April 15, 2005

Backed Into A Corner

Stories about people who end up making choices they'd rather not make, when their options begin to run out. Sometimes this works out great; sometimes not so great.


Host Ira Glass interviews Joe Amrine, who was falsely accused of murder. Rather than avoid the death penalty, Amrine said everything he could think of on the witness stand to get the jury to give him a death sentence. He figured that would be better than life in prison. Since he would need media attention and free legal help to appeal his case, he calculated the only way he could get it was to sit on death row, because nobody pays attention to lifers. He nearly was executed, and lived on death row for seventeen years before being released. (8 minutes) Joe's story is a part of the McSweeney's Voice of Witness Project—Oral Histories of Victims of Contemporary Human Rights Abuses and Social Injustices.

Act One

Working Class Hero Sandwich

Dawna Lentz was a new employee at Quiznos sub shop in Seattle when the franchise owners just gave up. They stopped buying supplies, stopped answering their phones. Soon, the restaurant began running out of staple ingredients, like cold cuts and bread. But Dawna needed the job. So she paid the other employees out of the cash register, and started scrounging to keep the place open. Shirleen Holt, a reporter for the Seattle Times, tells the story of how Dawna managed to stay afloat. (17 minutes)

Act Two

Don't Drive Like My Brother

Charles Johnson was living in St. Louis, married with a young daughter, and he had no job. He looked around, and decided he'd try trucking. There was this company offering to train and hire drivers, so he signed up. The only problem was, he couldn't read. Jonathan Menjivar reports on how Charles traveled all across the country making deliveries, without ever consulting a map. And without ever telling anyone—even his own wife and brothers—that he couldn't read. The literacy program where Charles learned to read accepts volunteers. Their website: LiteracyChicago.org. (16 minutes)

Act Three

Confessions Of A Not-so-dangerous Mind

How NOT to get a job in U.S. intelligence: Admit to being a pervert during your job interview. Somehow, though, that's exactly what happened to a perfectly normal, nice guy who we're calling "Matt" for the purposes of this story. On paper, Matt was a perfect candidate to be an analyst for the National Security Agency. He was bright, ambitious, spoke Chinese. But he was also a little neurotic. So somewhere in the midst of his final round of testing for the NSA job, he started to worry about this riddle: What if I've done something bad, but I don't know I've done it? Am I still guilty? This, it turns out, is not the best way to approach a lie detector test. Brian Montopoli, Matt's friend, interviewed him about what happened. (15 minutes)