible.
I wanted him to tell me the ticket is 5000 dollars and you can go away. Anything. I wanted to tell me anything. And the crowds are there in the crowds. I feel like they're forming around me.
And he said, when's her birthday? So all of the brain cells had fallen out of my head.
I'm just so sick about this.
And the only date that came to mind was the Fourth of July.
And I said, her birthday's the Fourth of July.
And and then he said, what year and I have nothing in my head, and I said, I don't know. And then and then he said, don't ever do this again. And I said, I never will. Thank you. Norine King is a New Yorker who's been living in Seattle for almost 30 years, when she's not working, she loves to garden, cook and read history books.
Noreen's daughter, Leah, still happily character in front of others. And Orian says, I do like to bend the rules sometimes. I inherited it from my mother.
Norene sent us photos of her daughters in the airport the day the story took place. And she says the photos really show their personalities to see them go to the morgue.
After our break, two stories of actions that cannot be undone when the Moth Radio Hour continues. The Moth Radio Hour is produced by Atlantic Public Media in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and presented by PRICK'S.
This is the Moth Radio Hour from PUREX, I'm Sarah Austin, Jenice. We're exploring missteps in this hour and sometimes when we make a mistake, we can't go back. David Watson, Izabela, develop this next story in one of our global community workshops. The story takes place in a small town in Zambia where he grew up. David told us at a moth event that we produced during the U.N. General Assembly, where the stories were all about equal rights.
Here's David Watson. Jubilo live at the moment. I was five years old when my mother decided to take me and five of my siblings from the capital city of Zambia, Lusaka, to the village in Calcutta, a district to go and live with my grandmother, a journey which took us about three days.
So I finally get there, a small boy in a strange land where people spoke a language I do not understand with people whose ways of life I was not accustomed to. The community was economically deprived, people walked barefoot. And it was a struggle to have a decent meet. So there I was scared for me and my sisters, wondering what was going to become of us.
I turned around to look, and there she was. The most beautiful girl I had ever seen in my whole life. She looked at me and smiled. I looked at her, smiled back. From that very moment, I knew she was special. I found out that her name was Toco in the few days that followed, would became best friends. She could teach me about our traditions and customs. How our tradition valued gender and sex rose above everything else, that a man should only do a man's job and a woman should only do a woman's job, such as cooking and taking care of the kids.
Another out of such tradition was the square macumba traditional ceremony where the elderly man in the village would go on top of the mountain to give offering to ancestors so that we can have a good harvest and good rains. One afternoon and Tokyo, we are walking from the oil and we passed by a person who was an Albanian. All of a sudden, Tokyo pulled the shit out and spat inside it. I was curious as to. Why have you done that?
She told me that in this tradition, anyone who was physically different from us was considered to have had a bad omen. And in order for us to repel that woman away from us, we were suppose to spit inside our heads and step away from them as much as possible.
So I spat inside my shirt and off went on our merry way.
By the age of 15 and Toccoa inseparable, we did everything together. She told me about her dreams and aspirations, how she wanted to make life better for everyone around her. Me. And her family inclusive and I will tell her about my dreams and aspirations, which I know too much, probably just having a kind soul. One afternoon after a rainy day, which was a sign of good luck to us, me and three of my cousin decided to go and put fertilizer in our cornfield.
The bags of fertilizer were about 200 pounds in your American scale. And they are too heavy for us as young lads to carry them, so we called our elders to come on to help lift the bucks. So they helped us. We loaded the bags into the cart and off we went. We finally get to the field.
It was soggy and wet because of the rains. So my cousin and I decided to jump inside the cart and push the bags down.
While we are pushing the bugs down, we did not realize that Toco was standing too close. To the end of the cut. So accidentally, one of the bags filled on. She screamed in pain, I jumped off trying to help her, but the bag was too heavy, I couldn't manage. So my cousin told me to run back to the village and call for help.
When help finally came. I was told the news that my best friend had broken her thigh. The nearest clinic to our village was kilometers away. And because it was rainy season and the terrain was so bad, it meant that it was impossible for one to move from one area to the next.
So while the elders were waiting for things to get better, they decided to opt for traditional medicines. Every afternoon I would go to check up on Toco and encourage her that everything would be OK.
