Transcript

584:

For Your Reconsideration
Transcript

Originally aired 04.08.2016

Note: This American Life is produced for the ear and designed to be heard, not read. We strongly encourage you to listen to the audio, which includes emotion and emphasis that's not on the page. Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.

Full audio: http://tal.fm/584

Prologue.

Ira Glass

You may remember this story that we did about a year ago, about canvassers going door to door and talking to voters for 20 minutes. And in just 20 minutes, the canvassers got some voters to change their minds, to flip positions on big, hot button issues. Gay marriage. Abortion.

Which, of course, is amazing, right? That is not something that seems like it's even possible. There was a study in a well-known, peer reviewed journal-- Science magazine-- proving how remarkably effective these people were. They invented a whole new way to sway voter opinion. It seemed like a game changer, a whole new tool for politics, for liberals or conservatives to use.

And then a month after our radio story-- maybe you saw this in the news-- there was overwhelming evidence that one of the researchers, a grad student named Michael LaCour had fabricated all the data. Science magazine retracted the article.

But the team that invented this canvassing technique, they were not the ones that did the research study. That was a separate thing. And they were just as shocked as anybody. Maybe more shocked.

The week the news broke, one of the canvass organizers, Steve DeLine, told me they'd spent months meticulously going door to door and keeping perfect records of everything they were doing for this researcher. To find out that LaCour had just made up his part of the data--

Steve Deline

It's unfathomable to me, having you know, made sure that we were dotting every I and crossing every T. And you know, jumping through every hoop that he asked of us. It's just-- just can't really explain it. I'm at a loss.

Ira Glass

Then in August, three months after the retraction, four months after our story aired--

Ira Glass

Hi.

Dave Fleischer

Hi.

Steve Deline

Steve.

Dave Fleischer

Dave.

Ira Glass

Hi.

Steve Deline

Nice to meet you.

Ira Glass

Nice to meet you guys in person.

We got a visitor to our office from two of the guys who'd developed this canvassing technique, that guy Steve and his coworker Dave Fleischer. They happened to be in town from California. And they had news.

A brand new study with new researchers was looking into their work. Results were coming in. Here's Dave.

Dave Fleischer

We're not anticipating going public with these results until January at the earliest, and maybe not till June.

Ira Glass

What these researchers really wanted to do was publish their results in Science magazine, you know, the place that published the original, discredited study. In fact, one of the researchers was laying the groundwork for that.

Dave Fleischer

So he actually called up Marcia McNutt, who's the editor of Science. And they didn't immediately reject it out of hand. She just said, "You know, the bar's going to be very high." [LAUGHS] Well, no [BEEP] fooling.

Ira Glass

Well, apparently Science magazine liked what the new researchers did. This week they published the new study about these canvassers.

This one's not fake. We know now, for real, whether those canvassers are, in fact, convincing anyone of anything when they go door to door. And if anything, what the canvassers are achieving and the way that they're achieving it is even more interesting than the fake study said.

Act One. Knock Knock. Who’s There? The Truth.

Ira Glass

From WBEZ Chicago and This American Life, I'm Ira Glass. Today on our program, "For Your Reconsideration." We have this story and two other stories where people go back and revisit evidence from the past. And just to start this off, in case you didn't hear our first story about those canvassers a year ago, here's what they were. If you heard that show, this will just be a quick reminder.

Canvasser

Hi. We're talking to registered voters in your neighborhood today about their views on abortion.

Ira Glass

This is one of the canvassers. She's young, with tattoos and a halter top. It's a warm Los Angeles day, and the voter's on the other side of a screen door. She's older, heavyset, wire rimmed glasses. She's a nurse.

And OK, just to be clear, what you're about to hear is a real canvasser with a real voter. This is not part of the discredited study. This is from a video of one of the regular canvasses these guys Dave and Steve organized. The canvasser begins by asking this voter what she believes about abortion on a scale from zero to 10.

Canvasser

Zero means you think women should have no access to abortion. 10 means women should have full access to abortion.

Ira Glass

The voter says zero. No access. No abortions for anybody. She's Catholic, from Mexico.

And they start talking about how hard it can be to discuss abortion. Even with family.

Canvasser

How did that feel for you to talk to your daughters?

Female Voter

It's not easy. It's not easy, because in my country they have taboos, a lot of taboos. And my mother is one of the person never talking about sexual relations or conceptions.

Canvasser

Yeah.

Female Voter

That's why I try to be very open with my daughters.

Ira Glass

Notice that this conversation's just begun and already she's talking about her daughters and her mom. That's no accident. This whole technique is built around having a very personal conversation, a very real conversation about the voter's experiences. To make that happen, this canvasser does something that a lot of the canvassers do-- she talks about her own experiences.

Canvasser

My mother's from the Philippines.

Female Voter

Uh-huh.

Canvasser

And my mother went through the same thing. Like, it's not something that you talk about.

Female Voter

No. It's not.

Canvasser

Huh.

Female Voter

In my family, it's the same.

Canvasser

When I got my period, I was 12 years old.

Female Voter

Mhm.

Canvasser

And--

Ira Glass

The voter tells her that when she was 11 and got her period, nobody explained what was happening. She thought she was dying.

Female Voter

And I believe I am dying. [LAUGHS]

Canvasser

Oh! [LAUGHS]

Ira Glass

And when she was six, her mom miscarried a baby. But nobody explained what was going on to her. And so she's tried to be different with her daughters and talk to them. That's why she became a nurse, she says, to help women.

So these two strangers are swapping stories and really talking from the heart. And 15 minutes into this 22-minute conversation, the canvasser circles back to the subject at hand in a very pointed way.

Canvasser

I had an abortion.

Female Voter

Mhm.

Canvasser

In November this past year.

Female Voter

Oh, I'm so sorry.

Canvasser

And it wasn't the wrong choice for me.

Female Voter

Mhm.

Canvasser

Because that's what felt right for me. But I was alone.

Female Voter

Yeah.

Canvasser

And it was scary.

Female Voter

Uh-huh.

Canvasser

And it wasn't-- it was because I don't know how to talk about it with people. Like, my family, my mother loves me. And so does my papa and my sister.

Female Voter

Mhm.

Canvasser

But--

Female Voter

I know, but it's hard. And you carry it for the rest of your life. It's your decision--

Canvasser

Yeah.

Female Voter

But you carry it for the rest of your life.

Canvasser

If you are-- one of the things that I struggled with with telling my family is this idea that my family's going to love me less.

Female Voter

No. Never.

Canvasser

Would you ever love your daughters less?

Female Voter

No. Never.

