Transcript

776: I Work Better on Deadline

Note: This American Life is produced for the ear and designed to be heard. If you are able, 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.

Prologue: Prologue

Ira Glass

OK. So here's a story you probably heard and a story you have not. Remember in 2018 when Hawaiians got that alert on their phones saying that a ballistic missile was inbound, headed for Hawaii, this is not a drill, seek immediate shelter. People scrambled to find places to hide. They put their kids in storm drains. It seemed completely plausible that a missile was on the way because this was after months of President Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un threatening each other with nuclear destruction, fire, and fury. OK, so that is the story you know. Here's the one you don't.

Mike McFarland

When the alert came, I was at my house up on my lawn. My first thought was, wow, I'm going to view history and then get wiped off the map.

Ira Glass

This is Mike McFarland. And he figured he'd be viewing history because his lawn is in a part of Oahu that overlooks Pearl Harbor, which is where he figured the missile was going to land. There's still an active military base there. So he grabs his cat to bring her inside, flips on TV and radio. The same alert, "Incoming missile," is everywhere, which makes it more real and more terrifying. He props up an iPad at a window and points it at Pearl Harbor to live stream whatever's about to happen, which he admits--

Mike McFarland

Like, I'm not rational. I just got the news my world was going to end. Now I have about 15 minutes to live, in my mind. And--

Ira Glass

He starts thinking about his life and his grandfather, who died when he was little, and some whiskey of his grandfather's that he still had somewhere.

Mike McFarland

--grab. I found this thing. It's been up in the closet. And it's the beautiful bottle. And I took a big drink. And I toasted my grandfather and said, OK, goodbye. This is it. And then, I read this article once, that how you survive a nuclear blast. And it just kind of came out of nowhere from the dark reaches of my mind. It's when the nuclear thing comes, you're supposed to go in a bathtub and cover yourself up with a blanket. So I took my cat in there. I had my phone in there, cover myself up, and just laid there, and just waited. And--

Ira Glass

By the way, and no offense to Mike, going into your bathtub will not protect you from a nuclear blast. Well, you know, it's funny where your mind goes when you think you just have minutes to live.

Mike McFarland

And I think I had the moment that a lot of people think about-- but let me tell you it's different when it happens-- is like, OK, I'm going to die. I'm going to die right here. And my life just sort of came rushing in front of my eyes. It's like, OK, what am I proud of? What am I sorry about? And I thought about Lynn. I thought about the last girlfriend I had. And it wasn't a pretty breakup. And I felt--

Ira Glass

They'd broken up maybe six months before this, after a year together.

Mike McFarland

And I thought, OK, well, I'll just send a text to Lynn and just tell her goodbye and tell her how important she was in my life and love of my life. And so I did. I sent that.

Ira Glass

The exact words of the text-- "Lynn, I just got word that a nuclear missile on its way to Honolulu. I'm not sure where you are or if you'll even read this, but I thought of you. I wanted to let you know that looking back, you were the love of my life. If it is, in fact, over in a few minutes, thank you for the time we spent together." Then he lays there and waits. Before long-- 38 minutes after the original alert-- he and everybody else learned there's no incoming missile.

Mike McFarland

And I have this-- I don't know if I can use this word on your station but-- oh, blank moment. It's like, oh, this is really embarrassing. It's like, I'm not dead. And I sent this message.

Ira Glass

Lynn would not see this message for hours, because right when the alert came over, she was actually on the runway at Inouye Airport in Honolulu, on a flight headed to California to look at colleges with her son, who saw the first alert on his phone.

Lynn

He was terrified saying, my dad is dead, my friends are dead. I'm going to war, Mom. Our country is going to war. This is World War III. Ghost white, his hands were sweaty, and I'm consoling him. But in my mind, as an adult, I'm like, OK, pilots, just-- expletive-- take off. Just-- expletive- take off. Do not listen to air traffic control. Just go. Please, just go, plane.

Ira Glass

It's not till they landed five hours later that Lynn sees Mike's text. Today, she remembers just one sentence of that text, the key sentence.

Lynn

It said, "You were the love of my life."

Ira Glass

And what did you think when you saw that?

Lynn

I think that we ended our relationship, for me, probably a little bit too abruptly. And I felt that perhaps there were more things to explore.

Ira Glass

So she was glad to see it. She wrote him back, "Let's talk." And when Lynn got back to Hawaii, she and Mike met up, hung out a bunch of times to see how it felt. And then they got back together because of that text, sent from a bathtub, under a blanket, "You were the love of my life."

Ira Glass

Do you think you ever would have said this to her if not for the incoming nuclear attack?

Mike McFarland

Oh, absolutely not. Absolutely not. At that moment, in that moment, I was truly-- it changed for me.

Ira Glass

It was nicer this time, being together. They were better friends, better at talking through problems. They built a massive garden together, raised nasturtiums and tons of vegetables, took care of animals at an animal rescue place. But they had their differences, and it didn't last. After maybe six months, they decided to split up on friendly terms. Lynn says she's glad they tried.

Lynn

I would say I was definitely glad for the chance for us to give it one more shot.

Ira Glass

Yeah, it's like you got to run the science experiment again just to be sure you got the same result.

Lynn

[LAUGHS] I suppose.

Ira Glass

Can I ask you, do you think he ever would have reached out if he didn't think he was going to die in a nuclear attack?

Lynn

I-- wow. Hmm. I don't know. But I may have reached out to him. But, wow, that's a great question.

Ira Glass

I actually asked him. Do you want to know what he said?

Lynn

Yeah.

Ira Glass

He said, absolutely, he never would have texted you that if he didn't think he was going to die.

Lynn

Oh, wow. OK. It makes you wonder if perhaps those words weren't real, "You were the love of my life." I don't think that if someone is the love of your life that you just let it go. So perhaps he just did it in the spur of the moment.

Ira Glass

Mike says no. He says he meant what he said. It was real. He just figured they were done before that moment came that accidentally ended up bringing them back together.

Ira Glass

It's so interesting to think about, there really is nothing like a deadline.

Mike McFarland

Exactly, and you can miss a deadline and get fired or whatever. But this deadline, I was going to die, right? I mean, it was the ultimate deadline, I guess, is the best way to say that. Right? It was the ultimate deadline. And I wish, going forward, there was a way for everybody to plug into that moment where, OK, you've got 15 minutes to truly fix things.

