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You from WBEC Chicago. It's this american life. I'm Eric Glass. There's this theater company in Chicago that for years has put out a new show every single week where they performed 30 plays in 60 minutes. It's called the Neo Futurist.


And when we first broadcast today's program all the way back in 2003, a bunch of us were sitting around talking about that group, and one of us had just seen one of those shows, and we thought, you know, that would be really fun. 30 stories in 60 minutes. Let's try that instead of our usual. Each week, we choose a theme, bringing three or four stories, blah, blah, blah, public radio. Very reflective.


What kinds of stories would we end up with if we did 30 in 1 hour or even 20? What would it sound like? We honestly had no idea. And so that's what we're going to do today. Today we're going to find out.


And I have to say, time is wasting. If we're going to fit everything in, how many will it be? How many will we squeeze in? There is but one way to find out, and that is to stick around. And let's begin with this one, act one.


Don't I know you? Throughout this hour, we're going to be bringing you two minute documentaries, fantastically short works of fiction, and all kinds of little stories that we ordinarily can't use on the radio show because they are just too short, even though they're really fun stories to listen to and perfect stories for the radio. Our first story is one like that. It's one of those stories, you know, how people, you know, have their greatest hits, stories of things that happened to them. We went on a massive search for stories like that from all over the country.


And this is one of the stories like that that we found. It happened to this actor named Tate Donovan. He told it to our producer, starly kine. He was out one night going to a Broadway play with a friend, being treated in this way. He never gets treated.


We're sitting around waiting for it to start. And I'm not a sort of recognizable actor. I'm an actor who works, but I never get recognized. So all of a Sudden, the ten minutes we're sitting there for it to start, three or four people come up to me and recognize me. I mean, they know exactly who I am, and they are quoting lines from a television show I was on and my car.


Hey, you were Joshua on friends. I've always admired stars who were really gracious. So you always think, you think that's what I want to be like. I want to be really friendly when I'm famous. So I wanted to be friendly and sweet and go out to the people.


They don't have to come to me all the time. So for, like, a little window of time, though, you were exactly the kind of celebrity that you wanted to always be. You were gracious and reserved. Yeah, and warm. You know what I mean?


I wasn't like one of these distant celebrities. I was like, hey, I was genuine. They all left thinking, that guy's a really great guy. He's like, so sweet. I was exactly how I wanted to be.


I was doing it. I was doing great. And then the kid with the camera came along, this nervous kid, I don't know, he must have been 16 years old. He's in a rented tuxedo, unbelievably, like, shy and awkward and he's got, like, acne and he's got a camera in his hand. And underneath the marquee is his date, who is literally like a prom dress.


And she's got a corsage and she's really nervous and sort of clutching her hands. And he sort of comes up to me and he sort of mumbles something about a picture and I'm like, I just feel for him. So I'm like, oh, absolutely. My gosh. Sure, no problem.


My God, you're poor thing. And I go up to his girlfriend, I wrap my arms around her and I'm like, hey, where are you from? Fantastic. Going to see the play. That's great.


And the guy is sort of not taking the photograph very quickly. He's just sort of staring at me and he's got his camera in his hands and it's down by his chin and she's very stiff and awkward and I don't know what to do. So I just lean across and I kiss her on the cheek. And I'm like, all right, come on, take the picture. Hurry up.


And finally he sort of, like, snaps it and I'm like, okay, it was really wonderful to meet you. And he just stammered over to me and was like, could you take a picture of us?


And the whole time he just wanted me to take a picture of him and his girlfriend. Underneath the awning of the play, he didn't want a picture of me. He had no idea who I was.


Oh, God, you. They were in shock. I don't think they had ever come across a human being acting this way, you know, I mean, could you imagine? You ask someone to take a picture and you just get in it? Yourself and kiss them.


Hey, Donovan with Starly kind. Right? Now you can catch him with Paul Giamatti in his latest movie, the Holdovers, act two. No, of course I know you. One of the things that was really interesting about putting this show together was going to some of our regular contributors and commissioning stories that were just two or three minutes long for people who normally write stories that are, like ten times that length.


This next story is an example of that from Scott Carrier in Salt Lake City. Who was that woman? That woman I just saw while walking out of the restaurant. She was sitting at a table by the door, glasses, a hat, like Lois Lane. She looked at me like she knew me.


And I said hello because I thought I recognized her. But I couldn't remember her name, so I just kept going out the door. Now I can't even remember how I know her. I know I know her, or used to know her somehow. She was very important to me.


She helped me out in a time of trouble. She used to roll her eyes. I'd say something dumb, and she'd roll her eyes and get me something I needed, even though she didn't have to. Maybe she works in the library or the county recorder's office or at the newspaper. I think I may have been in love with her.


No, she's too young. I was never in love with her. Not in that way. It's just that I wanted something, needed something. And she was able to give it to me almost out of the goodness of her heart.


And now I can't even remember who she is. I'm sick. I'm old. I should just walk out into traffic and kill myself at home. At night, I go to sleep searching for the lost memory.