Ira Glass

It's a moment that's simultaneously intimate and manipulative and honest all at once. And it works.

After this, the canvasser asks the voter again to rate on a scale of zero to 10 where she stands on access to abortion. Remember, she was a zero before.

Canvasser

We have that same zero to 10 scale where zero means no access and 10 means full access.

Female Voter

10.

Canvasser

A 10?

Female Voter

Mhm.

Ira Glass

She's been standing at the door just 18 minutes. So again, OK, that's real. That is not part of the fraudulent study.

The team that invented this technique of going door to door-- including Dave Fleischer and Steve Deline, the two guys who visited our office at the beginning of this story-- they work at the Los Angeles LGBT Center, which is a big, multimillion-dollar nonprofit, the biggest LGBT organization in the world. They started doing these canvasses in 2009. They were hoping to change voters' minds to support gay marriage. This was in the wake of Proposition 8, which rejected gay marriage in California.

And they discovered through trial and error that the trick to this whole thing was they don't try to reason with people about rights and equality and big principles like that. Canvass organizer Steve Deline says if you're talking at a kind of rational, sort of intellectual level about things, you're gonna fail.

Steve Deline

That's not where people make their decisions about issues like this. People make their decisions about how they're going to vote on this at a gut level and at a visceral level and an emotional level.

Ira Glass

This is what they learned-- to stop telling people things. The most important thing the canvasser should do is listen.

Steve Deline

I think the big revelation was that our job was actually to go and give them the chance to talk about their own life, and realize that you know, maybe that led them to conclusions that were a little different than they'd thought.

Ira Glass

So they're out doing this, trying their canvasses. And it took them less than a year to start to get decent results like you heard with that nurse. A small but noticeable number of people at the door told them that their minds had been changed.

But of course, the only way to tell for sure if their minds changed and stayed changed was to have outsiders-- scientists-- do a proper case control study. And that's why the canvassers invited in two political scientists to do the original study that was published in Science magazine. That grad student from UCLA-- Michael LaCour-- did the actual research. But the study design and results were overseen by a big deal political scientist from Columbia University named Donald Green, who's kind of legendary in that world for transforming how people do field experiments. And Green says that before they started, he expected the results were going to show--

Donald Green

Short-term effects. I thought that those effects would subside in a few days' time.

Ira Glass

He thought that 'cause pretty much that's what always happens. People change their minds and then the effect wears off. Or much more common, they don't change their minds at all.

There's a hefty body of research documenting something called the backfire effect, which happens with most of us. When we're confronted with evidence disproving something that we personally believe, most of us generally just dig in, and we believe it more.

This is a phenomenon, by the way, that's familiar to anybody who's ever been to a Thanksgiving dinner during an election year and tried to argue with some favorite uncle's wrongheaded political opinions. Never works, right? Facts mean nothing. And by the way, Uncle Lenny, I am not talking about you.

But this is what was so revolutionary about the data that this grad student seemed to be gathering about these canvassers. He said he did online surveys with the voters who got visited by the canvassers and they showed that their minds changed and stayed changed for six months, nine months, a year after the canvasser knocked at the door.

Green told me that he and his colleagues had read through over 900 papers, never seen anything like this result, to change people's opinions and have it last like this. Though interestingly, when LaCour first showed his data to Professor Green, Green thought, this data is so perfect, these results might be real. But OK, best to be sure.

And he told LaCour to do the entire study-- canvasses, surveys, everything-- a second time. Which LaCour did. Same result.

Now, of course, later, Green's suspicions would be confirmed in spades. All that data would be shown to be fraudulent. But here's what LaCour said he found in the original study published in Science.

OK, so what I'm about to say is from the discredited results of a retracted study. This study was about gay marriage. It was about convincing people to support gay marriage. And the study claimed that a year after the canvassers visited voters' homes, the number of voters supporting gay marriage had jumped 15%. 15%.

But-- and this was key-- according to the study, the 15% increase only happened if the canvasser at the door had been gay and admitted being gay to the voter. People who talked to other canvassers only rose 3%, which is about as much as the nation as a whole changed on the issue of gay marriage that year.

It was a similar effect with abortion, according LaCour. He said the number of people who became pro-choice after the canvass rose 5%. And again, the effect only lasted if the canvasser at the door revealed that she had had an abortion. It was talking to somebody affected by the issue that seemed to be changing people's minds.

I actually interviewed Michael LaCour a year ago for the story that I did for our show about all this. I have to say, it's strange listening to that interview today, knowing what happened just a few weeks after we talked, that his data would be shown to be fraudulent. 'Cause when I talked to him, he really talked like somebody doing a real study with real surveys. Like for instance, I asked him how attitudes towards abortion changed over time among the voters that he was studying.

Michael Lacour

So that's still ongoing. Because I'm tracking longitudinally these individuals over a course. I don't want to give out a hard number, but it stays relatively flat. And I think it levels off around five percentage points. That's around 200 days later.

Ira Glass

He offered conclusions from his data. Like this one.

Michael Lacour

So one of the things is people change their-- when they had contact with a gay person discussing gay equality-- they changed their minds, not just about the policy issue about same sex marriage. They also changed their minds about gay people, gays and lesbians as a group.

Ira Glass

Nice if that were true. If there were data supporting it.

Or there was this finding, which is so particular and specific that again, if there is no data supporting this, it's just a very idiosyncratic thing to decide to say is true. LaCour said that he graded each gay canvasser on how stereotypically gay they appeared. And--

Michael Lacour

The gay canvassers who are perceived as straight had the largest effects.

Ira Glass

That is, they were able to convince the most voters to support gay marriage.

Michael Lacour

So this suggests that voters may ordinarily have an unflattering mental image of a stereotypical gay person. And the discrepancy between the stereotype and the person standing on the doorstep creates a space for attitude change.

Ira Glass

Right. I see.

Michael Lacour

Especially when the canvassers are building empathy through respectful two-way conversation.

Ira Glass

This vision of the world is such a hopeful vision of how the world might work. The world LaCour fabricated is one where intolerant people hold inaccurate stereotypes in their heads and all it takes is an empathetic conversation, one sincere talk, 20 minutes long, with somebody from the stereotyped group and the scales fall from their eyes. They realize they were wrong all along.

I like that world. I wish I lived in that world. Maybe we do live in that world for all we know. But if we do, there's no data proving it.

[PHONE RINGING]

Donald Green

Hello?

Ira Glass

Hey, Don Green?

Donald Green

Yes.

Ira Glass

Ira Glass.

Donald Green

Hey, Ira.