Ira Glass

Well, today on our program, people trying to fix things at the very last minute. It is the way that so many things happen, too many things. Just this week, it seemed like the United States was going to miss one of its very last chances to get anywhere near the 2030 climate goals to hold the Earth's temperature rise at 1.5 degrees Celsius.

And then, not even at the 11th hour-- it was after the clock had run out-- Senator Joe Manchin did a turnaround and agreed to legislation that would cut emissions. Why is it always like this? Today on our program, we observe the power of a crushing impeding deadline to focus the mind and lead to action. From WBEZ Chicago, this is American Life. I'm Ira Glass. Stay with us.

Act One: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Quorum

Ira Glass

Act One, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Quorum.

So, a bunch of people in a small town, Croydon, New Hampshire, population 800, wake up one morning not with an imaginary missile heading towards them, but something that felt, I don't know, dire, with a deadline they never saw coming. Sarah Gibson of New Hampshire Public Radio tells what happened.

Sarah Gibson

This story starts at a school budget meeting. In Croydon, barely anyone goes to these. Even the local TV guy, who sometimes films town meetings, did not show up this year. So there's not even a recording. But I'm going to tell you about it, because what happened that day triggered a very strange series of events.

The meeting takes place at the Croydon Town Hall, an old, white building with tall windows and a big, drafty room. There's an American flag from the 1800s framed on the wall, some built-in pews, and a bunch of folding chairs. Tom Moore walks in.

He's 43 years old, big, red beard, teaches high school math and woodworking, and has three little kids. Tom's been on the Croydon School Board for years. But this it's his last day. Doesn't expect anything dramatic to happen. He'd carved some wooden pens as goodbye gifts for his colleagues on the board.

Tom Moore

And, as I walk in, I register my name and I get handed a pamphlet. And I don't really glance at it.

Sarah Gibson

He sits down. Everything seems normal. One of the townspeople in the audience is Jim Peschke, who knows this is not going to be normal. Jim is kind of a budget nerd, obsessed with the school budget. It's the town's biggest expense by a lot. This year, it's $1.7 million, the highest it's ever been. And every year, Jim comes in with a proposal to shrink it.

Jim Peschke

I, in years past, believe I've brought up $20,000 cuts that weren't approved because they were barbaric, in the words of the opponents.

Sarah Gibson

Jim's an electrical engineer, a transplant from the Midwest. He and his wife pride themselves on having homeschooled their kids rather than send them to public school. A thing to know about this budget meeting-- it's not just to talk about the proposed school budget.

The way things work here is that whoever shows up gets to actually vote on what the budget should be. This has been the approach in Croydon-- really most of small town New Hampshire-- since the 1800s. It's a relic that most people no longer participate in. Today at the town hall attendance is low, about 40 people. The meeting starts and Tom finally looks down at that pamphlet. The title is Budget or Ransom?

Tom Moore

And I go, oh, what is this? This is crazy. But as I'm looking at that, people are starting to get really upset about how much we're paying the principal and the superintendent, and about violins and snowshoes. And there just seems to be a lot of people up in arms.

Sarah Gibson

The snow shoes and violins, paid for entirely with grants. But to some people here, it felt extravagant and wasteful.

Ian Underwood

It's like, if you wanted to design an instrument that could be easily broken by second and third graders, it would be the violin.

Sarah Gibson

This is Ian Underwood. He's the guy who wrote that pamphlet. Ian's a member of the Free State Project, a movement of libertarians who, 20 years ago, started to move to New Hampshire with the goal of getting elected to local office and creating a barely-regulated, barely-taxed utopia of sorts. They're becoming a more serious political force with wins across the state. The majority leader in the House of Representatives, he moved here as a Free-Stater.

Ian has lived here for about 15 years on a dirt road above the Croydon schoolhouse. He thinks public school is a failure. One of the high schools down the road has really low test scores, and every year they ask for more money. So Ian, at the meeting, makes a proposal, something he'd been planning.

Ian Underwood

I stood up and I said, what we're being presented with is a ransom, not a budget. I think, instead, the town should present them with a budget. You have a certain amount of money and you figure out how to make it work. And so that requires us to pick a number. Let's change it from $1.7 million to $800,000. I move that that be the budget number.

Sarah Gibson

Ian was proposing cutting the budget by more than half, basically blowing up the system. Jim, who in the past had been shot down proposing much smaller cuts, knew Ian was going to do this. And he was ready.

Jim Peschke

When he made his motion, a bunch of us rushed to second it. A good four or five people jumped in to second it. There was an enthusiasm about, yes, let's do this. Let's have this discussion.

Sarah Gibson

Tom Moore, the school board member with the wooden pens who has three kids in school, started to panic.

Tom Moore

And that's when I started really trying to speak to the audience. And I pointed out, look, if you cut this down to $800,000, this budget just does not work. And I'm looking around the room, and I'm trying to suss out, OK, how many people here are going to shut this down. And I'm not seeing too many of them. And I'm starting to realize, boy, this could go really sideways.

Sarah Gibson

Tom texts his wife, "Get down here, bring everyone you know." But the vote happens too fast. People raise their hands, yay or nay. The moderator counts. And the slashed budget passes, 20 to 14. The people of Croydon have spoken, the 4% of them who actually came to the meeting. Later, someone called a lawyer and a state official to see if there was any way to reverse this and learned the vote was binding.

Jennifer

He grabbed the bottle of whiskey, poured himself a glass, and he just said, you have no idea what just happened.

Sarah Gibson

This is Tom's wife, Jennifer. Tom's not much of a drinker, so she knew whatever happened was bad. And it was pretty bad for them.

The new school budget meant that they, and many other parents, could have to start paying to keep their kids in public school. And it was a lot of money, potentially up to $9,000 per year, per kid. That's because Croydon is so tiny, it doesn't have its own middle and high school, so older kids go to school in nearby, bigger towns. And Croydon covers that tuition.

But with the budget cut so drastically, the town could only afford to pay half the tuition at some of those schools. So parents would have to make up the difference. For Tom and Jennifer, sending their three kids to one of the medium-priced public schools, that'd be about $20,000 a year. That's money they don't have. A lot of families here don't.

Jennifer

Like, we're going to have to look for another place to live, because we're not going to be able to afford sending our kids to school. I mean--

Tom Moore

And that's a conversation we never thought we would ever have.

Jennifer

We've never had that--

Sarah Gibson

For Tom, this cut felt like a violation of a basic tenet of our democracy.