Did I meet her down by the river in a canoe? Or was it on a ferry in southeastern Alaska? Or at the foreign correspondence club in Panam, Penn, along the Mekong? She has something to do with water, with life, with mud.


I sleep poorly, turning and maybe even groaning in anguish. I don't care about the woman anymore. I'm worried for myself. I feel as if there's a black hole in my brain, and slowly but surely, it's swallowing all the memories of my life. I get up at 530 and drive to work in the dark.


I feel terrible. I look like a piece of gum in the gutter. I pull into Java Joe's to get some chemical help, and there she is behind the drive up window. I want to tell her I love her, but I don't because it would be too weird. All I can say is wow.


And she rolls her eyes and gets me my cup of coffee.


Scott Carrier in Salt Lake City. You can find him writing this month at Mother Jones magazine, where he wrote the COVID story about Utah Republicans finally trying to do something to fix the great Salt Lake act three. It's commerce that brings us together. In 1997, Susan Drury and her husband moved to rural Tennessee, not too far from the Alabama line. They grew attached to the local radio station.


We couldn't really get any other radio stations at the house, but WKSR has a lot going for it. The way they read the obituaries on the air, the way people call in during the tornado to tell everybody they're okay and where the roads are flooded, the ads from the same downtown stores over and over and over. And then there's the show we like best. Here we go. It's time once again for another edition of swap and shop here on WKSR.


Swap and shop is a low tech, personable sort of eBay. It's not fancy or particularly well produced or anything. It's just a show where people call in to say what they want to sell or buy or give away. They give their phone number, and that's it. Swap and chime.


Good morning. Good morning. I have a couch for sale. I need to advertise. Okay.


It's a lane recliner couch. It's six weeks old. It listed for 1140, and I'll sell it for $600. We've just got one too many. Okay.


And your phone number? 468-2524 all right. Thank you for calling. Thank you. Have a good day.


You, too. Here's a couch for sale at 468-2524 the show is hosted by a guy named Don Eastep, and he almost never comments on anything people are trying to buy or sell. He's like a lot of my neighbors, particularly the men. The attitude is your business is your business. There's no shame in tough times.


And nobody turns themselves inside out to tell you everything. Yes, I have for sale a table and chairs, a microwave and a washer and a bedroom suit. And I also want to buy a car, a small car. Okay. Here's a table and chairs.


Mostly you're just left to wonder about the story behind these things. You don't get too many answers. Swap and shine. Good morning. Yes, sir, I'd like to buy a used trampoline.


Doesn't matter what shape it's in or if it even has a tarp on it or not. And my telephone number is six two nine. Swap and shop is not unique to this station. Local stations across the country have these radio classified type shows. WKSR's version has a regular segment called the Dog on show.


Folks have found a black, white, and brown young female beagle with a white tip on its tail and more than likely a family pet. If you'll call, 565-4505 is that number. Also, four cows have been found, and if you think they might belong to you. That first winter in our house, we had no heat, which we thought was adventurous, but was, in fact, just cold. And when we heard a lady call in with an ugly but functional wood stove for sale for $75, we called her.


We got it, and we were toasty. Hey, Don, that little black and brown and white beagle with the tip on her tail that we found, well, we lost her, so you can quit advertising her on Barnett Road. On the Barnett road. Yeah. All right.


Thank you.


Susan Drury in Tennessee. In the years since we first broadcast this story in 2003, Don Estip, the host of swap and chop, who you just heard, has died. Act four, the sound of one hand waving. So for this one, let's go to the beach for a 1 minute and four second vacation on Nantucket island.


When we were in the water and we realized we weren't able to get back in, we had some friends that were on the beach, and so we started waving to them. We were kind of doing this double hand wave thing over our heads, and our friend just kept waving back. She was standing and talking to some other people on the beach. That must have happened two or three times, and we waved like crazy, and she waved back. And then when we got on the surfboard later, when the surfer picked us up and we still couldn't get in, we were waving again and again.


She thought we asked her afterwards, why did you think we were waving? She said, we thought you were just trying to show us you were on the surfboard with this guy. Oh, my God. We're waving frantically. Like to tell you what?


That we're on a surfboard with a 19 year old and nobody got it, and we were sufficiently panicked, and nobody saw anything but a bunch of middle aged women at fat ladies beach waving to their friends.


Patty Martin from Nantucket. She talked to James Seltzer. She has since passed away. Act five, the sound of no hands clapping. This one came from Vicky Merrick and Eric Kipp and Jay Allison, who's the voice you hear?


Listen, scallops clapping on Martha's Vineyard.


X six, reaching out with radio blunt. Youth radio has this project where they work with incarcerated teenagers. This story comes from Long Creek Youth Development center in south Portland, Maine. And just imagine how this works. You're a teenager, you're locked up, you're in juvenile detention and this group comes to you and says they will help you make your own radio story on a subject that concerns you.