Ira Glass

Last May, a month after we ran our story about LaCour's study, six months after he published that study in Science magazine, I called his co-author, Columbia professor Donald Green. Green had just reconsidered what was going on in the data LaCour had collected and had asked Science to retract their article, which the magazine did. He seemed understandably sobered and sad.

Donald Green

It was such a waste. Not just of my time, obviously, but no, the Center and the canvassers' time.

Ira Glass

Yeah.

Donald Green

It's just crazy.

Ira Glass

The way the fraud was discovered was actually a little detective story of its own. A detective story that began kind of exactly the way they tell you in school that the scientific method is supposed to work.

Two young researchers-- David Broockman and Joshua Kalla, both in their 20s-- tried to replicate what LaCour did. The team from the Los Angeles LGBT Center and a Miami LGBT group was organizing a new canvass operation in Miami. Broockman and Kalla would study that.

Broockman was already suspicious of LaCour's data. It seemed too perfect. Then they started their research and they noticed something funny.

The way this experiment works, like I said, the researchers do online surveys of the voters' opinions before and after the canvassers come to their doors and talk to them. And the researchers pay the voters to fill out those online surveys to motivate them to do the surveys. And tons of voters filled out LaCour's surveys, but not Broockman and Kalla's.

This made no sense at all. And they didn't know what to do. If people didn't fill out their surveys, they'd have no study. They started to panic.

So they reached out to the survey company that LaCour said he used to find out exactly how LaCour got so many people to fill in their surveys. The company informed them that LaCour was not one of their clients, that the employee LaCour said he worked with did not exist, and in fact, this company did not have the capability to do the things LaCour said they did for him.

The hundreds of thousands of dollars that was supposedly paid out to survey responders, which LaCour said came from funders like the Ford Foundation-- who LaCour thanked in his study-- never was actually granted to LaCour. Given all that, it was hard to see how any of the data could be real.

But LaCour held firm. Said the data was real. He even wrote a paper defending it. But he said that he could not show the data to anybody because he had destroyed all the original surveys to protect the privacy of the respondents.

I'm not sure anybody believed him. He'd been headed for a prestigious job at Princeton University after finishing his doctoral thesis. Now that job evaporated. His collaborator Don Green says the odd thing was the fakery went way beyond what seemed to be necessary.

Donald Green

And this was, I think, the thing that I just want to convey somehow, is that there was an incredible mountain of fabrication. It was the most baroque and ornate ornamentation.

There were stories. There were anecdotes. My Dropbox is filled with graphs and charts.

Ira Glass

What do you mean there's stories and anecdotes? I thought the only thing that was fabricated was the online surveys?

Donald Green

Right. But there would be stories out of the survey. So he would say things like, "well did you know that some of the people in the survey came out?"

Ira Glass

As if, in later surveys, their attitudes about homosexuality had changed enough that they were comfortable finally admitting to the surveyors that they were gay. Except of course, the surveys didn't seem to exist.

Donald Green

It's layer after layer of embellishment that the sheer magnitude of it makes it very hard to entertain the possibility that it's all made up.

Ira Glass

The day after the truth came to light, one of the guys who created the canvasses, Dave Fleischer, told me that that's what he found himself trying to get his head around, the layers of embellishment. He told me this story about working with Michael LaCour.

Dave Fleischer

At our very first canvass where Mike was measuring us, right, we were running the canvass training, we're sending people out canvassing, we're going out canvassing. And Mike has a laptop set up. And as voters that we've talked to then fill out their first post-canvassing survey--

Ira Glass

In other words, after real life canvassers came to their doors, Michael LaCour is supposedly having these voters fill out online surveys. And he's telling the canvassers, those surveys--

Dave Fleischer

Some of them are starting to trickle in. And Mike's got his laptop set up with him gazing intently at it. And his group of about a half dozen research assistants clustered around him gazing at it raptly, the way you would at election results on a presidential election night.

And after we finished the canvass de-brief and the volunteers leave, Mike invites us-- the team of staff organizers-- to come over and also glimpse the findings that are starting to emerge. And I really have thought back on this moment obviously, in the last 24 hours. Because it really looked like, oh my god, the results are coming in.

Ira Glass

Wait, wait, wait. And so what was on his screen? Did you see his screen?

Dave Fleischer

Oh yeah. It was like a-- heck, it's like data points coming in. And he would go back and forth between these two-- it's probably an old fashioned term from when I studied sociology-- but scattergrams.

Ira Glass

These are like charts.

Dave Fleischer

Yes. There's a graphic depiction.

Ira Glass

And so he's going back and forth. And are those charts changing over the course of the time you look at them?

Dave Fleischer

Oh yeah.

Ira Glass

It's so elaborate.

Dave Fleischer

Well, yes. It would have been a whole lot easier just to have measured our work.

Ira Glass

[LAUGHS]

Dave Fleischer

[LAUGHS]

Ira Glass

How do you explain this? Like, you worked with him for many, many hours. How are you putting this together in your head?

Dave Fleischer

Two years, Ira. And yeah, it is not really understandable to me. Because you spoke, I believe, with Mike on the phone.

Ira Glass

Yeah.

Dave Fleischer

And he's a smart guy. He, I think, is genuinely a caring guy. He genuinely loves statistics. But there is a piece of this that is incomprehensible when somebody who has so much makes such a grievous choice.

Ira Glass

Canvass organizers say staff and 73 volunteers worked for more than 3,600 hours, including knocking on doors and talking to over 400 voters for the fake study. Since all this went down last year, Michael LaCour still has not admitted to fabricating data in public or in private with the colleagues of his that I've spoken to. He declined my invitation to come on the radio this week and talk about this. He declined to say whether the data was real or fake.

The one chink in this position came last month, when out of the blue he texted Dave Fleischer. "Hi Dave. If you're willing, I'd like to meet with you face to face. To apologize." Dave told me he hasn't been able to bring himself to respond just yet. He's not ready.

David Broockman

Yeah, so what we've done so far is the Miami work. I think that's what we're ready to show you some of the early sneak peek into. I think you're the first person outside of the study--

Ira Glass

That's David Broockman, one of the guys who discovered the fraud in the original study, and the co-author of the new study with real surveys and real data that was published this week in Science magazine. This recording has him talking to me last August, three months after Science retracted the original study.

It was Broockman and his research partner remember, who discovered LaCour's fraud when they tried to replicate his methods in Miami. Now the Miami data was in, the first part of it anyway.

The canvassers in Miami went door to door trying to change voters' attitudes about transgendered people. Miami-Dade County passed an ordinance in 2014 banning discrimination against transgender people. And these canvassers were trying to convince voters that that was a good idea, and to support it if a ballot measure someday tried to strike it down. And they succeeded.

