Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!

Bluff The Listener

Our panelists tell us three stories of office dangers, only one of which is true.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

CARL KASELL: From NPR and WBEZ-Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!, the NPR News quiz. I'm Carl Kasell. We're playing his week with Roy Blount Jr., Amy Dickinson, and Tom Bodett. And, here again is your host, at the Merrill Auditorium in Portland, Maine, Peter Sagal.

PETER SAGAL, HOST:

Thank you, Carl.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Thank you everybody. Right now, it's 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!.

JUSTIN BARRY: Hi, this is Justin Barry from Grand Forks, North Dakota.

SAGAL: Grand Forks, North Dakota.

BARRY: Yes.

SAGAL: I may be the first person ever to say that in an excited tone.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: But what do you do there?

BARRY: I teach at a local community college.

SAGAL: Are you from there?

BARRY: Yeah, I'm from the other side of North Dakota, the warmer side. I'm from more of the banana belt of North Dakota.

SAGAL: Really?

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Where they grow the famous North Dakota pineapples.

BARRY: Exactly.

SAGAL: Or they will soon.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Well, Justin, it's nice to have you with us. You're going to play the game in which you must try to tell truth from fiction. Carl, what is Justin's topic?

KASELL: Just when you thought it was safe to go back in your cubicle.

SAGAL: Firefighters and ice road truckers are not the only workers who risk their lives. It turns out, office drones sitting in cubicles face a number of silent killers that they're not aware of. Our panelists are going to tell you about them. Guess the real workplace hazard in the news this week and you will win Carl's voice on your voicemail. Ready to go?

BARRY: I'm ready.

SAGAL: Let's hear from Tom Bodett first.

TOM BODETT: Facebook and cat videos may save your life. People in tech support call centers are starting to actually die from boredom.

(LAUGHTER)

BODETT: One minute they're sitting in their cubbies staring at monitors, reading scripts into their headsets. "Is your computer plugged in? Is it turned on?"

(LAUGHTER)

BODETT: The next, bam, dead on their keyboards.

(LAUGHTER)

BODETT: After investigating several of these mysterious deaths in call centers from Minot to El Paso, forensics expert Dr. Gordon Hayward has determined that extreme, paralyzing boredom, such as that found in particular work environments, reduces mental activity to less than 10 percent of the 10 percent of our brains that we use in the first place.

(LAUGHTER)

BODETT: This can cause the brain to go into a passive meta state, similar to that achieved by most advanced yogis during their meditations.

(LAUGHTER)

BODETT: "Yogis, however, aren't generally staring into a flickering monitor while wearing a headset," said Dr. Gordon. "The combination of brain stasis and the dynamo hum of technology can cause the brain to essentially switch off." Gordon encourages office workers to frequently check their Facebook pages, join online gambling clubs, and download World of Minecraft 2.3 for good measure.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Call center operators can die from boredom. Your next story of unexpected office danger comes from Amy Dickinson.

AMY DICKINSON: It's really hard to be a good customer service phone representative when you're actually gasping for breath and begging your customers to rescue you. At least that's what workers at the Perish Reed Insurance Company in Bangor, Maine have discovered.

(LAUGHTER)

DICKINSON: A series of very unfortunate incidents revealed that younger workers got really hung up trying to make calls on old fashioned landline phones.

(LAUGHTER)

DICKINSON: They inadvertently wrapped themselves up in their phone cords and tripped themselves and each other, while trying to walk and talk, sweeping computer monitors off their desk in the process.

(LAUGHTER)

DICKINSON: One young sales rep asked her own customer to call 911...

(LAUGHTER)

DICKINSON: ...after accidentally wrapping her phone cord around her own neck and falling to the floor.

(LAUGHTER)

DICKINSON: Management responded by offering training. One exercise involved attaching cords to their sales reps' cell phones and tying the cords together around a central pole. When seven trainees managed to tie themselves together in what was later referred to as the maypole of death...

(LAUGHTER)

DICKINSON: ...management gave up and went completely cordless. Executive Vice President Sarah Potter said, "we run an insurance company for God's sake. It would be really great if our employees could get through the day without risking their own lives, just by making a phone call."

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Phone cords.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: ...causing terrible problems for people at a call center in Bangor. Your last story of a workplace peril comes from Roy Blount.

ROY BLOUNT JR: Watch out. Don't panic. Just back away slowly. You're looking at a live paperclip.

(LAUGHTER)

JR: This week, the Manchester office of Britain's National Health Service issued a directive to all its employees that they must forthwith dispose of all metal paperclips. It seems that one of the office's workers, whether or not using the paperclip appropriately, was scratched by a paperclip.

(LAUGHTER)

JR: So that all personnel would be fully apprised of the exact nature of the paperclip threat, the directive included an actual photograph of one of those twisted metal menaces.

(LAUGHTER)

JR: Fortunately, the directive is only one-page long.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

JR: So it need not be held together by a hazardous device.

SAGAL: All right then.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: So somewhere somebody is under an unexpected threat. Is it from Tom Bodett that workers at a help center could die from boredom from their dull jobs? From Amy Dickinson, people in a customer service office getting tangled in phone cords? Or from Roy Blount Jr., a warning that paperclips are dangerous devices? Which of these is the real story of a workplace danger in the news?

BARRY: Wow. I'm going to have to go with Roy's story.

SAGAL: All right, you're going to pick Roy's story of the dangerous paperclips in Manchester, England. Well, we spoke to somebody familiar with the true story.

RICHARD NELSON: If you misuse a paperclip, it's possible to hurt your finger with it...

(APPLAUSE)

NELSON: But our belief is that paperclips don't hurt people, people hurt people.

SAGAL: That's what they say.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: That was Richard Nelson of ACCO Brands. That's one of the largest paperclip suppliers in the nation, defending the safety of the paperclip from those bureaucrats in Manchester, England. Congratulations, Justin, you got it right. Well done.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: You earned a point for Roy. You've won our prize. Carl Kasell will, of course, record the greeting on your home voicemail. Well done.

BARRY: All right.

SAGAL: Thanks for playing.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!