What do you do that story about? Well, here's Joey. Hi, I'm Joey. And I ate somebody's urine. But all started when I went to dinner at the cafeteria and someone told my friend not to eat the pudding.


Then my friend told me after I ate that someone had peeding in it. I survived that day, but I couldn't stop thinking about it. So I went to the cooks to see if they had an answer. This is Joey and Jake. We're about to see if we can interview Bill Wyman on people messing with our food.


Yeah, we're not too happy. We're not too happy. Excuse me, Mr. Wyman? I was wondering if I could interview you and talk to you about people putting, if it happened, glass in our pancakes and peeing in the pudding and stuff.


We was wondering what you had to say about that. They don't. Nobody does that. Two kids don't handle the food at all. We heard that it was brought up at briefing that somebody put glass in the pancakes.


No, it wasn't glass. It was a piece of plastic that came from one of the glasses out there in the dining room that you got. You kids had. Do you know how it got into the pancake batter? It didn't get into the pancake batter.


It was put in there afterwards. Well, we've heard different from other kids. Do you know anything about it? We heard that it was. Do you have any idea whatsoever what's going on?


That's why we came to you, to get an idea. That's not why you came to me. You came to me because you thought it was true. Yeah, of course. You kept it going.


If somebody said that they messed with your food, joking or not, wouldn't you want to know, really what happened there or not? No, I would totally go with the kitchen. With the kitchen crew and what you guys have been told. So you'd believe the kitchen crew over the person, no matter how much credibility you can give them, you'd believe them? The kitchen crew over them.


Even if because you don't cook the food. You think it's funny, don't you? You really think it's funny? No, I really don't think it's funny. Grinning like a gesha cat because you're going friggin zero to ten just because we're asking you a bunch of questions.


No, it's. What you're asking is how you're asking the same thing over again and you're trying to get an answer, which there isn't any answer there. All right, this is obviously not working. I'm going to have to interview somebody else. I heard some kid got jumped because he's supposedly peed in the pudding.


That's the key word right there. We have an investigator and he investigated the incident and we also had the pudding tested. They took it to an independent laboratory and tested it and it was proven that there was no foreign matter in that pudding at all. Now, perhaps you weren't told that because I don't think you're told everything, but it was sad that because you thought there was, you incited a riot in the dining room and made a big mess that kids had to clean up. They had nothing to do with it.


I don't know what to think if someone did contaminate the food with bodily fluids. I guess I'd rather not know since I'm stuck here and I have to eat the food. Thank you for your time. This is Joey. Joey.


He was 18 when he recorded that story. His friend Jake was 16.


If you're just tuning in, this is this american life we have tossed out our regular way of doing the show this week. Trashed it, chucked it, spurned it. We laugh at it, we spit on its grave. And instead we are bringing you as many short stories as we can fit into 60 minutes. It is barely, what, 18 minutes into the show, and already we are at act seven.


An incredible achievement. Act seven. Up, where the air is clear. We have this story from Jonathan Goldstein. Before he ever moved to Gotham City, before he grew into the overweight, obsessive sad sack of his later years, the penguin was a poet and a dandy who lived in London.


He wrote complex villanelles and threw lavish dinner parties at which he only became more charming the more he drank. He wore a monocle, a top hat and carried an umbrella. One evening at one of his dinner parties, after hours spent sipping absinthe, the penguin ran up to the roof of his building, opened up his large black umbrella and leapt off into the air. As he coasted to the ground, he hollered out lines from Blake. Stuff about grabbing life by the fat of its stomach and giving it a twist.


He was that crazy. He was that bursting with life. From that night on, he made it his habit to jump off roofs ever higher while clutching an umbrella. After a while, he got pretty good at it, too. He saw that by kicking his legs and twisting his back a certain way, he could actually prolong his flight, coasting all over the place, sometimes only landing after several daring minutes of loss, it came to pass that the penguin started hearing more and more about a certain nanny named Mary Poppins.


She too, he was told, had been floating around London, hanging from an umbrella handle. Everywhere he went, the penguin kept hearing about her, how it was simply insane that they had not met each other yet. So finally a dinner party was arranged by someone who knew them both, and on the evening of the party, the penguin walked into the drawing room, saw Mary Poppins on the devon, doffed his top hat, and bowed low, as was his style in those days, he'd planned a few things to say and do when first meeting Mary Poppins, he thought he might lift up his umbrella as though challenging her to a duel. He imagined she would smile and take up her own frilly, perhaps pink umbrella, and then together they would dance about the room, leaping over furniture, parrying and thrusting, perhaps even winding things up, breathing heavily, nose to nose.


Instead, what happened was the penguin became very shy and quiet as he stood there staring at her. His top hat felt needlessly clumsy, his monocle, too small for his face, and the squinting needed to keep it in place was giving him a slight headache. For the first time in his life, the penguin felt ludicrous. I imagine you two must have an infinite amount of things to speak of, said their host as he sat them together at the dinner table. The penguin nodded uncertainly.