David Broockman

And you see just a huge increase in the acceptance towards transgender people. And overall, what you see is it's basically the largest effect I've ever seen for any political tactic. So much more than phone calls or mail or other forms of canvassing that I've seen. The effect is just huge.

Ira Glass

In other words, the thing that was so exciting about the discredited study turned out to be true. These canvasses can change people's minds. For real.

Roughly one out of 10 voters changed their attitudes about transgender people. As the study notes, it took from 1998 to 2012-- 14 years-- for the country as a whole to have a comparable change in its attitudes towards gay people. It only took the canvassers 20 minutes or less to do this for trans people. Broockman said the only political tactic that has ever been shown to be more effective than this in affecting attitudes is personally meeting somebody who's running for office, which of course, is a very different kind of thing.

David Broockman

More impressive is that the effect appears to last, that you basically see the exact same pattern of results six weeks later. We're going to start measuring again at, I think we decided three months and six months. So who knows if these will continue to last into the future?

Ira Glass

They did. Three months later, attitudes stayed changed. Again, same as the discredited study.

But where it gets really interesting is the stuff that the new guys found that is different from the original study. First difference? Remember how the original study said that only a gay canvasser could convince a voter to support gay marriage? And only a woman who talked about her own abortion could convince a voter to become pro-choice? David Broockman says on these trans issues--

David Broockman

That's not what we're finding at all. We see that both transgender and non-transgender canvassers are effective, and they're similarly effective.

Ira Glass

Which is a profoundly different finding from the original discredited study. The original study seemed to say that it was meeting somebody, relating to a gay person or a trans person or whoever that changed people's attitudes. It was empathy that did the trick. But this new study says it's something else entirely.

David Broockman

Really what's happening here is it's listening and asking questions to voters to get them to say the words and to get them to do the mental work to think through how the experiences they have had are relevant to this issue.

Ira Glass

In other words, there's this ideal of well, if you just met a gay person--

David Broockman

That's right.

Ira Glass

Then you'd have this feeling. You're saying nah, that's not it.

David Broockman

The idea is that if the words come out of your own mouth, it's much more meaningful to you than if they come out of somebody else's mouth.

Ira Glass

That's so funny, 'cause like, who do you believe? Oh, I believe myself.

David Broockman

Exactly. So it's not that this isn't common sense. But it's also not what any campaigns do.

Ira Glass

Broockman and his co-author have also been working on a study of the abortion canvasses organized by the Los Angeles LGBT Center. And here's another difference from the original discredited research done by Michael LaCour. Broockman has found the abortion canvasses failed. They didn't actually convince people.

David Broockman

Zero.

Ira Glass

No effect.

David Broockman

No effect for anybody.

Ira Glass

No effect for anyone.

David Broockman

Right.

Ira Glass

How do you explain that this worked with the trans issue, but it didn't work with the abortion issue?

David Broockman

Well, I think there's a lot of possibilities. One possibility is that trans issues are so new, whereas abortion is so ingrained that it was just easier. Like--

Ira Glass

In other words, people haven't really formed very firm opinions about trans issues--

David Broockman

Exactly.

Ira Glass

Whereas everybody knows where they stand. Every adult knows whether they're for or against abortion rights.

David Broockman

Right. So I think that's possible.

Ira Glass

The other possibility, of course, is that canvass organizers just haven't figured out yet how to talk about abortion at the doorstep in a way that lastingly convinces anyone. We tried very hard, by the way. Somebody actually flew to Los Angeles to locate that nurse that you heard at the beginning of the program to find out if she went back to her old pro-life beliefs after the canvasser walked away from the door. But we couldn't find her.

I will say in videos of the Miami canvass, one thing that's really striking is how malleable people do seem to be on the transgender issues in this way that's very hard to imagine on abortion rights. Sometimes a canvasser has to explain to the voters exactly what transgender means. They have to show videos to be sure that it's understood what it is that they're even talking about. Or take this man, an older voter with a kind face who stands at his doorstep in a sleeveless undershirt telling that same canvasser that you heard at the beginning of the program--

Male Voter

There is one thing that disturb me. I don't know if let's say, a man that is a fag using a man's clothes going into ladies bathroom. That I don't really like.

Canvasser

Mhm. Did you say a man who is a--

Ira Glass

They talked for a while. He's from Ecuador. Doesn't get out much because he's at home caring for his wife, who has dementia.

Doesn't have many friends. And seems genuinely confused about the difference between trans and gay. The canvasser explains what is what about that to him. She even helpfully informs him--

Canvasser

So we don't usually use the word fag. So--

Male Voter

Well, it's--I--

Canvasser

[LAUGHS]

Ira Glass

He apologizes. Says that spending all of his time with his wife, maybe he's getting demented too. Forgetting how to talk to people. And by the end, it is just like the researcher Broockman said. The voter is the one reflecting on his experience, drawing new conclusions.

Canvasser

[LAUGHS] So--

Male Voter

I'm so glad that I'm talking to a really intelligent person that made me--

Ira Glass

It's kind of hard to hear. He's saying, I'm glad to be talking to an intelligent person that made me think about my own background. And that it was very old.

Male Voter

Listen, probably I was mistaken.

Ira Glass

Listen, probably I was mistaken.

OK, one last thing. I guess this is the most obvious question probably that I could ask in this story. And I just want you to know I did ask it. Here's the recording.

Ira Glass

OK, so there's one study published in Science magazine like a year ago. It says that this works. It was proven to be a fraud. Now you guys are coming out with a study in Science magazine saying that this works. Why should we believe you?

David Broockman

[LAUGHS]

We've thought about this. As silly as it was, we did have one of our old graduate advisors-- Gabriel Lenz at Berkeley-- independently verify and go through that the original raw data collected in the survey platform matched all the stages of the data that we collected, data from the study that we'll then post publicly.

Ira Glass

He's saying that unlike Michael LaCour, they gave their actual raw information of what all the survey respondents said to somebody else to look at, who also made sure that the numbers in their charts and graphs and analysis match what the actual surveys say. They're posting the original survey data without people's names or identifying information online for anybody to inspect. Science marches on.

Coming up, a stranger tries to make somebody rethink everything in his life over the phone in one hour in one conversation. That's in a minute from Chicago Public Radio when our program continues.

Act Two. Hotline Bleak.

Ira Glass

It's This American Life. I'm Ira Glass.

Each week on our program of course, we choose some theme, bring you different kinds of stories on that theme. Today's program, "For your Reconsideration."