Tom Moore

It baffles me. It just-- I don't understand it. I don't get it. I mean, we decided this centuries ago. I mean, we decided ages and ages ago, that this is what we should be doing as a country. We need to provide students with an adequate education through taxation.

Sarah Gibson

There were some alternatives to paying to send your kid to public school. The school board said kids could enroll in a learning pod instead, managed by private companies. It'd be a mix of in-person and online learning. And it was cheap enough to fit within the slashed budget.

Tom says, this would be a crap show. His kids didn't do well with online learning during the pandemic. They felt distracted and isolated. Meanwhile, members of the Free State Project were going online and celebrating, saying, look at Croydon, this is how we slash taxes and transform public education. Croydon parents saw this kind of thing on Facebook and felt like, all of a sudden, their kids were part of some experiment. And they were pissed.

Woman

I'm gonna to call this meeting to order at 6:31.

Sarah Gibson

Here's some tape from a school board meeting, post-budget cut. It's a mom talking about her son.

Amie Freak

And he's a senior next year. And if that's taken away from him after the last two years, I can't handle it. I can't do it. You cannot hurt the kids.

[APPLAUSE]

Sarah Gibson

That meeting, significantly better attended. These parents had been told the budget cut was binding. But they thought, there must be some way out of this. They started calling around, going down internet rabbit holes, and looking for an escape route because democracies are never as simple as just a bunch of people voting. There's always a clause somewhere-- a guardrail for Americans against themselves. And then-- and it's not exactly clear who found it. A lot of people say it was this woman Lorraine.

But in any case, parents land on something buried deep in New Hampshire state law. RSA 197:2-- it basically says that they can petition to hold a special meeting where the town gets another chance to vote on the school budget. But it's a long shot. Not only would parents have to win the revote. The revote would only count if half of croydon's registered voters show up and cast a ballot. That's 283 people. For Tom, who used to be on the Croydon School Board, that number seemed impossible.

Tom Moore

It's a big number. It's a very small town. We've never, ever, ever had that many people show up to vote on something.

Sarah Gibson

He says the school board was lucky if five or six people came to watch. After I heard about this revote, I decided to stick around Croydon because I really could not tell what would happen, and because this seemed like a test for some big questions a lot of Americans are asking about the future of public schools and our democracy.

Slashing the school budget to $800,000 would save each household in Croydon an average of $2,000 a year. And this town leans conservative, went for Trump. A lot of people, they want lower taxes and minimal government. And the question of the school budget was not going to be decided with PAC money or TV ads, but the old fashioned way-- neighbors talking to neighbors-- people they actually know-- to try to persuade them, one by one.

They needed 283 voters to show up in person. And they had a tight deadline, about 40 days. One thing about democracy the founding fathers forgot to tell us-- it can be a real pain in the ass. To reverse the budget cut, a group of mostly public school parents put their lives on hold. The first three weeks were an organizing frenzy-- meetings, constant Facebook messaging. They ordered lawn signs and hand-painted bigger ones that they stuck in the back of pickup trucks and put all over town.

There were two moms at the center of this, sisters-- twin sisters, actually-- Angi and Amie, who I spent a lot of time with. Amie is the one you heard in that town meeting talking about her high school son. A month and a half after the meeting in March, with just one week to go before the revote, Amie and Angi are driving from house to house, trying to convince people to come to the revote. They've never done a campaign like this before.

Angi Beaulieu

We're bad at this. They say, we're not registered voters. OK, that's fine.

Sarah Gibson

Angi and Amie grew up in Croydon. Their car has an American flag tinted on the back window. They've been well-liked since they were kids. In high school, Amie got voted best all-around. Angi-- most sarcastic. The Freaks, they're called. That's their family's last name.

Amie Freak

I kept my name. I married. My wife Cally took my name-- Freak. So we're Freaks. And everybody knows us, and they love it.

Angi Beaulieu

Everybody knows us.

Sarah Gibson

They go to visit a guy named Brian, whose mom is there.

Amie Freak

We're going around canvassing, making sure everybody's going. You're going.

Brian

Yes, we're going.

Sarah Gibson

So that's one yes.

Angi Beaulieu

Brian, you're the best.

Amie Freak

Grandma Edie, you're going next Saturday, right? To the meeting? I love you.

Sarah Gibson

Two, actually.

Angi Beaulieu

Is she coming?

Amie Freak

Yes.

Sarah Gibson

But at another house--

Woman

I wanted to.

Angi Beaulieu

OK.

Woman

But I have to work.

Angi Beaulieu

OK. OK. That's OK.

Woman

If there was--

Amie Freak

I'll call for you. I will call them and say, she is so busy today.

Woman

If there was a way that I could vote and not be there, I would.

Angi Beaulieu

Yeah.

Sarah Gibson

And then they go to the house of someone they grew up with-- Nick Avery. Their kids went to school together.

Angi Beaulieu

We are out chatting with people about coming to the meeting on Saturday. And I know that you guys are up in the air about it.

Nick Avery

I'm not up in the air about it. I'm not going.

Angi Beaulieu

You're not going.

Nick Avery

Nope.

Angi Beaulieu

OK. Can you tell me why?

Nick Avery

It's just my choice.

Angi Beaulieu

OK. OK.

Nick Avery

I don't want any hard feelings in this little town.

Angi Beaulieu

Yeah. OK.

Amie Freak

Do you think-- the vote's going to make hard feelings? I still love you.

Nick Avery

No, I think me not going could.

Sarah Gibson

Before they went out door knocking today, Angi and Amie got advice from a professional campaign organizer that if someone says no, just move on. Reasonable advice-- they ignore it.

Nick Avery

I've lived here my whole life. So have you guys.

Angi Beaulieu

Yeah, absolutely.

Amie Freak

It's honestly a little disappointing, just because I'm going to have to pay for Caleb for his senior year, you know?

Nick Avery

I get it. I get it.

Amie Freak

I don't think that's fair.

Nick Avery

I'm not saying it's fair.

Amie Freak

Do you think, because we didn't go vote, we weren't there at the meeting? That that's why you're--

Angi Beaulieu

Oh, yeah, she didn't go.

Amie Freak

I didn't go to the meeting. I got my hand slapped. I will never miss another meeting. I'll tell you what.

Nick Avery

I'll be honest with you. $1.7 million is way too much for this town.

Sarah Gibson

Nick starts talking about Croydon's one-room schoolhouse, still in operation, which he and the sisters went to as kids. He doesn't get why it needs so many more staff and resources these days.