After three or four minutes, it became clear that the penguin and Mary Poppins had absolutely nothing to say to one another. That did not deal exclusively with umbrella travel, getting stuck in trees, the shoulder aches, anxiety about tipping over in the wind, everyone at the table just sat there staring at them expectantly, which made the whole thing even more awkward. Trying to move things along, Mary Poppins asked the penguin if he liked to sing, to which the penguin responded, only when I'm drunk. Then she asked if he enjoy children, to which he replied, yes, in a sweet wine sauce. The penguin then asked Mary Poppins how she kept people from looking up her skirt when she flew.


She smiled politely, then turned to the man on her left and asked him how he was enjoying the lamb. The man on her left was wearing an elegant, aristocratic cape. Mary, a bit drunk on the sherry, noted that if he spread his cape out, he might be able to glide about like a bat. The man on her left chuckled and suggested that after dinner, they head up to the roof and give it a try, which they did.


Jonathan Goldstein. He's the host of the podcast Heavyweight, which feels exactly like this story, except the people in it are not fictional. The last episode of the new season went out last week.


Act eight, the greatest dog name in the world. Yes, we have the true story of its origin years ago, an exclusive told by two brothers, one of whom is twelve, the other is 13. I wanted to name him Pasta. I used to like Pasta a lot, and it was probably the first thing that came to my mind. So out of nowhere, I said Pasta.


So he said Batman. I wanted to name him Batman because I saw in a movie the dog stuck his head out the window and his ears went like straight up. And it looked like it reminded me of Batman. And we fought over it for a little bit. I just remember running around and chasing each other.


I was jumping on my mom's bed saying, like, Batman. Batman. Batman. And then my brother was sitting in the chair saying, like, pasta. Pasta.


Pasta. And that must have gone on for like an hour.


I think it was right around the time we had this big fight about gumballs, which I'm not going to get into because it's pretty embarrassing, but if there was just some little thing that we couldn't agree on, then it would just blew up into this whole big thing. Yeah, I remember being pretty upset about it. And then my mom comes in and says, like, all right, that's it. It's over. It's Pasta Batman.


That's it. And then there was silence. And then from there he is. Pasta Batman. Loets.


Pasta. Come on. Pasta Batman. Pasta. Here.


Pasta Batman. Hey, good doggy.


Their names, Valiant and Paris loets. Aged twelve and 13, they spoke with Katie Adon, act nine, of dogs and men. Elaine Bohm used to work at a pet shop. We've had to help people select items for their animals. And this woman and her husband came in.


She was looking for a training collar, the pinch collar type. And of course, they're pretty hideous looking, but they do do the job and they don't hurt the animal. They just get the animal's attention. Well, she couldn't make up her mind what size to get, so she looked over to husband and she said, dear, come over here. And then she looked at me and she said, you know, his neck is about the same size as the dog.


Put this on, she says, and the guy stood there and took it. And she puts the prong pinch collar around his neck. And she gives him a yank and he says, yes, sweetheart, this works. This works. Thank you very much.


That was the end of that. Elaine Bohm talked with James Seltzer, act ten. So let's close out this part of our show before the break with a story from theater group that gave us the idea for today's jampacked little program in the first place. That group again, the neo futurists. They've done these shows where they perform 30 plays in 60 minutes.


Turns out you can get across a surprising amount in a two minute play. Some of their plays are monologs, some of them are scenes, but a lot of them just take some simple concept, one idea, and then spin that concept out on stage for two minutes. This one's like that. Statement statement statement question agreement reassured statement confident statement confident statement overconfident statement question elaborate defensive excuse half hearted agreement insecure statement distracted statement absurd statement clarification question hammocked bullshit explanation quick meaningless comic non sequitur fake laughter fake laughter accidental compliment of physical characteristics please respond shocked continuation of meaningless comic non sequitur. Relief laughter relief laughter self assured agreement is denial exaggerated statement exaggerated statement grossly exaggerated statement clarification question extremely exaggerated elucidation mental compliment with accidental double entendre confident laughter confident suggestive proposition violent denial a ghast repetition as question disgusted violent denial defensive incriminating implication offended retort aggressive childish insult disbelieving rhetorical questions aggressive childish insult aggressive childish insult aggressive child.


Attempted condescending conclusive statement brilliant scamming, remarkable literary illusion and long term devastating skylogical implications. Um. Down.


Greg Allen and Heather Reardon from too much light makes the baby go blind. 30 plays in 60 minutes, which ran every weekend in Chicago for 28 years until it ended its run in 2016. Greg is the founder of the group. The neo Futurists have a new show which also features lots of little two minute plays. It is called the Infinite Wrench.


There's also a company in Detroit, the UN Theater, doing these kinds of shows and other productions around the world. Their website, Coming up, David Sederis on an important, and I have to say undiscussed question about cell phone use and so many, so many other little stories. I don't even want to count them in a minute. From Chicago Public Radio, when our program continues.


