Did You Hear It On NPR? Young Professionals Share What They Know Over Drinks
Not more than a few days ago, I was doing a bit of late-night dining and drinking in a pub in Hollywood. The theme of the place was Gothic and macabre. Miniature black and brown coffins were screwed into the darkened walls. Glass skulls adorned the ledges just above the heads of the diners and drinkers. Reflective streamers shimmered overhead. The music was too loud, and each song had a Spanish flair.Two large round tables away from me sat a group of what looked to be young professionals. Three women and two men, dressed in what can only be called ‘business casual’. The females wore single color blouses beneath bland blazers, and the men wore vests and ties. I’d find out later that they were either elementary and high school teachers, or marketers.
I sipped my beer. A good pale ale. The server took my plate, with its leftover crumbs and bits of parsley, back to the kitchen. One of the young men stood from the table. He came over and introduced himself as Peter Sable. “I think we live in the same apartment complex,” he said.
You don’t look familiar, I told him, but that doesn’t mean you’re not right. We hesitantly verified the address and found that we both did, indeed, live in the same building. “Why don’t you join us?” he said. “Since you’re alone.” I didn’t want to interrupt, and I told him so. I’m lousy with chit chatting, I said. But he insisted, so I moved my beer to their table and took the last available stool.
Introductions were shaky. I pretended to be interested in Peter’s friends — Byron, Samantha, Gloria, and Charla. You’re all dressed so well, I said, maybe I should return to my table and find company in my caste.
“You look fine,” Gloria said. Everybody agreed. Byron, in his purple dress shirt and black vest, reached out and touched the fabric of my sleeve. “Very nice shirt,” he said.
I wear it almost every day, I told him. That’s how much I like it. Charla nodded, smiled, and moved her shoulders to the pounding beat of music. A tiny piece of rice, tinted yellow, stuck to her right breast, about one inch above the crack of her pale cleavage. A remnant of her earlier meal. I tried hard not to stare. I saw Byron’s eyes dart toward her breasts. He licked his lips. Right, I thought, in this poor economy not even one grain of rice should go to waste.
Conversation waned, almost like my presence suddenly stuffed the collective discussion. Everybody drank from their glasses and tried to look amiable. Random smiles and shrugs rippled around our circle until, finally, Samantha broke in. “I heard on NPR today that hand dryers, you know, the ones in bathrooms, used to take 35-40 seconds to actually dry people’s hands. So even though the product was a good one, most people didn’t want to wait that long.”
“I never use them,” Peter said. Byron agreed.
Samantha continued, “The old hand dryers used to waste so much energy. Now, they make them dry hands in 12 seconds, and they are much greener.”
The group collectively nodded, exchanged their personal experiences with using hand dryers in the bathroom, and then there was silence again. Everybody drank. Gloria and Charla glanced around the bar and mentioned how cool and crazy the design and atmosphere was. The grain of rice hung tight.
After a few moments of silence, Peter said, “On NPR they were saying that the most commonly used test to detect prostate cancer is actually very unreliable.” Byron asked him why that was, and if there were other available tests. “Not really,” Peter said, although he admitted he didn’t know. “It’s tricky, they were saying, and I guess it’s a real problem when detecting early forms of prostate cancer.”
Charla admitted that tricky prostate cancer screening was an intriguing subject, and damn, how much it sucked that that was the case, but also that, while we were talking about health, she’d heard that Americans are, on average, undernourished in Potassium. “You can eat beans and peas, I guess,” she said, “and bananas and dates to get your quota.”
And rice, I mentioned, might have Potassium, too. I was tempted to kindly mention the piece stuck to her chest. It looked liked a tiny boat caught on the swell of a giant white wave. In fact, I thought I’d just opened up the perfect opportunity to say something, when Gloria visibly became excited. She grabbed her drink and opened her mouth. In the middle of Charla’s sentence she said, “I heard that too!”
On NPR, I said.
“Yeah!” Gloria said. “I know they do a lot of health stuff on NPR. They had a report the other day about Americans getting too much Vitamin C.” She put her dark blue finger nails to her hairline and pushed back a load of dark, curly hair. “I think it was NPR…”
“It was,” Charla said. “They said even a cup of trail mix can get you on your way to getting enough Potassium for the day–”
I like to keep up with the news, too, I said. Did anybody hear about that man who was so good at meditation he meditated right through his house burning down? Didn’t even flinch, the firefighters said. Found him sitting in a dignified sitting posture.
“Oh my God,” Byron said. “I’ve never meditated. Is it that powerful?”
Not usually, I said, if a person has a healthy sense of self-preservation.
“I hadn’t heard that,” Gloria said. Everybody at the table admitted they hadn’t, neither.
I guess NPR didn’t report that one, I said.
“Where did you hear that?” Samantha asked. She shook the ice in her glass. The server stopped by and asked if we needed another round. I declined. Everybody else requested a refill.
I don’t remember if they reported this on NPR, I said, but I also heard the White House was forced to answer a petition about why the children in other countries, killed by our military, don’t get a teary press conference from the president. Basically, I said, the spokesman answered that the president cannot shed tears for everybody, and they’d have to limit it to only children murdered in the United States, and only if it’s a big enough catastrophe, like Sandy Hook Elementary.
“That’s true,” Samantha said, “Obama can’t cry for everybody. There are so many horrors in the world.”
And children in Yemen and Pakistan, I said, just aren’t of the same quality as children in America. Everybody knows that.
“That was on NPR?” Peter asked.
I’m not sure, I said. If it wasn’t, it should have been.
“It wasn’t,” Charla said. Gloria agreed. “I listen to NPR almost every day and would have remembered that one.”
“That’s terrible,” Samantha said. “I mean, really? Obama’s so busy. He can’t be everywhere at once. Nobody gives him a break. Especially Republicans.”
When the next round of drinks were brought to the table, I excused myself. Everybody said they were glad to have met me. I shook Peter’s hand. Byron squeezed my shoulder. I patted the tall back of the stool I’d been sitting in.
You people stay interesting! I said. Don’t let your unique spirits wither in this sad, mass-produced world.