December 19, 2008

Ruining It for the Rest of Us

Stories of people who ruin things for everyone else...or who are accused of that. Like the San Diego parents who didn't vaccinate their child for measles.
The measles virus.
When their seven-year-old caught the disease on an overseas trip, this decision became a whole community's problem. The outbreak infected 11 children and endangered many others. Also: Comedian Mike Birbiglia singlehandedly ruins a big charity event, and the disquieting truth about Amtrak's Quiet Car.

Mike Birbiglia's story is excerpted from his CD, My Secret Public Journal. He also wrote and appears in the one-man show Sleepwalk With Me.


A bad apple, at least at work, can spoil the whole barrel. And there's research to prove it. Host Ira Glass talks to Will Felps, a professor at Rotterdam School of Management in the Netherlands, who designed an experiment to see what happens when a bad worker joins a team. Felps divided people into small groups and gave them a task. One member of the group would be an actor, acting either like a jerk, a slacker or a depressive. And within 45 minutes, the rest of the group started behaving like the bad apple. (12 minutes)


“One Bad Apple” by The Osmonds
Act One

Shots In The Dark

Measles cases are higher in the U.S. than they've been in a decade, mostly because more and more nervous parents are refusing to vaccinate their kids. Contributing Editor Susan Burton tells the story of what happened recently in San Diego, when an unvaccinated 7-year-old boy returned home from a trip to Switzerland, bringing with him the measles. By the end of the ordeal, 11 other children caught the disease, and more than 60 kids had to be quarantined. (22 minutes)

Act Three

Disturbing The Peace Train

There's this haven on the U.S. railroad—the Amtrak Quiet Car. You can't yammer on your cell phone in the Quiet Car, or yuck it up with your friends, or even talk above a murmur. For This American Life Producer Nancy Updike, who commutes between New York and Washington, D.C., it's bliss. But then Nancy began to notice that the more she rode the Quiet Car, the more she was becoming like an enforcer in a fascist fraternity. (8 minutes)