Well, this is turning out to be an interesting show, isn't it? It's this american life from Ira Glass. And if you're just tuning in this week, we are throwing out our regular way of doing things, you know, three or four stories and some theme, blah, blah, blah, to hell with all that. Instead, we are trying to cram as many stories into 1 hour as we humanly can. We guarantee 20.


There may be more. We are at number eleven. Etiquette lesson. Here's writer David Sederis in a men's room at LaGuardia airport, I watched a man take a cell phone from his jacket pocket, step into an empty stall, and proceed the dial. I thought he had come for the relative privacy, but looking through the space beneath the door, I saw that his pants were gathered about his ankles.


He was sitting on the toilet. Most airport calls begin with geography. I'm in Kansas City, people say, I'm in Houston. I'm in Kennedy. When asked where he was, the man on the phone said simply, I'm at the airport.


What do you think the sounds of a public toilet are? Not the sounds he would generally associate with an airport. And so his what do you think struck me as unfair. The person he was talking to obviously felt the same way. What do you mean?


What airport? The man said. I met LaGuardia. Now put me through to Marty. A few hours later I was in Boston relating the story to my sister Tiffany.


I mean, he actually placed a call while sitting on the toilet. Tiffany is big on rules, and so I expected a certain degree of outrage I wanted discussed. But instead she said only, I don't believe in cell phones. But you do believe in talking on the phone while sitting on the toilet. Well, it's not a belief, she said.


But I mean, sure. When asked how she explains the noise, Tiffany scrunched up her face and held an imaginary receiver to her mouth. I say, don't mind me, I'm just trying to get the lid off this jar. Her face returned to normal, and I thought of all the times I had fallen for that line, all the times I had pictured my sister standing helpless in her kitchen. Try tapping the lid against the countertop, I'd said, or rinse it in hot water.


That sometimes works. Eventually, after much struggle, she would let out a breath. There we go, she'd say, I've got it now. And then she would say, thank you. And I'd hang up thinking, well, it's a good thing she called me David Sederis.


His most recent book is Happy go lucky, act twelve. To tell the truth, this was recorded by Brent Runyon in the kids section of the public library. My parents punished me so many times because I lied. Well, I was home one day and I tripped over my brother. Okay, I don't tell anybody this.


I jumped over my brother's chair. I jumped. Yeah. You lied to me. I told you I jumped.


No, you did. I told you the first day I got my crutches. No, you did not. Oh. Act 13.


More lies. This happened to Catherine and her husband John, long before they were married, back before they graduated from college. Girls babysit a lot, and boys don't. And girls understand that when you babysit, part of the deal is that you get to eat anything you want. So after we'd put the kids to bed, I said, well, we should go see what they have to eat.


And he said, we can't eat their food. And I said, of course we can eat their food. What do you mean? And he said, that's stealing. I said, john, I promise you, it's fine to eat something.


They expect us to. They understand that. They don't expect us to starve while we're babysitting. And finally he said, well, we can eat something, but only something they won't miss. And they had a huge crate full of grapefruits, and they also had cans and cans of black beans.


So I had half a grapefruit, and John opened up a can of black beans and had that. And then I wrapped up the other half of the grapefruit, and John rinsed out and dried off the empty can of black beans. And we put the wrapped up half of grapefruit and the cleaned out box of can of black beans in his bag so that people wouldn't know that you had eaten these. We had destroyed the evidence. His insistence.


Yes, it was absurd. And then we watched tv, our hunger satisfied. And then the couple came home, and we made small talk. And then John picked up his bag in the hallway, and there was a sort of dull thud, and half the grapefruit fell out on the floor. And I said, oh, that's mine.


I'm sorry. We're allowed to take a piece of fruit from the dining hall. And I had taken that grapefruit from the dining hall, and that's why I have it here. And then they sort of said, oh, okay. That's nice.


And then I put it back in John's bag. And then John picked up his bag again, and you guessed it, a clang. And clanging out onto the floor went this empty can of black beans.


And when the can fell out on the floor, John said, oh, that's mine. I keep change in that.


Like I keep change, as if that was less insane.


Act 14, calling Colonel mustard for questioning. Or that's what happens if you don't use a condiment. Kids see all the stupid jokes that you end up telling if you have a story that takes place in a hot dog factory about hot dogs. Here we go. My name is Jim Bodman, and I'm the chairman of the Vienna Sausage Company in Chicago.


And the building that we are currently standing in, which is on the north side of Chicago on Damon, near the corner of Bullerton, was built around 1970. This hot dog plant, Jim Badman says, replaced the company's original facility. So it was put together in a Rube Goldberg kind of arrangement. So we moved into this building, and this was a brand new, state of the art, stainless steel refrigeration is perfect, spit clean building. And we started making our natural, old world, hickory smoked, natural casing hot dogs here.


And it wasn't as good. They tasted okay, he says, but they didn't have the right snap when you'd been into them. And even worse, the color was wrong. The hot dogs were all pink instead of bright red. So they tried to figure out what was wrong.


