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Bluff The Listener


BILL KURTIS: From NPR and WBEZ Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME, the NPR news quiz. I'm Bill Kurtis. We're playing this week with Alonzo Bodden, Adam Burke and Faith Salie. And here again is your host, a man who by any other name would smell as sweet, Peter Sagal.



Thank you so much, Bill. Right now, it is time for the WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME Bluff the Listener game. Call 1-888-WAIT-WAIT to play our game on the air.

Hi, you're on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.

JON GEIGER: This is Jon calling from Detroit.

SAGAL: Hey, how are things in Detroit?

GEIGER: You know, there's a pandemic.


SAGAL: What do you do there in Detroit?

GEIGER: I work as the head preparator and exhibitions coordinator for the Cranbrook Art Museum here.

SAGAL: Oh, very cool. Do you have a specialty as a curator?

GEIGER: I - actually, my job is to set up the exhibition, so I manage all of the art handling and install work and construction and design of the exhibitions.

SAGAL: Have - I've always wondered this because I know how much care you guys take moving art. Have you ever dropped something?

GEIGER: (Laughter) Not an artwork, but I have dropped some tools from ladders up pretty high.

SAGAL: And it did crush a 4,000-year-old vase.

GEIGER: (Laughter).

SAGAL: But you didn't drop the vase, and that's the important thing.

GEIGER: Yeah. That's the (laughter)...

SAGAL: Jon, it's great to have you with us. You're going to play the game in which you must try to tell truth from fiction. Bill, what's Jon's topic?

KURTIS: Turn that lockdown frown upside-lockdown-down.

SAGAL: People have been getting through this pandemic in all kinds of ways. They're getting dogs. They're baking bread. They're dodging high-school Zoom reunions. Our panelists are going to tell you about a surprising new way someone is coping with pandemic life. Pick the one who's telling the truth, you will win our prize - the WAIT WAITer of your choice on your voicemail. Ready to play?

GEIGER: Yeah, let's do it.

SAGAL: Let's do it. First, let's hear from Adam Burke.

ADAM BURKE: While a new DNA study has shown that dogs are humans' longest-running animal companion, clocking in at some 11,000 years, they are about to be surpassed as humankind's pet du jour by a creature that has taken about that long to slither into our collective affections. That's right - the humble garden snail has emerged as the domesticated animal a la mode. And by a la mode, we mean in the sense of all the rage and not a la mode in the sense of smothered in ice cream for a Frenchman's breakfast.

FAITH SALIE: (Laughter).

BURKE: The most recent wave of mollusk mania began, as all things must, on TikTok, when a user called Lazy Mermaid (ph) posted a video of her sister's pet gastropod taking a shower in the sink, which American TikTok thought was cute and Parisian TikTok thought was a recipe.

SALIE: (Laughter).

BURKE: With hundreds of people taking to the slimy critter, it can only be a matter of time before they replace the canine supremacy in popular culture - a remake of "Old Yeller," perhaps, called "Old Sheller," which ends...

SALIE: (Laughter).

BURKE: ...With Travis tearfully walking into the woods with a container of salt - or Disney's "The Incredible Journey"...

SALIE: (Laughter).

BURKE: ...Transformed from an 80-minute movie about dogs going home to an all-snail version, which will be the longest film in cinematic history.

SALIE: (Laughter).

BURKE: Or, of course, a mollusk-themed redo of "Marley And Me" entitled "Marley Et Moi" (ph), which will appear exclusively in France on the Food Network.

SALIE: (Laughter).

SAGAL: People adopting pet snails during the pandemic out of, I guess, a desperation for company. Your next story of a quarantine coper comes from Faith Salie.

SALIE: The pandemic has been a hairy situation for most of us, which is why Austin couple Violet (ph) and Dashiell Gibbs (ph) decided to turn people's pandemic hair into art. Last month, when Dashiell, a beekeeper, finally cut the foot-long beard he'd been growing since March, Violet couldn't bear to let her husband's wiry red and gray strands go, nor could she throw out the locks of her 9-year-old twins, Simone (ph) and Beckett (ph).

I didn't even want to compost their hair, says Violet, who's a doula. It all meant too much. It was a metaphor for the wildness and growth we've experienced during this time. So she and Dashiell braided the family hair into a frame in which their kids placed a word cloud of their feelings. After posting their creation on Facebook, they were besieged by folks asking if the Gibbs would weave other families' hair into art.

At first, they did it for free. They braided tree ornaments, created hair mosaics, even covered a tzedakah box for a rabbi friend. But after a while, they needed to charge for their work. We were receiving strangers' hair that had stuff like banana bread batter in it, and it was taking a lot of our time, Dashiell explains. You can now find the Gibbs' company on Etsy. It's called, of course, Shelt-hair in Place (ph).

BURKE: (Laughter).

SAGAL: A family in Austin turning to making art from all that excess pandemic hair. Your last story of a hot new pandemic trend comes from Alonzo Bodden.

ALONZO BODDEN: We're all staring at screens these days, Zoom after Zoom, but it takes a special kind of guy to get obsessed with how fast he's Zooming. Lance Panya (ph), an IT supervisor in Delaware, was comparing download speeds with his pal, coder Peter Jones (ph). Yeah, he said, my 1,000 MPS system really works for me. One thousand, laughed Jones. How long does it take you to watch an episode of "The Office?" Two weeks? And it was on.

Panya spent $1,700 to upgrade his system to 2,000 MPS. Jones countered with a $10,000 Internet node that got him up to 3,000. Pretty soon, they had reached the technological limit, so they had to get creative. Panya installed his own diesel generator, so he wouldn't lose speed to power fluctuations. Jones told his wife and daughter to move out, so they wouldn't suck up bandwidth with their stupid movies - just until we know who's boss, he said.

Pretty soon, the competition spread through tech websites. Nerds all over the country were hotrodding their Internet, trying to get to the unreachable ideal - faster-than-light Wi-Fi. Jones, who by his own admission has spent $50,000 on his pursuit, including the cost for a divorce lawyer, says he doesn't regret a thing.

SALIE: (Laughter).

BODDEN: I have a dream, he says, for someone to get an email from me before I send it.

BURKE: (Laughter).

SAGAL: All right, then. Somebody figured out something to do to pass the time during the pandemic. From Adam Burke, is it that people are adopting pet snails - so adorable, so easy to care for; from Faith Salie, a family that started making beautiful crafts out of all that excess pandemic hair growth; or from Alonzo Bodden, a group of geeks who are competing with each other to get the ultimate download speed? Which of these is the real story of pandemic pastimes in the news?

GEIGER: Well, we took up chickens during this pandemic, but I'll have to go on a similar route and go with the snail story.

SAGAL: All right, then. You've chosen Adam's story of snail pets. Well, we spoke to someone who actually is pursuing this pastime.


MADDISON HERBERBRAND: I was thinking about buying a dog during the pandemic, but that seemed like a lot of maintenance. And they were having a two-for-one deal on snails, so that's how I ended up with two snails in the pandemic.


SAGAL: It was a bargain. That was Maddison Herberbrand (ph). She is a proud pandemic snail owner. Congratulations. You got it right. You earned a point for Adam. You've won our prize, the voice of your choice on your voicemail. Thank you so much for playing with us today.

GEIGER: Yeah, thank you, guys.

SAGAL: Congratulations. And take care out there.

GEIGER: Yeah, you all as well.


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