Nick Avery

You know, when we were there, we had two rows for first grade, two rows for second grade, and two rows for third grade. We had a teacher that assigned stuff, and we had--

Amie Freak

An aide.

Nick Avery

--and aide or two aides to help out with the kids.

Amie Freak

Yeah, I remember that. We absolutely did. Now, can I--

Nick Avery

You can say anything you want.

Amie Freak

I want to ask you a question. So $1.7 is too much. We're operating at $1.5 right now, right?

Angi Beaulieu

Yep.

Amie Freak

They cannot operate what they're trying to do with $800,000.

Nick Avery

We all know that the state of New Hampshire is not going to allow kids not to go to school. Do you honestly think that, come fall, you're going to have to pay nine grand out of your pocket to send your kid to school?

Amie Freak

Yes.

Nick Avery

But it's a public school. They're not going to turn the kid away. They're not going to get to the school, and the principal's going to come out and go, sorry, little fellow, you got to go home because you're a Croydon kid.

Angi Beaulieu

I'm pretty sure that if we don't pay, that's what they're going to do. Do you want me to find that out for you? Do you want me to call Newport?

Nick Avery

I just-- I can't for the life of me believe--

Angi Beaulieu

This is what I'm going to do. Just so we can continue this conversation, I'm going to call the Department of Revenue tomorrow and speak with a representative there. And I meant to ask them this this past week, actually. So I'm glad that you brought this up.

Nick Avery

But the other problem is, people around here have watched that budget go up and up and up and up.

Angi Beaulieu

Right.

Nick Avery

And nobody's really said much till now. And now everybody's crying wolf.

Angi Beaulieu

Listen, if they had cut it by $200,000, this would not be happening. Honestly, a $200,000 cut would not change-- there's a turkey right there. [LAUGHS] Did you go out this morning?

Sarah Gibson

May in New Hampshire is wild turkey hunting season. By the end, the sisters have spent 30 minutes with Nick. It doesn't move them any closer to their magic number of 283 voters. But it's something you don't see much these days-- people who don't agree actually talking to each other and listening. And it was nice to hear.

Angi Beaulieu

Thank you, Nick. Sorry to interrupt your work.

Nick Avery

It's all right. Next time, I'll put you to work.

Angi Beaulieu

She said!

Sarah Gibson

By the way, Angi and other parents did talk to neighboring school districts about whether they'd let in Croydon students for half price. And they were basically told, no way. Meanwhile, the other side has a way easier campaign ahead of them because the only thing the budget cutters need people to do is nothing-- just skip the meeting.

That way, the revote won't meet quorum, and it won't count. To reinforce this message, the man who proposed the budget cut back in March sends out mailers. They say, "If you like the budget you have, you can keep it. Just stay home on May 7." Jim Paschke, the budget nerd who'd been trying to cut the budget for years, is feeling pretty confident.

Jim Peschke

I think there's a false narrative that a bunch of kooks voted for this budget, and the whole town is against it. I don't think that's true. And the problem with getting people to go is there's only a handful of people in Croydon who truly benefit from the higher budget.

Sarah Gibson

The way he sees the math, there are only 80 or so kids in the school district. So sure, their families will show up to restore the budget. But he doesn't think they'll get enough of their neighbors to join them.

Amanda Leslie

--the numbers and the updated calling list. Tomorrow, I know we've got the--

Sarah Gibson

It's Wednesday, May 4, three days till the revote. Some of the parents organizing, who call themselves We Stand Up For Croydon, gather in private-- start tallying up the confirmed numbers. They want to know how close they are to 283.

Amanda Leslie

Zandra, do you want to talk a little bit about our updated list?

Zandra

We look at 275 supporters ID'ed so far-- 236 who can attend. So that's a big drop off.

Angi Beaulieu

That's terrible.

Sarah Gibson

That's Angi saying it's terrible. They need about 50 more. The next day is the final push-- the phone bank.

Angi Beaulieu

Can we call Brenda and Roderick and just confirm? I have called, texted, and Facebook messaged Brad with no response.

Sarah Gibson

Angi's here in her go-to outfit-- t-shirt, jeans, eyeliner, and mascara. There's not good cell phone service in Croydon. So the volunteers have gone to a nearby town, ordered pizza. They have a big list of names, and they start making calls. Angi's focused. She rubs her temples a lot. There's a problem with the list of names.

Angi Beaulieu

Well, the tricky thing is we don't know if there's duplicates.

Sarah Gibson

The majority of volunteers here are-- surprise, surprise-- moms. Most have jobs and kids who are currently in school. They've disagreed on some things in the past like mask mandates. But when it comes to funding public schools, they're all on the same page.

Amanda Leslie

Is there any way I might--

Sarah Gibson

One of them is Amanda Leslie, mom of two, English teacher, who also grew up here. Usually when she and I talk about the budget cut, she uses a lot of colorful language. But when she gets on the phone, she puts on her teacher hat. She calls a family she's known for years.

Amanda Leslie

Can I tell you a little bit of new information? No? OK. Would Ed be willing to talk with me since he will be there? Super-- that'd be great. Hey, Ed, how are you doing? Good. I understand you're going to help out at the meeting on Saturday as a ballot clerk. Can I ask, are you going to also vote while you're there? You're not going to vote? Oh, I'm so disappointed.

Right, but even though it's a legal thing-- I hear you. I absolutely hear that. You know, I was there too. It certainly was legal. But there is this opportunity within the democratic process to revisit it. And, I mean, do you think you could tell me that you'll think about it? OK. Well, again, I'm disappointed. But thank you for talking with me, Ed. All right, I'll see you Saturday.

Ugh. Break my fricking heart.

Sarah Gibson

My producer, Chris, is with Amanda when she ends the call with Ed.

Chris Benderev

Is it easier or harder when you know them?

Amanda Leslie

I think it's more heartbreaking, you know? These people that I've known the entire time I've lived in Croydon-- and my in-laws-- they've known them for 40, 50, 60 years, you know? And it's just really sad, especially because I know that they're good people. They're not total a-holes, you know?

Sarah Gibson

The guy Amanda was on the phone with-- Ed-- he had concerns I've heard from other people in town. They don't think the May 7th revote is fair. The town already made its decision in March. If people wanted to be part of the budget process and ensure their kids' school got funded, why didn't they show up then?

May 6th, the evening before the revote. The parents just finished setting up the space-- a YMCA camp, which is the biggest venue in the area they could find. The Croydon town hall couldn't fit 283 people. Angi is in the parking lot, headed to her SUV. She has a new concern. She just heard that her opponents want to make a presentation before the vote.