The ingredients were all the same. The spices were all the same. The process was all the same. Maybe it was the temperature in the smokehouse. Maybe the water on the north side of Chicago wasn't the same as the water on the south side.


They searched. They searched for a year and a half. Nothing checked out. Then one night, a bunch of guys from the plant are out having a drink and gabbing about the good old days back in the old plant on Maxwell street. They start talking about this guy named Irving, one of those guys who knows everybody in the plant, has nicknames for everybody, and listen to what Irving's job was.


Every day, he would weave his way with the uncooked sausages through the maze of passageways in the old plant. He would go through the hanging bench. That's where we hang the pastrami pieces, and it's quite warm. And he would go through the boiler room, where we produced all the energy for the plant. He would go next to the tanks, where we cooked the corned beef, finally get around the corner, in some cases, actually go up an elevator.


And then he would be at the smokehouse. He would put it in the smokehouse, and he would cook it. And as they're telling stories about Irving, Irving this, Irving that, a light bulb goes off in the fancy, new, modern plant. There was no Irving. Irving didn't want to commute to the north side.


There was no maze up hallways. There was no half hour trip where the sausage would get warm before they would cook it in the new plant. They just stuffed the sausages in a cold room and cooked them in a smokehouse in the room next door to it. Irving's trip was the secret ingredient that made the hot dogs red so secret, even the guys who ran the plant didn't know about it. So we said, oh, my God, that is, of course, the reason.


Why didn't we know that that's the dumbest thing in the world and not realize it's right there. How do we fix it? And the solution to the problem was the room that we're standing in right now. And this was a new addition put onto the plant about two years after we built the facility. So you had to build this room, this whole room.


The outside bearing wall is that wall right there. We put this whole room on, and in this room, we emulate the old area of the old plant. And so this room, essentially, is to simulate Irving. That's exactly right. We should have called it Irving.


Irving's corner. It's warm in Irving's corner and smells nice, too smoky, like hickory smoke and spices. Since I first heard this story years ago on a tour of the Berry plant, I found myself telling it now and then. I think that what I love about it is the fact that these guys at the factory had done everything right, finally built their dream factory with the best equipment and expertise that money could buy. But you can't think of everything sometimes.


You have no idea why you were success in the first place.


15. Mr. Prediction. In the mid 1980s, right out of college, David Rakoff moved to Japan and pretty soon ended up in this office job where he was convinced that he understood a secret about the company and its business that nobody else, not even the big bosses of the company, could see. It was like that from the start.


Primarily, the office was an advertising agency, but what they were setting up was this thing for expatriates who were living in Tokyo at the time, or perhaps all of Japan, and it was like a network on a computer. And they would set up a newsletter on the network, and people could quote, log on to the computer and talk to one another or do research. And I was just. I don't know. I just looked around the room, and I saw these computers and could only think, like, what kind of loser would log on to a computer, talk to someone?


And, in fact, that night in my diary, I had written something like, this is like those comic book enthusiasts who actually read the little instructions at the bottom of the panel that said, for more on the green Goblin. Check out spidey number 137 from the editor. And in almost the only moment of decisiveness in my entire adult life, I've certainly never equalled this. I went in the next morning and I quit. And all I could think was like, sayonara, suckers.


Good luck with your network. And we know exactly what the network was. It was. It was the Internet.


I have a negative capacity to identify trends. Like when in college I went to see Madonna at Danceteria, which was a club downtown, like 1982 or whatever, and I thought, boy, is she lousy.


Other examples besides Madonna and the Internet? Other than Madonna and the Internet. You need another example. When I was an editorial assistant working in publishing, I was handed a manuscript to read. I think I wrote some know, borderline misogyny, an easy pass.


And somebody thought, I'm just going to take a look at this. Anyway, it was men are from Mars, women are from Venus.


These are not like me saying like, I don't think Alicia Silverstone's going to be very good and clueless. I mean, these are, know, pretty big, iconic.


It's like, have you fellows heard that crazy lunatic in the marketplace invading against the Pharisees? He'll burn off like so much morning fog, we'll never hear about him. It's like, that's when you call my name. It's like a little I'm down on my knees. I wanna take you there.


David Rakoff, the final book that he wrote before he died in 2012, is a book I just love. It's a novel in rhymed couplets. Love, dishonor, mary, die, cherish, perish. A novel by David Rakoff. You're listening to this american life where today it is all about speed.


We are, what, 43 minutes into the program, and we have already finished 15 acts. And this brings us to act 16, that one guy at the office. So if you work at a big office, you know that there's always at least one person whose name you do not know in Jordana's office. Matt is that guy. For perhaps as best as anybody can figure, half the people who work there, Jordana, will tell you about it.


Matt Ostrower sits next to the printer in the busiest hallway at our office. People walk by him dozens of times a week on their way to retrieve printouts. And though he actually works in the new media department and has nothing to do with the printer, most people don't know this. It's his sad fate that most of his conversations at work are about one thing. Originally, a lot of them were printer based.


