One of the things I collect, besides grievances against all those who have wronged me, is stories of what people do while they're listening to the show: dish washing, house-cleaning, laundry. One guy told me our show helped him strip the paint from his boat one summer. Stephen Colbert told me he listens to our show while chopping vegetables for soup. (Though he told Ira Glass the same thing, so now I'll never trust again.) Many people, knowing I'm a runner, tell me our show has gotten through some long lonely runs. My job: making America's otherwise dreary tasks bearable. Hey, somebody's got to do it.
Last night, after our taping, we were greeting the audience members and signing autographs, per usual, when I was approached by a lovely young woman, and her date, both seemingly in their mid-twenties. She was dressed, or rather decorated, in hipster/goth style, with black hair, piercings, and a fine collection of rings. In fact, I complimented her on her lovely Green Lantern power ring, and she told me she had it custom made at Tiffany's. "Blue Box and everything," she said.
So she was telling me about how much she likes the show, and that she often listens at work, when maybe she shouldn't. I asked what she did for a living.
"I'm a mortician," she said.
"Yes, a mortician. And one of my jobs is that I prepare bodies to be medical school cadavers. And on Saturdays, sometimes, we get pretty busy, and I've got five machines going at once, so I really have to crank up the volume on your show."
"Machines?" I asked. "What machines?"
"Embalming machines," she said. "Although sometimes, they're so loud, I have to turn them off so I make sure I don't miss anything."
I thought about, but didn't mention, the great scene in the movie of "The Loved One" in which Mr. Joyboy, the lovelorn mortician sends messages to his beloved by arranging the faces of the dear departed into a smile or frown. I wondered if the quality of our show on any given week affected her work, similarly.