Jan. 12, 2012

From the vault: "Somewhere in the Arabian Sea"

Producer Nancy Updike writes:

If you never heard the show we did in 2002 about life aboard an aircraft carrier, “Somewhere in the Arabian Sea,” you might want to check it out. The ship that Ira Glass, Alex Blumberg and Wendy Dorr spent time on is called the USS John C. Stennis, and it’s been in the news a lot lately, after Iran warned the US to keep the Stennis out of the Persian Gulf. And then a few days later the Stennis was involved in rescuing a group of Iranians who were being held hostage by Somali pirates.

To get a sense of the radio episode, here’s a transcript of a great scene aboard the Stennis. Ira is being escorted around by a public affairs officer named Lieutenant Gorrell, who steers Ira away from a talkative group of sailors, over to a serious-looking young man named Kevin. This move turned out to be a huge mistake on Lieutenant Gorrell’s part, as you’ll see from this exchange between Kevin and Ira:

Kevin I'm just ready to go home.

Ira How come you chose the service?

Kevin A court order.

Ira Really, court-ordered?

Kevin Yeah, that's how they do it in Texas. Instead of you going to jail, they send you to the armed service. So that's how--

Ira They gave you the choice of jail or the Navy?

Kevin Yeah, or the armed service, any armed service.

Ira You don't have to tell me the answer to this, but what kind of trouble were you in?

Kevin Drugs.

Ira Drugs?

Kevin Yeah.

Ira How much jail would you have had to do?

Kevin Seven years.

Ira So how do you like it?

Kevin It sucks. It's like a prison on water. That's what it is. I don't really like it.

Ira (in script) This was not, of course, what Lieutenant Gorell was hoping for from young Kevin. I asked, hoping to turn things to a more positive area, if Kevin is changing. If people grow when the courts send them out here.

Kevin No, because people get flown off the ship almost every month for doing drugs and all kinds of stuff. So no, it's whatever you got inside of you. That's what's going to change you. If you don't want to be changed, you ain't going to be changed.

Ira (in script) I could practically hear the acid eating away at Lieutenant Gorell's stomach at this answer. I wracked my brain for the most completely neutral question I can ask.

Ira So what do you do on your job? Like what is there to do?

Kevin You just walk around all day. For eight hours you walk around and check spaces.

Ira And what are you looking for?

Kevin Just people having sex, fights, anybody drinking, doing stuff they ain't supposed to do on the boat. Hopefully we'll get to see, but I haven't seen anything yet.

Ira You haven't seen anything yet?

Kevin No. I've been looking, though.

Ira (in script) I glance over and catch the expression on the lieutenant's face.

Ira It's actually like people are pretty well behaved on this boat.

Kevin No, that's not true. That's not true. I don't know who told you that, but this boat is like a love boat right now.

Jeff Gorell All right, you're done. If anyone ever asks you to do an interview again, say no.