Why is this printer taking so long? Oh, papers out. Oh, there's printer jams. Some of it's never really left that genre of conversation. They don't really expand too much, so a lot of it's just very superficial.


Hey, did you throw away any printouts here? No, I didn't touch anything. I'd been working in the office a few months when one day a friend called me and said he was hanging out with one of my coworkers who lived in his building. Who? I asked Matt.


He said, I had no idea who that was, and said, so. Then I heard a voice in the background say, tell her I sit next to the printer. And that's when his predicament hit me. So I decided to survey my coworkers to see if they knew who he is, what his real job is. Do they even know his name?


No. I mean, I know his face very well. I stop. I chat. I say, hi, how are you?


As I'm grabbing things off the printer, I ask him about his little electronic music devices and all that. We chit chat, and I'd say I do that probably about three or four times a day, at least. But I have no idea what his name is. I wondered if Matt was at all surprised by this. Shocked?


I honestly see him between 50 and 75 times a day. Like, different intervals of time. At least that every day. Every single day.


I'm wondering if you know the name of the guy. That sits right out here in the hallways.


Is his name? I don't know. Works on the web, right? Kind of. And Matt's response?


I'm a little surprised, because I see her every day as well. I'm wondering if you know the name of the guy. That sits in the hallway next to the printer.


I don't see anybody sitting in the hallway next to the printer. I didn't think we had anybody sitting next to the printer.


I've never had this kind of experience before. The whole situation is just ridiculous. That I've been here for a year and a half pretty much every day. And there's still people who don't know my name or what I do. And it's a little bit weird.


I could go through a pretty full day without talking to anyone. Besides the requests from the printer, sometimes that's it for me.


Matt says the printer shows up in his dreams. Sometimes in his dreams, he'll be at a party, waiting in line for the bathroom. Or at a parking lot at the beach. People everywhere. And there will be the printer off to the side chugging away occasionally jamminga Gustason in Boston.


Act 17. You can't choose your gift. I'm Richard Carey, and I have this one little talent. I don't know where it came from, and I it fears me to think that it's something that I myself possess. But I'm able to make the entire sound of a swamp, and I will attempt to do so.


Now. I'm not sure I'm prepared at this moment, but I'll give you the sound of a swamp.


Really important at parties. Richard Carey, Dr. James Seltzer act 18 party talk here's writer Chuck Closerman. This was a conversation that happened to me at a party two years ago. At one point in the conversation, I suddenly found it necessary to mention that journey was Rock's version of the tv show Dynasty.


This prompted a spirited debate we then dubbed Monkeys Equals monkeys. The goal of this game is to figure out which television show is the closest philosophical analogy to a specific rock and roll band, and the criteria are mind blowingly complex. It's a combination of longevity, era critical acclaim, commercial success, and, most importantly, the esthetic soul of each artistic entity. For example, the Rolling Stones are Gunsmoke, the Strokes, Keefer Sutherland's 24, Jimi Hendrix was the Twilight Zone, Devo was Fernwood. Tonight, Leonard Skinnerd was the Beverly Hillbillies, which makes Molly hatchet petticoat junction.


The Black crows are that 70 show. Holland oats were buzzing buddies. You two is mash because both kind of got preachy at the end. Dawkin was Jason Bateman's short lived sitcom it's your move. The eurythmics were mork and Mindy.


We even deduced comparisons for solo projects which can only be made to series that were spawned as spinoffs. The four Beatles post 1970 are as follows. John equals Maude, Paul equals Fraser, George equals the Jeffersons and Ringo equals flow. David Leroth's solo period after Van Halen was not flanding. So there's proof marijuana makes you smarter.


Chuck Closterman reading from his book Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs, a low culture manifesto. His most recent book is the book act 19, the hard life at the top. Here's a ritual that takes place every summer. On the last day of June, 1200 new army cadets, mostly teenagers, survivors of one of the most exhausting application processes in the country, arrive at West Point. And then, in the space of one morning, they're separated from their parents.


Their clothes are taken away, their hair is taken away. They're weighed, they're measured, they're issued a bag, an army uniform and underwear. They take the oath of office. And then here is the first act they have as non civilians. All they have to do is say a single sentence.


Once they get it said, they can go to their barracks, but not until then. David Lipsky spent four years writing about these guys and describes what happens each year. The drill is simple. The new cadets have to step up to a tape line, drop their bags and make their report to upperclassmen wearing red sashes. You will walk up to the line, the red sashes tell them, and you will say, sir.


New cadet Doe reports to the cadet in the red sash for the first time. As ordered, the new cadets swallow, nod their heads, and then the screwing up begins. This cadet is so nervous, he doesn't realize he's supposed to swap his own name for Doe. Sir. New cadet Doe.


No, sir. Then say your name. New cadet. Is your last name Doe? The red sash screams.


No, sir. Says the new cadet. Then say your name. New cadet. Says the red sash.