We have stories today of people going back and rethinking evidence, reconsidering where they've been and what has come before. We have arrived at Act Two of our program. Act Two, "Hotline Bleak."

So here's an example of a guy reconsidering his life in real time on the phone with a complete stranger. The recording comes from Chris Gethard, who's a comedian. He also does a cable TV show. He's been on our program now and then.

And the recording that I want to play you comes from this new podcast that Chris is doing called Beautiful Stories From Anonymous People. Our editor Joel Lovell is the one who heard it and loved it.

Joel Lovell

So the idea for the podcast is pretty simple. Chris is in a studio in New York, and he opens the phone line to one caller, an anonymous person calling in from anywhere for any reason at all.

The only rules guiding the conversation are it's 60 minutes long and Chris can't hang up. If the caller decides to get off the line before the hour is up, if they get annoyed or mad or tired of Chris, that's totally fine. But Chris, he's in it for the duration.

In this call you're about to hear, you can feel him at the beginning getting his bearings, so it's a little meandering. And then something changes.

[BEEP]

Chris Gethard

Hey, this is Gethard. How are you?

Caller

Hey, what's up?

Chris Gethard

Eh, not much.

Caller

Just a second. I'm in a weird hallway right now. Am I echoey?

Chris Gethard

Ah, no. I think you're pretty good.

Caller

Awesome.

Chris Gethard

So what are we talking about?

Caller

I don't know. I'm at work. I just took about a 30-minute break in my car. I walked back in and then yeah, just nobody's here.

Chris Gethard

So you're just doing whatever you want.

Caller

I do customer service for accounts payable.

Chris Gethard

How is that? How do you like that?

Caller

Oh, it's the worst, Chris.

Chris Gethard

Yeah, it sounds like it. I didn't want to be judgmental, but it sounds awful. [LAUGHS] You're hiding in your car.

Caller

Yeah. It's been a year I've been doing this. I just feel like I've kind of wasted the last year. I feel like I spend a lot of time not doing things.

Chris Gethard

What are the things you're not doing?

Caller

I don't-- go to that-- take those improv classes.

Chris Gethard

Uh huh.

Caller

Go hang out.

Chris Gethard

But even when I say what are the things, you don't quite--

Caller

Yeah, I--

Chris Gethard

You don't really even know what the things are.

Caller

I feel I'm generally uncertain about everything.

Chris Gethard

You kind of have a dream to have some dreams.

Caller

Mhm.

Chris Gethard

Man, that's-- I don't want to be judgmental. I'm not trying to be judgmental. I say this with love. That's a--

Caller

No. I know.

Chris Gethard

That's a grim place to be.

Joel Lovell

This kind of conversation with a sad person who has a vague wish to join an improv class or maybe go to an open mic night but probably won't, this is really familiar terrain for Chris. He hosts a show on cable and he often talks about his own mental health struggles. And he and his staff, they're always concocting ingenious ways to motivate and cheer up depressed people. Specifically, their own depressed fans.

There's this one episode where Chris says, "OK, we're going to generate some footage here for people to revisit if they ever need to feel better." And then Ellie Kemper, that really sunny actress from The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt comes on. And they just keep bringing out impossibly cute things. There's a basket of bunnies.

Ellie Kemper

"Oh bunnies!"

Chris Gethard

"Oh, look at these little baby bunnies!"

Joel Lovell

And then a kitten. And then a baby dressed in a tuxedo. And she keeps having these huge spasms of joy.

Ellie Kemper

"Oh!"

[APPLAUSE]

Joel Lovell

All of which is to say this guy on the line saying he's not even sure what his dreams are, for Chris, that's like someone calling Suze Orman to talk about their FICO score.

Chris Gethard

So how do we work on this?

Caller

I don't know, Chris. I think I've probably been drinking too much, smoking too much weed. I need to be exercising. I should be meditating. I should be going to therapy.

Chris Gethard

Feels like this phone call--

Caller

Is this becoming therapy?

Chris Gethard

Well, it feels like this phone call is you taking one of the actions you say you don't usually take.

Caller

Mhm.

Chris Gethard

So I feel some responsibility to effect permanent change via this phone call.

Caller

Yeah. That'd be nice. I don't want to put that pressure on you.

Chris Gethard

No, I'll step up. I'll do my best.

Caller

Yeah.

Chris Gethard

What do I gotta do on this phone call? What do I gotta do in the next 49 minutes and 28 seconds? What do I gotta do to get you to never walk back into that office again? What do I gotta do to get you to get back in your car on this phone call and drive away from that office you hate while on this phone call?

Joel Lovell

For the next 10 minutes or so, they talk exit strategies. Like "OK, let's start blue skying here. Do you have enough saved up to get out right now and buy yourself a little time to look for something better?" He's got $300 in the bank. So no, not even close.

"All right, well, what else do you want to do?" No clear idea. His current plan is to get free by just being terrible at his job.

Caller

There was a point-- and it's still kind of ongoing since the summer-- of trying to get fired.

Chris Gethard

OK, so actively trying to get fired.

Caller

And it just doesn't happen.

Chris Gethard

OK, so then--

Caller

Yeah. Actively shirking responsibility.

Chris Gethard

You found that, that you--

Caller

And that makes it--that feels worse.

Chris Gethard

[LAUGHS] It does. It feels worse. You don't feel like you're getting away with something.

Caller

It's like, oh--

Chris Gethard

You don't feel like you're sticking it to the man. You just--

Caller

Nothing. You're not holding me to a very high standard.

Chris Gethard

Can I ask how you got here? Where does it start? Not even thinking about the job. Where does it start?

Where do you come from? How do you grow up? And this is what you're telling me about.

Caller

Yeah. So where do you want me to start?

Chris Gethard

The beginning! We got 40 minutes. We got 39 minutes.

Caller

The beginning of my life?

Chris Gethard

Yes! I want to hear about the beginning of your life.

Caller

Yeah, I was born in Lake Jackson, Texas. The doctor that delivered me, I believe, was Ron Paul.

Chris Gethard

What?

Caller

Ron Paul? The Libertarian?

Chris Gethard

Yeah. Rand Paul's father, the--

Caller

Yeah, he was the OB/GYN and the Congressman in the district I'm from.

Chris Gethard

I ask you about the beginning of your life and the answer is that you were delivered into the world by rabble-rousing outsider politician Ron Paul.

Caller

I'll just add this to that day. When I was born, my mom had been in prison. And they let her out of prison to have me.

Chris Gethard

Wow! Can I ask what your mom was in prison for?

Caller

Mostly drugs and the types of things you do to get drugs.