You go to the clinic, you'll be treated and you'll be fine. The day finally came when she had to go to the clinic her parents took.
I went and bid farewell, and I thought that when you come back, you'll find me home. I'll be waiting for you. When she came home, I was so eager to see her. So I rush to go and see her expected to be greeted by how beautiful and charming smile, but all I could see was despair in her eyes. As to what happened. And the father told me the bad news. That the doctors had amputated her leg because we took so long to take her to the clinic.
From that very day, everything changed. The times we used to spend together were normal. I could go and see her once in a while. But I couldn't spend as much time as I wanted. One evening, I come back home, which was about two weeks since I returned from the hospital, I found a sitting by the fire. So I went and sat down next to her and she started to be telling me to do. She told me about how losing her leg.
Has meant the end of her life. She told me about how she was wondering what her or her parents did wrong so that the bad omen can feel on her. I was scared of a. But I loved her too much to stay away. So I listened to everything that she wanted to say. She looked up to me for guidance and solace, but I was unable to give her that. Even though I do not implicitly tell her that I, too, believed that her life is over because she had lost her leg.
She knew me so well, she was able to tell because it was written all over my face. I told the Gunite. I went to bed and I left her there. The following morning when I woke up. I was in limbo. I wondered what I should do, whether I should embark on a journey to school. Or I should stay home and watch over. However, I decided to go to school in my mind, I was sure I'll come and see her when I come back and.
Things hopefully will be normal. That afternoon, I'm coming back from school. As I am approaching the village, things are not the way they are supposed to be. The people who are supposed to be fishing want to prepare for our evening meal, we are not doing so. The boys were supposed to be fetching firewood while not doing so. So I'm rushing back home wondering what had happened. I get there, I find my grandmother crying. She was unconsolable, I asked what happened.
She wouldn't say. That's when I realized I had not seen my best friend since morning, so I started running around looking for her. I ran into her mother's house. She was not there. I ran into my grandmother's house, she was not there as well. I ran into my uncle's house. And I finally found her lifeless on her mother's lap. I asked the mother what happened. And she told me that my best friend had taken her own life because she believed that her life had ended the day she lost her leg.
In that moment, the conversation that we had the previous night came back to me. It was my fault that this happened. I was so confused, I could not cry. So I went outside and sat under the mango tree contemplating about everything that had happened.
It has been nine years now since the death of Tonko, and every single morning I wake up with the zeal and the passion to change the beliefs on disability, not just in my community, but across the world. Thank you. That was David Watson, Kwabena, these days, David lives in Lusaka, the capital city of Zambia, but he spends most of his time working in rural farming communities like the one he grew up in. It's been more than 10 years since the events in this story.
But David will never forget Tokyo, and he uses storytelling to change stereotypes toward people with disabilities in Africa. He also loves to be in nature, fishing, hiking and beekeeping, and in fact, he's the founder of a honey processing company helping African beekeepers and their families live better lives. To find out about his sustainable efforts, go to the Moth Otterbourg. Next up, a story from Meghan McNally from one of our Seattle Grand Slams, where we partner with public radio station KUOW.
Here's Megan live at The Moth. Growing up, I could tell my grandmother anything, we remember her mostly now for her stories and her tendency to exaggerate, but I think we don't give her enough credit for all the secrets that she kept. We called her nanny and nanny loved all of her grandchildren, though I'm pretty certain that I was her favorite. And this isn't anything she told me.
She just had a way of making you feel that we spent our our summers and our weekends at her house where we could stay up as late as we wanted.
We had coffee cake for breakfast and pudding for lunch. She let us watch R rated movies and stay in the swimming pool until our fingertips turned to prunes.
She was the kind of grandmother who would answer almost anything that you asked her and the kind who gave you your first sips of beer and wine and whiskey. So Nancy and I had a special code word between us, and she knew that if I called her from the school nurse's office and said I had a tummy ache, that that meant I just didn't want to be at school that day.
And she would come get me and we'd take off on our own adventure.
