An accountant, Bruce Wisan, is hired by the state of Utah to clean up a very complicated mess in a complicated place: Short Creek, home to hundreds of members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints—or FLDS, which practices polygamy. The community had been run by the notorious Warren Jeffs, now in prison for rape.
We meet Russell, 19, the best mobile phone salesman in the mall — and possibly anywhere. His talent for sales is matched only by those of his girlfriend, Chandler, 18, a waitress.
Yes, some stores are going out of business in the Cool Springs Galleria, but it's just two stores. We talk to staff at one store that’s closing down, and at another, in the food court, where business is great.
A tale of two Santas. There's Tim Conaghan, a full-time professional Santa with a big belly and a real flowing white beard.
In a part of the mall no shoppers ever see, there's a snug, dark little room with 43 TV screens, one for each of the cameras in the hallways and parking lots, the roof and the loading dock. We hang out with the security people who work in there, seeing what they see.
A bad apple, at least at work, can spoil the whole barrel. And there's research to prove it.
Host Ira Glass talks with a veteran Human Resources administrator about what it's like to fire people, and why it helps if you don't actually use the word "fire." (7 minutes)
We hear from New York City school teachers about a secret room in the New York City Board of Education building. Teachers are told to report there, and when they arrive, they find out they're under investigation for something.
Host Ira Glass spends time in perhaps the toughest room on earth, the editorial meeting at the satirical newspaper, The Onion, where there's one laugh for every 100 jokes.
Host Ira Glass talks to reporter John Bowe about the story of John Nash Pickle, who ran a company in Tulsa, Oklahoma that made steel tanks used in the oil industry. According to 52 Indian men whom Pickle hired and brought to America, Pickle was trying to compete with foreign companies, doing something most companies never try.
We continue the story of John Pickle. He hires skilled, experienced welders in India and brings them to the United States.
Host Ira Glass talks with some real-live NASA astronauts: Cady Coleman, Chris Cassidy, and Marsha Ivins. On average, NASA schedules just a couple of space missions a year.
This American Life contributor John Hodgman was unexpectedly chosen to be in a series of high-profile Apple Computer commercials (he plays a PC). He tells the story of what happens when celebrity hunts you down and finds you...on your living room couch, pushing 40, and a couple sizes larger than you want to be.
This American Life producer Alex Blumberg talks with Ed Ugel, who had a very unusual dream job: He bought jackpots from lottery winners. When you win the lottery, your prize is often paid out in yearly installments.
Host Ira Glass talks to an expert stone cutter who makes headstones. One day he got a call from a guy who wanted him to make his headstone in advance, which is not all that uncommon.
Host Ira Glass visits the Upper East Side building in Manhattan where Peter Roach has been the super for about ten years. Peter has a lot of keys.
A man who we're calling "Dennis" inherits his father's job as a landlord of a big apartment building. His dad had warned him that bad tenants could drive even a good man to become heartless, but Dennis vowed that would never happen to him. He's tested on this point when he tries to help a couple that falls behind in their rent.
Host Ira Glass talks to Scott Shrake, who got hired for a job he was utterly unqualified for – as a German interpreter for visitors to Detroit. On his first assignment, Scott realized that not only couldn't he understand what the German tourists were saying, he didn't understand the English words he was supposed to translate.
Marti Noxon used to work for a company that did "product placement" for the movie industry. When auditors came to check that clients were being correctly billed, the company's bosses took unusual steps.
Bob Berenz had a good job as an electrician. But he wanted to do something bigger.
When Aric Knuth was a little kid, his dad would leave for six months at a time. He was a merchant marine.
Dawna Lentz was a new employee at Quiznos sub shop in Seattle when the franchise owners just gave up. They stopped buying supplies, stopped answering their phones.
Charles Johnson was living in St. Louis, married with a young daughter, and he had no job.
How NOT to get a job in U.S. intelligence: Admit to being a pervert during your job interview. Somehow, though, that's exactly what happened to a perfectly normal, nice guy who we're calling "Matt" for the purposes of this story.