Chris Gethard

Yeah.

Caller

I was raised by my grandparents. Now I didn't know who my dad was until I was 14.

Chris Gethard

14. OK.

Caller

There was kind of a different guy I thought was my dad. Some balding, redheaded redneck. But my dad was the guy my mom was married to before that.

Chris Gethard

Uh-huh.

Caller

They got married in high school in Montana. Moved down to Texas, got divorced, then hooked up 10 years later at the fair.

Chris Gethard

At the fair.

Caller

Yeah, at the fair. And then that's where I came from. I was a carnival baby.

Chris Gethard

Hold on. You gotta give me permission to laugh at the phrase "carnival baby." 'Cause this is a very personal--

Caller

Oh yeah, of course.

Chris Gethard

[LAUGHS] Thank you so much. This is a personal story and there's a lot of grim details to it. But you can't use the phrase--

Caller

Yeah.

Chris Gethard

"I was a carnival baby" and not expect me to laugh a little bit.

Caller

Yeah, no.

Chris Gethard

Now when you say they hooked up at the fair, do you mean they saw each other at the fair, remembered their old flame, went back to one or the other's house, and had a night of lovemaking to remember the old times? Or are you saying ran into each other at the fair and then behind the [BEEP] Gravitron, you get conceived?

Caller

I think it's more the latter.

Chris Gethard

'Cause I don't want to be crass. I'm not trying to be insensitive. But you're telling me, your perception is you were conceived behind a corn dog stand?

Caller

Yeah. I imagined in the bathroom. But I don't know.

Chris Gethard

Man, you have had to think hard about the circumstances of your conception more than almost anybody I've ever met.

Caller

Yeah.

Joel Lovell

I should say here that we tracked the caller down and talked to some of his relatives. And everything he says in this conversation-- being delivered by Ron Paul, his mom being in prison, his having been conceived at the fair-- it's all true.

So Chris says, what's next? They're at 33 minutes and the clock's ticking and you can start to hear a little urgency in his voice. And the guy walks him through high school and college. And then after college, he moves into a trailer park. And a neighbor there tells him about a job opening at the place where he's calling from now, a company with the almost diabolically generic name Bank Tech, where he spends big swaths of his time hiding out in the hallway or eating yogurt out in his car.

So there's that, I guess, the private yogurt time. But otherwise, it's soul death. Just slow, low wattage depression.

There's about 10 minutes of that. And then Chris starts to press him. He actually really tries to change the guy's life in the brief time they have left.

Chris Gethard

What makes you happy on a daily basis? What are the moments that wake you up?

Caller

I don't know if I can confidently give you an answer on that. I don't know. I feel like lately it's been go to work, go home, internet, drink, smoke, sleep, repeat.

Chris Gethard

So we can call this one. Honestly, you're giving up a little bit huh?

Caller

No, I'm not giving up. Do you feel like I am? Am I shutting down?

Chris Gethard

I don't know. I mean, I don't know you at all beyond the past 43 minutes of our time together. But I'll say it sounds to me like you fought all the way through college. And then it sounds like after college, sounds like you stopped fighting.

Caller

That's accurate, I think.

Chris Gethard

Right?

Caller

Yeah.

Chris Gethard

What do I gotta do here? What do I gotta do? You tell me what I gotta do, 'cause I want to help.

And we got 13 minutes left. And then the phone gets hung up and I might never speak to you again in our whole lives. And this one I'm going to think about forever.

Caller

Do you have a pep talk? How do I start fighting?

Chris Gethard

I feel like this whole phone call's been the goddamn pep talk!

Caller

Yeah. I don't know if you can do more.

Chris Gethard

But I want to so bad. You should be going to see a band or a comedy show every night. You should be staying out late and talking to people every night, 'cause it sounds like you have a job where you could show up and literally go to sleep and no one would care.

Caller

Yeah.

Chris Gethard

Sounds like if you--

Caller

No one would-- or it wouldn't matter.

Chris Gethard

It sounds like if you got four hours of sleep every night 'cause you were out experiencing art and hanging out with people and doing crazy things and just living, you could come into Bank Tech, say hello, lay down under your desk, wake up eight hours later, and do it all again, and there would be no consequences.

Caller

Yeah.

Chris Gethard

Go out every night.

Caller

I haven't been-- I haven't been living.

Chris Gethard

You gotta live!

Caller

I feel like I get off work and I'm like, oh eight hours of sleep.

Chris Gethard

What is tonight?

Caller

Yeah.

Chris Gethard

Tonight's Monday? I'm just going to ask. My heart is bleeding a little bit. What city are you in?

Caller

I live in Denton. I work in Dallas.

Chris Gethard

You're in Denton? Denton has a huge music scene! Denton's like, an arts hub of Texas!

Caller

I know!

Chris Gethard

You're in the middle of it all! Go!

You go see the Marked Men! You go see the Mind Spiders! Even I know the bands that are in Denton, and I live in New York! You go! You live in Denton!

Caller

Yeah.

Chris Gethard

It's full of college people who are beautiful and young and making mistakes! You've got to just go!

Caller

I know.

Chris Gethard

There's stuff everywhere!

Caller

There's no excuse, is there?

Chris Gethard

I'm going to wonder forever if you did it!

Caller

I should've--

Chris Gethard

I'm going to wonder forever if you did it. We got seven minutes and I'm not convinced.

Caller

Oh. I don't know. I'm not convinced either.

Chris Gethard

No! That's not the answer I wanted! I wanted you to say, no this has effected permanent change!

Caller

I've seen enough of my patterns. You'll know!

Chris Gethard

Oh god!

Caller

I'll go do it and you'll know.

Chris Gethard

How will I know?

Caller

Oh, I just--

Chris Gethard

Are you inside? Are you still in that weird hallway?

Caller

No. I'm outside by a tree that I'm pacing around.

Chris Gethard

You're by a tree! I need you-- just start screaming. I need you to scream as loud as you can.

Break the pattern! Do a thing! That's the first--

Caller

[SCREAMS]

Chris Gethard

More!

Caller

[SCREAMS]

Chris Gethard

[LAUGHS] More!

Caller

[SCREAMS]

Chris Gethard

That's a first step. That's what I got. That's the first step. You just started screaming in the middle of the day.

Caller

That's the first step?

Chris Gethard

I think so, man. Did it feel good to scream or just weird?

Caller

Yeah, no. It felt good. I'm a very loud person.

Chris Gethard

That's good. Great.

[BIRDS SINGING]

Chris Gethard

Are those birds? Do I hear birds back there?