And Nanny was a really gifted storyteller, but she was also a generous listener. So when I got pregnant at 19, she was one of the only people that I wanted to be around. I decided to give my baby up for adoption and she had just lost her husband, my poppy. So we were two people who were dealing with our own kind of loss and just trying to find our footing.
And those she was devoutly Catholic. She didn't judge me and she wasn't embarrassed to be seen with me.
She knew probably better than I did that I had a tough road ahead of me. And yet she didn't pray.
She let me talk about it in my own time and she would tell me her favorite stories of growing up in New York and falling in love.
And the nanny was fiercely independent and a lot of ways she was also the product of a generation in which women relied a lot on their husbands.
And so when her husband died, I think people were expecting her to fall apart and she knew this.
And in a similar way, I knew that people were waiting for me to fall apart. They were wondering how I could have messed my life up so much. And I learned they were taking bets on whether I would go through with it. And we formed a special bond under the weight of all of this until one day Nanny said to me, you know, Meg, we really ought to keep this baby in the family.
And just like that, our bond was broken. I was devastated because I thought she must not have known me at all. And I was really upset.
And I don't remember seeing her for the rest of my pregnancy. And I didn't let her see my daughter before I gave her up.
Our relationship was strained for years, and even when we became close again, we didn't talk about it.
When my daughter turned 18 and found me on Facebook. I told a staff meeting, but I didn't tell my nanny in a few years after that when I learned that she'd graduated college, had moved to New York and fallen in love.
I didn't tell Nanny there was so many times that I visited her that I just tried to kill myself, to open my fucking mouth and tell her about her first great granddaughter, how much she reminded me of her. How scared I'd been all those years, wondering if I had made a mistake, how grief was this thing that had ripped me open and made me into something entirely different in something that I wasn't always proud of, I wanted to tell her how bittersweet it was to learn.
My daughter turned out just fine without me. And mostly, I wanted to tell her how sorry I was for just leaving her out of all of this, but it's a it's a funny thing how the longer you wait to do something, the harder it is to do. In the last years of her life, Nancy and I talked on the phone all the time and we talked about everything from Florida football to politics to what we thought heaven might look like.
We talked about everything, it seems, except for this one thing.
And when she had a stroke and I knew the end of her life was near, I flew home to be with her. I sat alone with her on her bed and reminded her of summer nights, swimming pools, jello pudding. But I knew this was my last chance. And so I took her hand and took a breath. And I finally said, Honey, do you remember that I had a little girl that I gave up for adoption?
And of all the things that I had imagined after all those years that she might say. I never imagined that she would say no. Whether it was the failing memory of a ninety six year old woman or a lack of oxygen to a brain that's dying, my grandmother didn't remember the thing that had caused me the most pain. And I didn't get to say I'm sorry and she didn't get to say it's OK. And when she died the next day, I didn't just lose.
My grandmother became someone who'd waited too long. Thanks. That was Megan McNairy today. Megan is a lawyer and entrepreneur living in Seattle, and she built a network for fellow female leaders called the F Bomb Breakfast Club, where thousands of members help each other launch new businesses. Megan still hasn't met her daughter in person. She says, my daughter is an emergency room nurse in New York City and she's saving people's lives. We only ever communicated through Facebook and email.
It will always be her decision whether to meet me in person. And I say a little prayer every day that someday she'll want to. Here's a message Megan sent us. I regret that I didn't understand grief, that I never asked for help, that I let fear win out over love with Nancy. I had so many opportunities and yet I always believed there would be more. She deserved better. I let her down.
To see a photo that Megan found of her and nanny from 1987 in happier times, go to the morgue. After our break, a trip to Iran and a bold move when NASA calls in the moth Radio Hour continues. The Moth Radio Hour is produced by Atlantic Public Media in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and presented by PRICK'S.
You're listening to The Moth Radio Hour from PUREX, I'm Sarah Austin Ginés. This is an hour all about that nagging feeling that you may not have done something you should have. It's about regrets. Both big and small are two final stories we're told at our Open Mike story slams in Texas, where we partner with Houston Public Media. Nadia Hakeem's story takes place on an airplane. There are trips we wish we'd never taken and some we wish we had. Here's Nadia live at the mall.