Sarah Gibson

Wait, so when did you guys find out that Aaron is giving a presentation?

Angi Beaulieu

Today, tonight, here-- just found out. The moderator is who let us know.

Sarah Gibson

This presentation is totally allowed. But Angi wonders if it's a tactic to run the clock so people will leave before the vote.

Sarah Gibson

Because at what point are you worried that people are going to start leaving?

Angi Beaulieu

Probably an hour or an hour and a half in, I think that people will start losing interest. And, I mean, they have other things to do-- legit other things to do. We have people that have funerals in Scutney, Vermont. We have people that have weddings. We have people that have college graduation in Keene. I mean, we can't ask them to sit here for hours and hours.

Sarah Gibson

Angi's also a bit frustrated because some people don't have plans but are like, I don't know if I can find two hours to spare to come. And Angie feels she and other moms have been working nonstop to save Croydon's public school system. Angi's accumulated stress-- it reached a breaking point when she and some volunteers were setting up today.

Angi Beaulieu

And so I had a minor meltdown.

Chris Benderev

What did that look like?

Angi Beaulieu

No tears. Some frustration-- enough so that people thought I needed a hug.

Sarah Gibson

Wait, what did you say?

Angi Beaulieu

Well, my sister said, what do you need from us right now? I said, I need everyone to shut the fuck up. That's what I said, if you want to be frank about it.

Sarah Gibson

Angi's not sleeping great. I'll send her a text in the middle of the day-- get a response at 3:00 AM the next morning. Angi tells me she's still feeling optimistic. But no one knows how tomorrow will play out. Here's Jennifer, Tom's wife. She tells me she's not sure it's going to work.

Jennifer

I think it's going to be so close. I think it's going to be within a vote or two. And that's why we so desperately are reaching out to anyone we can. And it could go either way, honestly.

Sarah Gibson

Her husband Tom feels the same. The other side seems much more relaxed.

Jim Peschke

I'm going turkey hunting.

Sarah Gibson

This is Jim Peschke, talking about what he's going to do tomorrow during the revote. He's come up with a metaphor. I've heard it before at a school board meeting.

Jim Peschke

And if you're not familiar, I'll be sitting there with a call, trying to trick the turkeys into coming towards me under the promise of finding a hen. And I can only speak from theory because I have yet to take one. I'm a lousy turkey hunter. But I think we're going to both be coming home empty-handed on the 7th.

Sarah Gibson

Get it? He won't get a turkey, and the parents won't get their big budget back. Finally, the day of the vote-- May 7. Voters are lined up at the registration table by 8:00 AM. It's cold. There's no heating in the hall, but there's a fireplace roaring at one end.

For every democratic process, there are rules and often a public official responsible for enforcing them. Here, it's the moderator-- a man named Bruce Jasper. Today is his first time moderating a town meeting. And if Angi were hoping this would go quickly, it's not looking good.

Bruce Jasper

So, just a little bit about me-- I was born in Nashua, New Hampshire. I'm the oldest of four children brought up on a poultry farm. My first job was a paper route delivering, the Nashua Telegraph on my bicycle.

Sarah Gibson

To be clear, he's not trying to run down the clock. He just seems really into being the moderator. He gives the number of chickens on his childhood farm, the number of people in his graduating high school class.

Bruce Jasper

Currently, I'm a member of the Newport Rotary Club, where I've been secretary for the last 38 years and also on the board of Wags and Wiggles, a dog rescue organization in Newport.

Sarah Gibson

At first, people figure, maybe Bruce is stalling to give stragglers time to find their seats. But pretty soon, it's 9:20 AM. And people are getting antsy-- glancing at each other. Wait, this is the school budget revote, right? Bruce eventually transitions from his biography to the rules for the proceedings. He loves a good rule.

Bruce Jasper

The articles to be considered-- yep, I am. I am reading all of the rules so that everybody-- I don't know. I mean, if everybody has a copy of the rules and everybody is-- OK, I will stop here.

Sarah Gibson

Someone eventually shouts out, move on! Angi and Tom give their presentation, and then--

Angi Beaulieu

We have two student speakers that have very brief statements that they would like to make if we can have them come up and as long as no one opposes.

Bruce Jasper

OK. And again, I'm--

[APPLAUSE]

The request is supposed to come through the moderator, all right? Again, it's in the rules. And I know everybody said they read it, and they all know them.

Angi Beaulieu

Tell me what you need me to do, Bruce. I am asking you to please allow the student speakers to be a part of our presentation.

Bruce Jasper

The procedure would be to ask the moderator to allow somebody to speak.

Man

Will you allow them to speak?

Bruce Jasper

So, Angi, yes, if you're asking me, can we allow the--

Angi Beaulieu

Bruce, may I please have a student speaker speak right now during our presentation?

Bruce Jasper

And the answer is, yes, if it's informational. So my ruling is yes.

Angi Beaulieu

Thank you.

Sarah Gibson

The two high schoolers, one after another, deliver their speeches. Parents had this plan a while ago. Let the kids have their say. It's about their future. But sticking to it is kind of surprising, given how anxious they are about time. I find Angi's sister, Amie, near the breakfast buffet.

Student

I'm preparing to take--

Sarah Gibson

Is this going how you had hoped?

Student

--college classes along with advanced literature pre-calculus.

Amie Freak

Not really. I already wanted to be in line to vote.

Sarah Gibson

What time is it right now?

Amie Freak

9:35. 9:35.

Sarah Gibson

When are people going to start leaving?

Student

I play two varsity sports, volleyball and softball--

Amie Freak

10:00.

Student

--again, learning teamwork and dedication.

Amie Freak

Yes.

Student

And I hope to obtain scholarships--

Sarah Gibson

What do' you think is going through Angi's head right now?

Amie Freak

Hurry the fuck up.

Student

--opportunities which this budget cut puts in jeopardy.

Sarah Gibson

What's going through your head?

Amie Freak

The same thing. I love all these kids. But let's just do this. We all know why we're here. We don't need a boost. We all know.

Student

I implore you to support me in having the same opportunities that many of you had.

Sarah Gibson

A bit later, the other side-- the people who want to stick with the budget cut-- makes their presentation. It's pretty short-- 15 minutes. Toward the end, people applaud early to try to usher the guy off stage.

Aaron

With that, I will wrap up. And I do have hard copies of this presentation if anybody wants to help circulate these.

Bruce Jasper

All right, come on. Come on. Come on. Come on.