Caller

Is that good? Yeah, there are birds around here. Someone pulled up right next to me, or I'd scream. Should I scream anyways?

Chris Gethard

You tell me if it would feel good. If it would feel good--

Caller

[SCREAMS] Yeah. I'm 10 minutes away from Dallas Comedy House.

Chris Gethard

You're killing me. Do they have open mics there?

Caller

Yeah. Open mics. I've known for months. Open Mics Tuesday. I've got something ready.

Chris Gethard

You've got an act? You've got an act you want to try?

Caller

Yeah.

Chris Gethard

You're doing it tomorrow.

Caller

Yeah.

Chris Gethard

You're doing it tomorrow. What time is the open mic?

Caller

I think it's at 7:00 or 8:00.

Chris Gethard

You're doing it tomorrow.

Caller

Yeah.

Chris Gethard

You're going to do it. And here's what's going to happen, is you're going to go and it's going to go terrible. It's your first open mic. It's going to go awful.

It's not going to be fun. You're not going to be funny and it's going to feel really uncomfortable. But you're gonna feel [BLEEP] alive, man.

Caller

Yeah.

Chris Gethard

You're going to feel alive. You promise me you do that open mic tomorrow? You promise me?

Caller

Yeah. I'll get it done.

Chris Gethard

OK, let's seal the promise. Do you know how we have to seal the promise?

Caller

How do we seal it?

Chris Gethard

Both at the same time. Ready? One, two, three. [SCREAMS]

Caller

[SCREAMS]

Chris Gethard

[SCREAMS]

Joel Lovell

That was it. He and Chris never talked again.

So I asked the guy did he go to that open mic the next night? Nah, he didn't make it. Right after talking to Chris though, he set a date. March 21st. That's when he'd quit his job and start living.

But then as the date got close, he told me he tried to do everything he could to undermine his own plan. He wasn't sure why, he just felt like he couldn't go through with it.

And then that same week, this conversation went out on Chris's podcast. He had no idea they were going to run it. But he listened to it and he heard himself talk for an hour about all these things he wants to do but never does. And then he did it. He went in to Bank Tech and quit.

Ira Glass

Joel Lovell is the editor of our program. The podcast again is called Beautiful Stories From Anonymous People.

Act Three. Kids Look Back.

Ira Glass

Act Three, "Kids Look Back." So today we're hearing stories about people reconsidering and reexamining what happened to them in the past. And now with an entire book, I understand, of children doing this? Is that right, Brian?

Brian Reed

Yeah.

Ira Glass

I welcome into our studio our senior producer Brian Reed.

Brian Reed

Hi, hi.

Ira Glass

Hi.

Brian Reed

So I have this book here I'd like to share with you. I really enjoy it. It's called Now I Know Better: Kids Tell Kids About Safety.

Ira Glass

Now wait a second. You have it right there. You're handing me--

Brian Reed

Yeah. You want to take a look?

Ira Glass

Oh, this is a kind of a beat up--

Brian Reed

Oh, it's old school. Yeah, I had to find it used on Amazon. Not in circulation anymore. This is a rare copy.

Ira Glass

OK.

Brian Reed

So the premise of this is that it's kids telling other kids about safety. By telling war stories that they've been through, essentially. [LAUGHS]

Ira Glass

So is every story in this book a kid being like, oh I did this dumb ass thing, now I know better, don't do what I did?

Brian Reed

Yeah, precisely. Yeah, that's it.

Ira Glass

And how do you know about this?

Brian Reed

So my best friend, Christopher Alesevich, is a contributor, actually. He was 10 years old, I think, when he wrote this about an experience he had when he was five.

Ira Glass

So he did some dumb ass thing?

Brian Reed

Basically he was-- [LAUGHS] I guess he was playing in his yard on his swing set. And I remember this swing set. It was there when we were growing up. It's got a fort part to it.

Ira Glass

Mhm.

Brian Reed

This was slightly before I met him, I believe.

Ira Glass

Mhm.

Brian Reed

And he and his friend Michelle, for some reason they got it in their mind that it would be cool to make some kind of wall around this fort by wrapping string all the way around the fort many, many times. And at some point, they decided OK, it's time to cut the string off. So Michelle asked him to get some scissors.

Christopher knew where the scissors were. They were in the drawer in the kitchen somewhere. So he ran inside, he got the scissors, he brought them out.

Ira Glass

Oh no. I feel-- now that scissors have entered the scene, now I feel worried.

Brian Reed

[LAUGHS] Yes. And you should.

So then Michelle began cutting some of the string. And Christopher, to hear him tell it, basically wanted to get a closer look. And she cut towards his eye, and the scissors went into his left eye.

Ira Glass

[WHISPERS] Oh my god!

Brian Reed

Just right in there.

Ira Glass

Poor kid.

Brian Reed

He says he actually didn't really feel pain, amazingly. But he did know something was wrong. There was fluid coming down out of his eye. Anyway, he needed very serious eye surgery. He was in the hospital for days.

So the thing about his story and about so many of these stories that I really love is one, the tone of them. [LAUGHS] They were written-- just imagine a five-year-old or an eight-year-old writing a war story. Just kind of telling it. Like, imagine them sitting in a bar like sidled up with like whiskey and they're a 10-year-old talking about the time they had scissors shoved into their eye.

Ira Glass

So it's not just kids looking back. It's kids looking back with an unnatural seriousness that's being pressed on them by the adults who are writing the book?

Brian Reed

Yeah, I guess so. Yeah, that's what's happening.

Ira Glass

Let's hear what it sounds like. Here, read what your friend writes. And read it kind of like a grizzled war vet.

Brian Reed

OK. (GRAVELY) "The scissors jerked back and poked me right in the eye. I don't remember much of what followed, except that my mom and dad took me to St. Vincent Hospital where Dr. Mark Steckel did surgery on my eye. I learned not to put my eyes near any sharp objects. And I would advise you to do the same."

Ira Glass

[LAUGHS]

Brian Reed

"Christopher Alesevich, age 10."

So the other thing that I wanted to share with you that I find entertaining about these is the advice and the lesson of so many of these is so specific that I find it incredibly, incredibly humorous, OK. [LAUGHS]

And even when I remember talking to Chris about it, the lesson of this story was don't lean into scissors that are cutting a particularly taut piece of string because you could get poked in the eye.

Ira Glass

[LAUGHS]

Brian Reed

That's what he took away from the story. [LAUGHS]

Ira Glass

And so they're all like that?

Brian Reed

A lot of them are. Can I read you this one?

Ira Glass

Sure.

Brian Reed

So this one is in the chapter called-- the chapters are amazing, by the way. There's many, many chapters.