Have you all ever been on a flight where the the pilot comes on the P.A. system and the first thing he does, rather than the typical we would like to welcome more frequent flyers skips all that. Just go straight into a prayer.
I just imagine it just as soon as he gets on the P.A. system, just a bit smaller than just in the name of God the merciful, we pray for a safe journey, so on and so forth. God is great. God is great. God is great. I see some of you nodding and smiling. And that's because you have flown nationally in the Middle East, North African region. For those of you who haven't, it is very unsettling to hear.
So back up 45 minutes prior to the prayer, I'm sitting at the gate with my mom, with my mother who's Filipino, my father who's Iranian, and my sister, who's three years younger than me. And they come and make the announcement that sorry for the delay flight, such and such to Shiraz for Osserman Air is now going to start boarding. So please everyone line up in an orderly manner. Jum all right. Is just pure chaos and you can't even get mad because Iranians are so kind and so polite like the whole way.
They're just like, oh please let me help you with your luggage.
Please, please, please be like kind of hustling you, you know. So it, it's that way all the way to the shuttle.
And as we're approaching the aircraft in the shuttle, my dad's looking at it and he's examining the plane and he says, oh, shoot, is that a 727? And my parents have worked for the airlines all my life. So I start going through my list of 737, 747, 777 Badia, a Bombardier. OK, Bobba, we have have we ever flown on a 727? And he said no, that's because they stopped making 727 in 1984 and they would have gotten this before the Islamic Revolution in 79.
So this plane's about 35 years old and well, it's too late to turn back now. So we get on this 35 year old plane and we get situated in our seats and the flight attendant comes by and asks the guy in the row in front of us, he's like, excuse me, sir, what time was the flight supposed to leave?
And the guy is like at seven o'clock. And so the flight attendant. Oh, so we're only 45 minutes late then. And we have this running joke in Iran that Iranians only use time to tell the difference between day and night.
So exhibit A, your flight crew doesn't know your departure time, right?
So cue the prayer and then we start the plane starts moving so that we can get ready for takeoff and just exit and then the brakes and then the wing flaps, just like there is not a drop of oil on this plane.
And it's like, how did that prayer go again? Like, oh, well, we take off, we get in the air and then the pilot comes on and says all the stuff we were expecting.
Oh, welcome to the flight from Isfahan to Shiraz. It's going to be about an hour and fifteen minutes. So we're not going to turn off the fucking seatbelt sign.
But as he's saying this, the beverage cart comes by and right after the beverage cart is another flight attendant who's handing out containers of fresh stew and fresh rice.
And Iranian stews are like not something you can sloppily throw together, like a turkey sandwich or anything like this. It is a labor of love. And the way that this stew tasted, it was as if the pilot's mother, maybe even his grandmother, like before he was heading out the door, she's like Pooya Poochigian, take some take some pomegranate stewpot.
Your airplane friends. Come on, just bring some.
So and in that moment, I'm realizing, like, no wonder when my uncle comes from Iran to visit the states and he has to fly domestically, he gets so pissed is snacks in snacks tiny Bretherton peanuts.
Like if this is what's waiting for you on an hour flight back in Iran. Heck yeah. Like I would be pissed.
Do so just as quickly as they serve everything, they quickly clean it up and they come onto the P.A. system and they're asking for a doctor on board.
And I know as if anything else could happen on this, and it turns out that the woman directly behind me, she's not feeling well. So they come with an oxygen tank and they get the mask on her. But it's fifteen minutes until until we land. So the flight attendants are they come up to us and they they got her hand off this oxygen tank. So they're sizing my sister and me and my sister.
She's twenty eight years old now and a pharmacist up until last year, they have been giving her a hard time sitting on the emergency exit rows on airplanes because they think she's too young. You have to be fifteen to sit in those. Rose. All right, so they're sizing my baby face, sister and me up, and they ultimately decide that baby Yoda is the more competent looking one out of the two of us. So they place it on her.
It's as big as she is.
And they say, hey, so if this needle goes into the red Persian vocabulary that we don't remember from over 15 years ago in those Sunday school classes, crud.
How does that prayer go again?