Aaron

I appreciate it, Bruce.

Sarah Gibson

And finally, 70 minutes in, it's time to vote. People form a long line to put their ballots in the box. It's the OG Croydon ballot box, by the way-- wooden, from the 1890s. Angi's standing in shock, taking this all in. And guess who she sees? Nick Avery, the guy who she and Amie spent half an hour talking with during their door knocking.

Angi Beaulieu

Yes, Nick and his wife and his daughter, who registered today, are here.

Sarah Gibson

Whoa. Were you expecting that?

Angi Beaulieu

Absolutely not. Absolutely not. I'm amazed that they came. I feel like the Grinch. My heart has grown three sizes today, Sarah.

Bruce Jasper

All right, I'm seeing nobody else in line that is ready to vote. The voting is now closed.

Sarah Gibson

The room starts clearing out quick. Volunteer clerks begin counting votes. Tom is giddy.

Tom Moore

Oh, here we go! Here we go! Easy, Ang. Easy, Ang! What's up?

Sarah Gibson

Angi comes up to him. There's a problem.

Angi Beaulieu

He said we have too many votes. He said we have too many votes.

Tom Moore

What do you mean we have too many votes?

Angi Beaulieu

I don't know.

Melanie

What does that mean?

Angi Beaulieu

I don't know.

Amie Freak

That doesn't make any sense.

Sarah Gibson

The total number of votes appears to be six more than the number of people who checked in at the door and received ballots. Some people start wondering, was it a counting problem or something sneakier? Maybe the other side slipped in some extra ballots to invalidate the vote.

Melanie

Was that their trick? Are you fucking kidding me?

Tom Moore

I don't want people to think that this isn't legitimate. They're going to get on Facebook and say, oh, they cheated.

Angi Beaulieu

But I don't know what the moderator is going to rule. He may rule we have to vote again. And if that's the case, we don't have 283 people here anymore.

Sarah Gibson

In case anyone needed another reminder that democracy is unpredictable, here we are. The voters who cast their ballots-- some of them have left. And if there's a redo today, it definitely won't make quorum. Meanwhile, the moderator, Bruce, is on the phone with someone from the New Hampshire Secretary of State's office.

Tom Moore

Oh my god. I think we might have lost it because of this.

Sarah Gibson

And then, finally, Bruce is back at the mic.

Bruce Jasper

We had a little discrepancy between the number of ballots cast and the number of people that checked in-- voters that checked in. However, that's now been rectified. So the final vote was 377 yes--

[CHEERING]

--and two no.

[CHEERING]

Sarah Gibson

They got what they needed and nearly 100 more. Someone just counted wrong the first time. It's a landslide.

Tom Moore

I take a motion to adjourn.

Woman 1

Mr. Moderator moves to adjourn.

Bruce Jasper

Second?

Woman 2

Second!

Bruce Jasper

All those in favor--

Tom Moore

Aye!

Angi Beaulieu

Thank you so much.

Tom Moore

Thank you so much! Oh my god!

Angi Beaulieu

Thank you so much.

Sarah Gibson

People are hugging and high-fiving. Angi reaches out to shake hands with a guy she's known for years. They messed with the wrong town, he tells her. They, meaning the budget cutters and the libertarians who championed this. Just a few of them are here, and they don't look happy. We called up Jim Peschke, the guy who spent the morning turkey hunting. He didn't catch one. Here's what he said about the revote.

Jim Peschke

It was a very well-run, very effective campaign on their part. I know they did a lot of work. And they were able to get their message through, which I found very surprising.

Sarah Gibson

So he accepts the results even though he doesn't agree with them, which, in 2022, is not always something you can count on. And some of the budget cutters-- they're not done. They lost the battle this year but aren't abandoning their mission. Many parents told me that this scare-- it woke them up.

They're continuing to organize, run for office, and show up to meetings. A few days later, the Croydon School Board met. A lot of people came out. And frankly, it was uneventful-- long, tedious. And sitting there, I wondered whether people will keep showing up year after year when there isn't a crisis because, ultimately, how much time are most of us willing to give to democracy?

Ira Glass

Sarah Gibson of New Hampshire Public Radio-- that story was produced by Chris Benderev. Coming up, murderous snails tear through an island, leaving a trail of carnage. That's in a minute from Chicago Public Radio when our program continues.

Act Two: Snail in the Coffin

Ira Glass

This American Life-- I'm Ira Glass. Today's program, "I Work Better on Deadline"-- stories of how deadlines can release an explosion of energy from people who never would have taken action any other way to fix problems that probably should have been addressed long before.

We've arrived at Act Two of our program. Act Two, Snail in the Coffin. So I think of myself as a not terribly industrious person who happens to have organized his life around a very unforgiving weekly deadline. And really, only because of the deadline, I'm filled with enough terror to finish stories and get a radio show on the air with a coherent beginning, middle, and ending to it, week after week, with a team of people.

Without the deadline, I really would never be anywhere as productive. But the stakes of this whole thing are really pretty low, right? If I and my coworkers don't turn out a new show, so what? One less radio episode in the world. Nobody suffers. Nothing dies. The world continues as it was. Not so for the people in this next story. David Kestenbaum explains.

David Kestenbaum

This is a terrible way to start a story, but it's a fact. I've been kind of obsessed with extinctions recently. Sure, the dinosaurs because who doesn't like a good asteroid extinction? Or maybe it was a comet. There's also the Permian mass extinction, which wiped out over 80% of stuff in the sea-- totally fascinating. I think I'm interested because of this idea that now we may be living through another mass extinction-- one we are causing.

According to the international organization that tracks this stuff, one in eight bird species are threatened. 1/5 of all reptiles, 1/4 of all mammals, and plants-- 40% of all plant species could disappear. 40%-- it's hard to get your head around that. But I sort of feel like I should. Even before this, I did this thing. I regularly tried to imagine my parents' deaths, just to be prepared-- and my own death, which is a kind of personal extinction. It's a way of getting used to the idea of things ending. You can also try to imagine the extinction of democracy. See? It's a fun game.

This, of course, is an entirely theoretical exercise on my part. But there are people who actually stare into the abyss of it-- of the things facing extinction-- and try to do something. In talking to people, I found this one story I think has never really been told. It's about a snail-- one single species of all these in trouble-- and this chain of really ingenious people who are determined to save it. The story starts with Justin Gerlach, who now is a fellow at Cambridge University. But, in 1992, he was a grad student standing on the island of Raiatea in the middle of the Pacific-- lush tropical place with cliffs-- looking for this snail-- kind of famous in snail circles. It's fancy name-- partula faba.