Words count. Even footwork counts. New cadet clinker. A jittery 18 year old female cadet finds this out when she steps a little too far forward. Sir.


New cadet clinker. New cadet, look where you're standing. I told you to step up to my line. You better learn how. Followers.


New cadet. The red sash asks her to do it again. This time she stands in the right place, but she's forgotten what to say. I'm telling you to drop the bag you dropped. Are you showing emotion?


Did I just see a smile come across your face? New cadet, you are like a rock. Maintain your military discipline at all times. For these specially selected red sashes, breaking in the new cadets is a great honor. The day before, they've even practiced being hard on local civilians.


In a full rehearsal every year, a bunch of teachers, sons, daughters, groundskeepers from around town sign up for a fun day as practice cadets. Every year, a handful leave in tears. New cadet McLeod reporting to the cadet in the Red Sox. First time as ordinary salute. New cadet McLeod stutters on his first attempt.


He's asked to drop his salute and start over. On this one day, almost 1200 young men and women will make the report. If everyone did it right the first time, it would take about an hour. I don't see anyone go through the first time. It takes all day.


New cadet McLeod tries again, but the words won't come.


Are you a new cadet or are you a new cadet? Drop your salute, the red sash tells him. Are you a new cadet or a new cadet, new cadet, he says, forgetting the sir. New cadet, new cadet. Are you going to put a sir on that?


Poor new cadet. McLeod has already screwed up twice to get here. He spent 18 years excelling in nearly every way he can. In schoolwork, in athletics, at student council meetings. He's beaten his way to the top of the 50,000 applicants who fill out requests for information forms.


He's been interviewed by senators, congressmen, and now here he is in the last place he ever thought he'd find himself. A sudden death play audition. He only has to say one line. He draws a breath, tries one more time, and after letting go of his family, his hair, his clothes, he drops the last vestige of his civilian life. He forgets his own name.


David Lipsky. His book, following one cadet class at West Point for four years, is called absolutely american. His most recent book is the Parrot and the Igloo climate and the science of denial.


Act 20. The greatest moment I ever saw on a stage. I'll say. First job that this moment that I saw caught me completely off guard. I was at a play where I was not expecting anything special.


It was put on by an organization that works with teenagers, story catchers. Theater is what it's called. And among other things, they get kids who are locked up in Chicago's juvenile detention center, the Audi home, to write and perform musicals about their lives. This one was performed by teenage girls. Okay, so we're in the detention center.


Folding chairs have been set up. The girl's parents, it's mostly mothers and grandmothers. Very few men are sitting directly in front of the stage. And imagine for a minute what it's like to be one of those parents, okay? Your kids locked up, possibly on very serious charges.


Some of these girls were. You're worried about what's going to happen to them next. You're probably still mad that they didn't listen to you in the first place and got into all this trouble and ended up behind bars. What can theater possibly do for you in this situation? You know, it seems like such an old fashioned idea that it can do anything.


So there's this one scene in the play, where'd you get these clothes from? And it's the story of this girl named Candice. And Candace basically wanted better clothes so the other kids at school wouldn't laugh at her. And so she steals some clothes from Nike town, and she gets in trouble, she gets caught, and then she joins a gang to earn some money and be more popular. Her mom finds some drugs in the house and a gun and feels completely betrayed because that was not how she raised her daughter.


And one thing leads to another, and Candace gets locked up. Then the girl narrating this story says, and this is how Candace feels about her mom now and then, all the girls in the play come out on the stage and stand in a line facing their mothers and grandmothers who are right there in front of them.


Mama, I'm sorry for what I have done. I was arrested up here in the.


I'm sorry for putting you through all this stress, for making you worry yourself and depressed. I'm ready to come back home. I'm willing to make a change. And by this time, the girls are all crying. Their parents are all crying.


And each girl has a cutout, you know, like little heart, like on Valentine's day. Like that made from red construction paper, like the size of your palm. And written on each one is the words, I'm sorry. And each girl goes out into the audience to where her mom is sitting, or her grandma is sitting and hands her the heart. And the parents are crying, and the kids are crying, and everybody is hugging.


It was really something.


I'll do anything for you, mom.


Please forget about yesterday.


Mama, I'm sorry.


I'm sorry. I'm sorry. Here they were not just saying this to their mothers, but saying it publicly in front of the world, in front of their friends, saying this thing that could be so hard to say in any case, you know, singing it out and hoping that it can heal something, that it's going to be hard to heal no matter what you do.


I'm sorry. I'm sorry.


I'm sorry. I'm sorry.


And that's our show for today. 20 acts in 60 minutes. Thanks today to Atlantic Public Media, WCAI and W-N-A-N. Our website, This american life is delivered to public radio stations by PRX, the public radio exchange.


Thanks as always to our programs co founder, Mr. Troy Malatia remembers all the way back, back to when we started the show. I think it was right around the time we had this big fight about gumballs, which I'm not going to get into because it's pretty embarrassing. I'm Eric Glass. Back next week with more stories of this american life.