So fortunately, we survived the noisiest landing of all time. The needle never goes into the red. We get to see my family, who I a lot of them I had never met. I honestly wish I could tell you that this story happened a few months ago. I honestly wish I could tell you it happened even just a couple of years ago. But it's been five going on six years since I've been in Iran last year. And I'm just constantly beating myself up for not having gone back and visit my family sooner.
I how were we supposed to know that there would be travel bans?
How are we supposed to know that there could possibly be a flu, a full blown out war crud?
How does that go again? Thank you. That was Nadia Hakim. Nadia lives with her wife in Houston, Texas.
She works with Harris County Public Health, which means she's supporting epidemiologists with their response to covid-19. Nadia's last visit with her family in Iran was for Persian New Year in 2015. She still chats with them virtually, but it's tough, she says.
I was born on the right side of this imaginary line at the right time. So that means I can travel without hesitation. And I've been offered more opportunities throughout my life. My family in Iran is stuck and in a terrible economic situation. Knowing that I can't solve their problems from the root is a heartache like no other. You can see photos of Nadia with her look alike, great aunt and the rest of her family in Iran on our website, The Morgue.
Our last story teller in this hour is Robert Howlett, who also told his story at one of our Open Mike slams in Texas, where he partner with Houston Public Media. Here's Robert live at the moment.
So it turns out that there is no official age requirement to be an astronaut with NASA and you can look it up. They've taken applicants at age 20, at age 30 and even late 40s, presumably more than that, if you can pass the physical. There are, however, other requirements to be an astronaut. You have to be an American citizen. You have to have 20/20 vision or vision correctable to 20/20. And if you're going to come in as a pilot, you have to be a military pilot or an aviation pilot.
But you can also be a payload specialist. If you have a science degree. That's it. That's the requirements. However, there's one impediment for me that I'm Canadian. So that was a bit of an issue. Now I'm 57 years old, which means that I grew up and, you know, in the 60s. I was born in 1961. And people who are my age or older or it was a big deal to watch the astronauts land on the moon in 1969, you know, school got shut down.
We went to the gym. It was a major deal. And in fact, later in life, when people would ask me, well, why do you want to be a lawyer or what do you want to do this for? I would say because I got too big to be an astronaut. That was my standard answer. So I came down here, I met my wife, we moved back to Canada. We had our kids there. And in 2003, we moved back to Houston, Texas.
I had married in America, so I became an American citizen.
Number two, I had laser surgery in 2006.
You might remember that in 2007, the Houston Chronicle had an ad or had a full page thing saying NASA was looking for seven astronauts and listed the requirements that I previously covered. I mentioned this at the breakfast table and I looked kind of like what I look like now. So my family was a little skeptical. But I pointed out that I was at the time, you know, mid to late 40s. And so although it was at the end of the age requirement, I qualified.
My wife pointed out that I could even change a light bulb. So the chances of me being a payload specialist and being able to be helpful, probably not great. But, you know, I was a little perturbed by this response. So I did what you would expect me to do. I went to work the next day and I fired up the Internet.
Now, if you're going to apply for a job with the government, it doesn't matter if you want to be chairman of the FCC or a janitor with Veterans Affairs or an astronaut, you get on USA Jobs dot gov. And I found that and I started my application process on the Internet. I thought it was going to take 20 minutes.
Two hours into that. I'm answering essay questions on the phone to my mom to find out where we lived. I'm like, you know, I'm ready. So after your your application is almost done, it asks you to go back and review everything and it says submit and you get a formal response immediately.
And it was the best email I've ever received in my life because this form response said, Dear Blank Robert, your application for Blank Astronaut is now pending with blank NASA.
You have completed the requirements of the application.
We will let you know as your application works through the process. Yours truly had a personnel, so I did. But every male my age would have done. Every person my age would have done. I went to my outlook contacts of the 3500 people and I pasted every one of them into the IPCC line. And I sent this email to everyone with a cover note that said My application to be an astronaut with NASA is pending.
And I'll let you know if I'm around to do your work any time soon as you can imagine.
My email blew up. My phone blew up. My mother was the first one who called, not surprisingly. And I had good fun entertaining those calls. Right. So, you know, I went home and told the family there was some eye rolls. And, you know, my wife pointed out that I get a little bit airsick flying. And, you know, there were things that I and it was, you know, fifty pounds overweight, things I would have to deal with.