Justin Gerlach

I call it Captain Cook's bean snail.

David Kestenbaum

How come?

Justin Gerlach

Because it was discovered on Captain Cook's expedition. And faba means bean.

David Kestenbaum

Did he call it that?

Justin Gerlach

No. No, he didn't call it anything.

David Kestenbaum

Sadly but not surprisingly, he says, Captain Cook never wrote anything in his diaries about the snail. It was named afterward. Scientists ended up learning a lot about genetics from partula snails years later. This one-- particularly kind of dignified as snails go-- about an inch long.

Justin Gerlach

So it's a really nice looking shell. It's the most beautiful of the partula species-- very nice deep yellow color with a dark tip to the shell. And sometimes, they've got dark bands on them as well-- really handsome snail.

David Kestenbaum

The snail, when Justin got to the island, was in trouble-- because of us. Justin told me the story with a kind of professorial calm. He's had a front row seat to species extinction for a while now. What happened, he says, is that, at some point, a different snail had been brought to the island-- the giant African land snail-- basically a garden pest, he says. It got out of control. And the solution to that problem was to introduce another snail-- a predatory one that people hoped would eat the African land snail.

David Kestenbaum

It's kind of crazy that they had one out-of-control control snail, so they introduced a second snail--

Justin Gerlach

Yep.

David Kestenbaum

--to eat the first snail.

Justin Gerlach

Yep.

David Kestenbaum

Maybe you can see where this is going. The new snail had no interest in this assignment.

Justin Gerlach

Basically, it didn't like the giant African snail. They're too big. They're too leathery. So it doesn't eat them. It likes the little forest snails instead.

David Kestenbaum

Including Captain Cook's bean snail. Climate change, for sure, is putting a lot of species in danger. But most creatures on the endangered list-- they're there for reasons like this-- much more basic stuff. We cut down some forest to farm or build homes. We catch too many fish. Or we bring some foreign snail to an island. So Justin's on the island to rescue any survivors he can find. He heads out and gets to this one valley where the invading snails had apparently just swept through, maybe a week before.

Justin Gerlach

And it was just completely littered with hundreds of empty shells. And some of them were still damp from where they'd been eaten by the predatory snails.

David Kestenbaum

He had this thought.

Justin Gerlach

Maybe, actually, I've been too late-- just that little bit too late.

David Kestenbaum

There's like a massacre or something.

Justin Gerlach

Yeah, very much a massacre-- a slow-motion massacre but, nonetheless--

David Kestenbaum

That's snails are slow-- joke number one for this story. There'll be another.

David Kestenbaum

How can they be so good at killing every last snail?

Justin Gerlach

They're extremely efficient predators. So they're very good at picking up the chemical cues left behind by the slime trails. So they track them down like a bloodhound, essentially. And then they're very good, perfectly evolved killing machines, really.

David Kestenbaum

If it seems hard to imagine how an animal with no arms or hands or claws or talons, whose name is appropriately synonymous with slowness, can kill anything at all, I found a video online. It's gruesome. The predatory snail just kind of sucks the other snail out of its shell while it struggles to fight back. Justin does find one-- one bean snail in that valley. He puts it in a plastic container. And then a piece of luck-- he finds an old vanilla plantation the predatory snails hadn't reached yet. And there are dozens of bean snails.

David Kestenbaum

You got there just in time.

Justin Gerlach

Just in time, yes. It must have been weeks or months before that valley got eliminated.

David Kestenbaum

And with that, Justin found himself in a remarkable position. He had some of the very last of a species that had been around for a million years-- the last on earth. After Justin collected the snails, he packed them up and took them on a plane. The snails rode in the overhead bin. He checked them from time to time. The snails that Justin collected, along with some others that had been gathered the previous year, were sent to a handful of places that could care for them.

The plan was simple. If you could get them to breed, then you go from tens of snails to hundreds, thousands. And you could put them back in nature. Some of the snails were sent to the Bristol Zoo. Visitors would walk right by them-- no idea they were looking at what could be the last of their kind on earth.

Melissa Bushell was one of the keepers in charge of them, in the hopes that their numbers would increase-- and, I have to say, kind of the perfect person to try to pull this thing off-- dedicated, methodical, and, aside from a detour as a bartender, she can trace this career choice way back. Melissa recently transitioned, by the way. She asked that we share that.

Melissa Bushell

Yeah, since I was about, maybe-- I don't know-- probably about two or three or four, I just always liked bugs and reptiles and fish and animals that weren't fluffy, basically. So yeah, it's always been a bit of a passion.

David Kestenbaum

Wait, how come not fluffy?

Melissa Bushell

Well, everyone else liked the fluffy things like monkeys and tigers. And I've kind of felt bad for the bugs and the things that people thought were a bit ick. So, you know, they needed somebody to like them as well.

David Kestenbaum

Melissa, usually listening to classical music on the radio, would tend to the snails, feed them twice a week a mixture of porridge oats, trout food pellet, and cuddle bone ground into a powder, change out the sheet of plastic wrap that covers the top of the glass boxes they were in, and see if their numbers would increase. Melissa spent a lot of time watching them. There's a little dance they do when they mate.

Melissa Bushell

Oh, it's super cute to watch.

David Kestenbaum

What's the dance like?

Melissa Bushell

Very slow. [LAUGHS]

David Kestenbaum

Told you.

Melissa Bushell

They kind of just end up sort of circling each other. And I'm sure each species does it slightly differently. But then one of them will sort of climb on next to the other one. And then they will touch their necks together because that's where their genitalia is. And they'll sort of mate that way.

David Kestenbaum

Genitalia is on the neck?

Melissa Bushell

Yeah.

David Kestenbaum

They really are like an alien species.

Melissa Bushell

Mm-hmm, that's why I like invertebrates so much. They're just weird but good.

David Kestenbaum

Then, a few weeks later, a baby would be born-- just the size of a period you might write with a pencil at the end of a sentence. So the breeding was working. But there was a problem.

Melissa Bushell

Give me a second. I can tell you exactly how many we had. So when I started, we had 80 of them. We went from 80 at the end of 2010 to 60 in March 2011, 61 in June 2011. September 2011, 52.