Ira Glass

Amazing like what? Like what are the different chapters? What are they--

Brian Reed

There's just such a variety. It makes you realize how dangerous of a place the world is. You've got axes, bees, bicycles, burns, camping, cars, cuts, dogs, doors, drinking, electricity, escalator.

Ira Glass

That is a lot of dangerous things.

Brian Reed

All right, this one's my favorite. You want to guess what the name of this chapter is?

Ira Glass

Poison?

Brian Reed

No.

Ira Glass

Wait, hold on. Not staying far enough from the edge of a cliff?

Brian Reed

[LAUGHS]

Ira Glass

Is that a chapter?

Brian Reed

No, sadly. This chapter's called "Nose." Simply.

Ira Glass

[LAUGHS]

Brian Reed

[LAUGHS]

Ira Glass

Just straight up "Nose."

Brian Reed

"Nose." [LAUGHS] As in N-O-S-E.

Ira Glass

[LAUGHS] I got it.

Brian Reed

[LAUGHS] All right. The title of this one is "No One is Laughing."

Ira Glass

[LAUGHS]

Brian Reed

Dude! [LAUGHS]

[SIGHS] So this one's written by a 12-year-old named Dan Strang. It's actually written in the third person-- which is interesting, it's an interesting take about another child.

"When Karen was three, she was just trying to show off for two other cousins when they were watching TV. She took the leftover kernels from the bottom of the bowl of popcorn and stuck two kernels up her small nostrils. She kept them up there for about a minute and got a couple laughs.

Then she tried to take them out. She tried so hard her nostrils were as red as blood. In the emergency room, they had no idea how she got them in there. The doctors decided to stick the tweezers up her nose while she was pushing with her index fingers from the top to bottom. Finally, the kernels popped out. I dearly suggest that you never stick popcorn kernels up your nose to be funny, because it's a serious accident."

Ira Glass

[LAUGHS]

Brian Reed

[LAUGHS]

Ira Glass

So what do you like about that one so much?

Brian Reed

Again, I just love the specificity of it. Like, if I were to go through that or witness it as an adult, if I were to try and tell someone to watch out, I'd been there, you don't want to go through what I went through, I might say, don't stick foreign objects up your nose of any kind.

Ira Glass

Yeah.

Brian Reed

But the lesson that this 12-year-old draws is don't stick popcorn kernels up your nose to be funny.

Ira Glass

OK. So kids do not generalize. That is what I've learned from this so far.

Brian Reed

Yeah, apparently not. And actually, I talked to my friend Christopher about what happened to him. And we were reading through the book together. And his mom actually happened to be there too, 'cause she was visiting him. And she was a first grade teacher for many, many years before she retired.

Ira Glass

Oh.

Brian Reed

And she totally confirmed this. She was like, yeah. This is something I dealt with day in, day out.

And actually, they told me a story that I did not know in all the years I've known him that illustrates this perfectly. There is apparently a sequel to the earlier scissors story.

Chris's Mother

Brian, as his mother, I'd like to interject that he's learned not to put his eyes near sharp things. But he never learned not to put his fingers near sharp things. [LAUGHS]

Brian Reed

So I guess two years after he got hospitalized for scissors, he was at school. The school day was ending. He was waiting for the bus with kids in his class.

And somehow he and this girl were playing, and there was a pair of scissors around. He was very insistent that they were safety scissors, like the kind of plasticky, rounded-edge ones or whatever.

Ira Glass

Right. Sure.

Brian Reed

And somehow they were playing with these. And the question of are these dangerous or not came up.

Christopher Alesevich

I looked at these special scissors, and they were very dull. They had rounded tips, and so they were not sharp, as where my previous lesson was that sharp scissors are dangerous. And so therefore, not-sharp scissors are not dangerous.

Brian Reed

How old were you?

Christopher Alesevich

So this was second grade. I must have been--

Chris's Mother

You were probably seven. But you're a January birthday, so--

Christopher Alesevich

So not only was I so sure that scissors that didn't look sharp were not dangerous, but then I had to prove to another person my knowledge of this matter and to show off that hey, you're wrong. These scissors are not dangerous.

Brian Reed

It's amazing that the very serious lesson you'd been taught by being hospitalized a couple years earlier, the lesson you'd been taught to specifically watch yourself around scissors was the thing that inspired you to be extra braggadocious--

Christopher Alesevich

Confident. That's right.

Brian Reed

--and careless around scissors.

Chris's Mother

Yes. Yes.

Christopher Alesevich

So what I did, I stuck out my hand and my finger, and I was like, here cut. It's not going to cut.

Brian Reed

[LAUGHS] God.

Christopher Alesevich

Lo and behold, it cut my finger. I was like, "oh, crap!"

Chris's Mother

[LAUGHS]

Christopher Alesevich

[LAUGHS]

Brian Reed

So I guess his parents had to get called by the principal. He couldn't go home on the bus 'cause he was bleeding quite profusely. Again, his parents had to be told, "Christopher has had an incident with scissors." [LAUGHS]

He was fine. But you know.

Brian Reed

So what was the lesson of that accident?

Christopher Alesevich

So the lesson of that accident is that all scissors are sharp, regardless of whether they look sharp or not.

Brian Reed

[LAUGHS]

Christopher Alesevich

And actually I did internalize that lesson. And I'd like to point out, there has not been a third scissors incident.

Brian Reed

And a good 25 years have gone by.

Chris's Mother

Mhm.

Christopher Alesevich

Yeah. Lesson learned there.

Ira Glass

Brian Reed, thank you very much.

Brian Reed

Of course. Any time.

Ira Glass

Always a fine report. Brian Reed is the senior producer of our program.

Credits.

Ira Glass

Our program was produced today by Stephanie Foo, Zoe Chace, Sean Cole, Neil Drumming, Chana Joffe-Walt, Miki Meek, Jonathan Menjivar, Robyn Semien, Alissa Shipp, and Nancy Updike. Our senior producer is Brian Reed. Our editor is Joel Lovell. Julie Snyder's our editorial consultant. Our technical director is Matt Tierney.

Production help from Lyra Smith. Special thanks today to Shane Fletcher. Our website, thisamericanlife.org. This American Life is delivered to public radio stations by PRX, the Public Radio Exchange.

Thanks as always to our program's co-founder, Mr. Torey Malatia. You know, summer is coming up, and he is so excited for the Tilt-A-Whirl and fried dough and the flying swings.

Caller

I was a carnival baby.

Ira Glass

I'm Ira Glass. Back next week with more stories of This American Life.