There was things that were going to have to be addressed, but, you know, quickly forgot about it there haters, you know, they could deal with.
So, you know, anyways, we went to a school function with my daughters and, you know, they were young at the time. They were lower, lower school. Now they're they're in high school. We went to a school function and it was pointed out to me that there was a guy there who had worked for NASA and he was a trainer and he had been a trainer for fifteen years. So I found him and he said, you know what is, you know, tell me what your background is.
And I said, well, I was a geology. And then I went to law school, you know, the geologist checked the, you know, the science thing, and he said, you know, that's a like kind of weird background. So there is a chance that I get a call.
That night we went home.
I make this up, not my light. The light was blinking. Remember, this is 2007. So light was blinking on, you know, our phone. And I picked it up and played it. And it was a woman from H.R. at NASA who said, you know, we need you to report to NASA and do a full physical and we need a list of every employer you've had so we can talk to all of them, including your current employer, to do a security check.
And the physical is going to take all day and you need to come down and, you know, there's no assurances. But you've been through a couple of cuts and this is now serious. So phoned me so we can book your appointment. My wife ran to the Internet, came back and said we can't live on the salary of astronaut run and we are not moving to Clearlake.
So those are the two things she said.
My youngest daughter, who was four or five, she kind of put her head down and she heard all this and she said, Mom, let daddy follow his dream.
That night, I thought about it. I went in the next morning I phoned NASA because I wanted on my terms to tell them that I was going to withdraw because, let's face it, it probably wasn't going to happen. I wanted to do it my way. I politely withdrew from the process so somebody else could have a better chance. But every now and then when I'm feeling down, I get that email out to remind myself my application for an astronaut was pending with NASA.
Robert Hallett is a dad, husband and energy executive who lives in Houston, Texas.
We included this story in the regret's our because I was shocked that Robert withdrew his application so easily. I had to call him and ask him about it.
So, Robert, we love, love, loved your story, and when we got to the end, we all collectively gasped. We couldn't believe that you withdrew your application, Robert. You were so close.
Well, sir, I don't know if I would say it was close. I mean, to put it in context, I think there were seven positions and something like ten thousand applicants. I made it through a round or two, I guess. But, you know, I'm not sure how it would have worked out if it would have kept going any ways to be.
Do you ever, even on a rainy day, think of what might have been I don't know if I'd go so far as to say it was a regret, but sometimes it's better to preserve the dream than really to have to face the inconvenient truth. So I can always tell myself, you know, that it was that was still possible as opposed to, you know, having to face any other reality, eternal bragging rights.
Right. Right. And, you know, I've I've since lost that email. It's been more than 10 years. But there is a period of time where I kept it in my desk and pull it out and look at it, you know, and when I had a bad day, it still lifts my spirits.
That was Robert Hallatt. Remember, you can share these stories or others from the Moth archive through our website at the MCG. This hour has been about regrets. Having regrets, after all, just means that you're human. And sometimes if you're willing to talk about them, they make powerful stories. That's it for this episode of The Moth Radio Hour. We hope you'll join us next time. Your host this hour was Sarah Austin, gymnast Sarah also directed the stories in the show, along with Michelle Jelassi and Katherine McCarthy with additional coaching in the high school program by Mikhaila Blyer.
The rest of them, also directorial staff, includes Kathryn Burns, Sara Habermann, Jennifer Hickson and Meg Bowles production support from Emily Couche.
The Moth would like to thank the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for the support of the mosque global community program. More stories are true, is remembered and affirmed by the storytellers. Our theme music is by the drift.
Other music in this hour from Vulfpeck, Michael Hedges, Danny Norbury, Charlie Haden, Omid Qabbani and Chet Atkins. You can find links to all the music we use at our Web site. The Moth Radio Hour is produced by me. Jay Allison with Viki Merrick at Atlantic Public Media in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. This hour was produced with funds from the National Endowment for the Arts.
The Moth Radio Hour is presented by parsecs. For more about our podcast, for information on pitching us your own story and everything else, go to our Web site, Thumos Dog.