David Kestenbaum

The snails were reproducing but not fast enough to replace the ones that were dying. No one could figure out why. I want to be sure you get a picture of just how much effort and expertise went into this. It was a whole team of people. They did autopsies of each snail when it died, taking them out of their shells, preserving them, slicing them, looking at them under a microscope.

They even reached out to Justin, who'd rescued the last ones on the island as a grad student. Justin, thinking maybe there was a problem with the diet, went back to an old museum collection that had snails preserved from over 100 years ago. Surprisingly, he found ants in some of their stomachs. But they determined the snails probably weren't feeding on ants. The snails probably had just eaten fruit that had ants in it. No one had any idea what was wrong. Their numbers continued to drop without explanation.

Melissa Bushell

By May 2014, we were down to 17.

David Kestenbaum

Oh.

Melissa Bushell

Yeah. Then June-- 14--

David Kestenbaum

Oh.

Melissa Bushell

--and then down to 9 on the 16th of September 2014. And then that's when they went to Edinburgh.

David Kestenbaum

Edinburgh Zoo. If there's anywhere that could save them, it was Edinburgh. If the president were sick, that's where you'd send him, if he were a snail. Years before this, Edinburgh Zoo had been sent a single snail-- the very last of its kind in captivity-- just one-- a subspecies called Partula taeniata simulans. They kept it alive. And somehow, it was pregnant. It gave birth. And soon, there were hundreds and hundreds of them. And they were put back in the wild.

Melissa was full of worry, though-- said, when the last bean snails went up to Edinburgh Zoo in a van, it felt like handing off a grenade that the pin had just been taken out of. The situation these people were in with the bean snail, where you know you have the last ones in your hands-- it's very rare. More often, we just don't know if something's going extinct. Usually, scientists suspect something in the wild has disappeared. But there's a long process of searching and surveying to determine, yes, it's really gone. The standard is, when there's no reasonable doubt, the last individual of a species has died.

This year, six new things were officially designated as extinct-- the Chinese paddlefish, three Moroccan freshwater fish, a tree from Asia, and a fly from the UK, last seen in 1907. But they weren't there yet with the bean snail. The nine remaining snails arrived at Edinburgh Zoo. The snails were not put on display but were kept instead in a quiet room-- an old coal shed, actually, where that other single snail had come back from the brink. Ross Poulter, who helped take care of them, told me he thinks the light there is perfectly dim, like it would be in the forest. He said he felt a kind of awe being in there with them.

Ross Poulter

You know, you can be in that room on your own, looking after these snails. And you peel back the cling film on the lid to reach in, and you're actually feeding the last individuals. That's it.

David Kestenbaum

He wondered, what would it be like if you had the last elephant? Within a year, eight of the snails had died, which meant they were down to one snail-- the last bean snail. Some snails can reproduce without a mate-- basically impregnate themselves. Every time he went in there, Ross would check to see if there was a baby. A month went by-- this one snail just doing its thing-- no baby. Two months, three months, six months.

Ross Poulter

I remember when I went in there to do my morning checks, and it was quite clearly dead. And I do remember just standing there looking at it, thinking, it's actually very sad, you know? It was quite thought provoking.

David Kestenbaum

He thought about how the famous British explorer, Captain James Cook, had been there at the beginning. And now, at the other end, him, Ross Poulter, looking at the last one.

Ross Poulter

So you have all those kind of thoughts. And I was in there on my own. And nobody else at that moment knew about it.

Jo Elliott

I still remember vividly the day that they brought that last snail up in a little alcohol tube to preserve it for posterity. And just everyone was heartbroken.

David Kestenbaum

This is Jo Elliott, who was overseeing things.

Jo Elliott

I mean, at the time, you get on with it. You're professional. You deal with it. But that snail-- I kept it on my desk for a long time as a reminder of what it is we're trying to do and what we're trying to avoid.

David Kestenbaum

Was that the first thing you'd worked with that you'd actually watched to go extinct?

Jo Elliott

Yep that's the only thing I've worked with that I've seen go extinct in that way. It's quite a life-changing experience.

David Kestenbaum

Yeah, I feel like, you know, it says something about our species that we're in this position in the first place.

Jo Elliott

Yeah, absolutely, because this was an entirely man-made situation.

David Kestenbaum

But it also says something that there are so many people trying so hard to keep them alive.

Jo Elliott

Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah, both sides of the coin.

David Kestenbaum

As far as I can tell, the end of the snail that had been around for a million years-- other than a handful of people, nobody noticed-- no stories in the papers or online. I'd wanted to know what it was like to come face to face with extinction. Ross knew. When the last one died, Ross was the one who put it in the glass jar. It's his neat handwriting on the side that says, P Faba, for partula faba. Last known individual, he wrote. I asked if he'd managed to absorb what had happened.

He said, I don't know how to answer that. Even when you see it up close, it's hard to understand. It's too big. It's not on our time scale at all. You'd have to somehow be able to imagine snails being born one generation after another for, like, a million years and then it stopping-- in Ross' case, on some Sunday at the office before your very eyes. What are you supposed to do after that?

We're so used to stories about people on deadline facing one last chance to save things and figuring out some way at the last moment. But I think the truth is when you get to the point where things are so desperate, they are down to one last chance, it's rarely a good one. I know. That's a terrible way to end a story. But it's a fact.

Ira Glass

David Kestenbaum is our show's senior editor.

Well, our program was produced by Sean Cole. The people who put together today's program include Elna Baker, Michael Comite, Valerie Kipnis, Miki Meek, Katherine Rae Mondo, Michelle Navarro, Stowe Nelson, Nadia Reiman, Ryan Rumery, Charlotte Sleeper, Frances Swanson, Christopher Swetala, Matt Tierney, and Diane Wu. Our Managing Editor is Sarah Abdurrahman. Our Executive Editor is Emanuele Berry.

Special thanks today to Maria Hollenhorst, Craig Hilton-Taylor, Justine Paradis, Jack Rodolico, Katie Colaneri, Ed Spiker, Dan Barrick, Maureen McMurray, Stephen Andersen, Susan Solomon, Robert Watson, Joseph Steed, and Jim Baker. Our website is thisamericanlife.org, where you can stream our archive of over 750 episodes for absolutely free. Also, there are videos. There are lists of favorite shows if you're looking for something to listen to and tons of other stuff there. Again, 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, we were at the car rental place the other day. We waited in line forever. The rental people were so rude. Finally, Torey just lost it. He said, we're going somewhere else-- Avis, Enterprise, Hertz-- anyplace but this place.

Torey Malatia

This Budget just does not work.

Ira Glass

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