A Walking Zip-Code Look-Up

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You may know where 90210 is, but what about 76707? Meet Boulder, Colo.'s local "superhero": the Mighty Zip Code Man. David Rossteicher has memorized more than 30,000 zip codes, a skill that he shows off to passersby on city streets. Host John Ydstie talks with Rossteicher and pushes his skills to the limit.

JOHN YDSTIE, host:

Jugglers, mimes and magicians come a dime a dozen in summer tourist spots, but in Boulder, Colorado, on the Pearl Street Mall, there is a street performer unlike any other.

(Soundbite of street performance)

Mr. DAVID ROSDEITCHER (Mighty ZIP Code Man): OK, show time. Hi.

Unidentified Woman #1: Hi.

Unidentified Woman #2: Hi.

Mr. ROSDEITCHER: I'd like to introduce myself. I'm the Mighty ZIP Code Man. What's your name?

DON (Passerby): Don.

Mr. ROSDEITCHER: What ZIP code do you come from?

DON: 44691.

Mr. ROSDEITCHER: You came from a place called Wooster, Ohio.

DON: What?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROSDEITCHER: There's a good--there's a Chinese restaurant there.

DON: Yeah.

Mr. ROSDEITCHER: The Hunan Garden.

DON: Yeah.

Mr. ROSDEITCHER: Yeah. That's where I always like to eat whenever I'm in Wooster, Ohio.

Now does anybody else come from out of town?

Unidentified Women: Yeah, right here. Me! Here! Here! Here!

Mr. ROSDEITCHER: And what's your name?

Unidentified Woman #3: Oh, man.

CALEB (Passerby): Caleb.

Mr. ROSDEITCHER: Caleb? What ZIP code?

CALEB: 52567.

Mr. ROSDEITCHER: You came from a place that's actually on a farm next to Fairfield, Iowa.

CALEB: Yeah.

Mr. ROSDEITCHER: And in Fairfield, you ate at a restaurant there called the Ma-Ha Ru-Shu Grill(ph).

CALEB: No, I never ate there.

Mr. ROSDEITCHER: Oh, you should try it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

YDSTIE: ZIP Code Man joins us now from KGNU in Boulder, Colorado. His real name is David Rosdeitcher.

This is kind of amazing, David. Do you have a photographic memory?

Mr. ROSDEITCHER: Not really. I've always been into maps. And ever since I was a kid, I always had a feeling for numbers. Numbers, to me, had personalities, and so do places.

YDSTIE: How did you manage to memorize all these numbers? You say you don't have a photographic memory.

Mr. ROSDEITCHER: Well, there's a pattern to the numbers, to the ZIP codes, the way they're low in the East, high in the West, which makes it a lot easier. And I had a juggling act, and when I had the juggling show, I would go to different cities all over America. And on my way to these places, I would visit all these hundreds and hundreds of towns all over the country just because I was curious about them. So I had this in-depth knowledge of America that most people don't have.

YDSTIE: But were you memorizing ZIP codes then, or did that come later?

Mr. ROSDEITCHER: No, that came later, back in--I started that in '91.

YDSTIE: And do you now just go through the postal ZIP code book and...

Mr. ROSDEITCHER: Yeah.

YDSTIE: How many ZIP codes are there anyway?

Mr. ROSDEITCHER: I don't know the answer exactly. I'm guessing somewhere between 50 and 70,000 in the US.

YDSTIE: And how many do you know?

Mr. ROSDEITCHER: Between 35 and 40,000.

YDSTIE: Well, just in case there are any doubters in our audience, who think maybe you plant some friends in the crowd or use slight of hand...

Mr. ROSDEITCHER: Right.

YDSTIE: ...we're going to make you prove your talents right here on the air. Several of our staff members are going to come into the studio and--OK, first we have Walter Watson. He's our boss, so you'd better get it right.

WALTER WATSON: 76707.

Mr. ROSDEITCHER: It's in Waco, Texas.

WATSON: Oh, man!

YDSTIE: All right. Way to go.

WATSON: He got it!

Mr. ROSDEITCHER: Right on the west side of Baylor University.

YDSTIE: And now Alice Winkler.

ALICE WINKLER: 07042.

Mr. ROSDEITCHER: It's in Montclair, New Jersey.

WINKLER: Yeah.

YDSTIE: Excellent. We have another ZIP code from a staff member who couldn't make it to the studio, Steve Lickteig. And the number is 66080. (Singing) Dun-dum dum-dum dum-dum.

Mr. ROSDEITCHER: Hmm. It's this little place that begins with an S, right, and it's right next to Lawrence, Kansas?

YDSTIE: It doesn't begin with an S, but you're ver...

Mr. ROSDEITCHER: Oh, R! R!

YDSTIE: It is an R, yes.

Mr. ROSDEITCHER: It's called Rayford, Kansas.

YDSTIE: N...

Mr. ROSDEITCHER: Or Rena...

YDSTIE: Rich...

Mr. ROSDEITCHER: Rich--wait.

YDSTIE: ...mo...

Mr. ROSDEITCHER: Richfield, Kansas. No.

YDSTIE: Richmo...

Mr. ROSDEITCHER: Richmond, Kansas.

YDSTIE: Richmond, Kansas. There you go. Population 352.

Next is Tracy Wahl.

TRACY WAHL: 80720.

Mr. ROSDEITCHER: Acton, Coloro--wait, wait. 80720.

WAHL: You're really, really close. It's...

Mr. ROSDEITCHER: Acton.

WAHL: ...Akron.

Mr. ROSDEITCHER: Akron, Colorado.

WAHL: Akron, Colorado.

Mr. ROSDEITCHER: Akron, Colorado.

WAHL: Yeah.

YDSTIE: All right. I'm going to stump you.

Mr. ROSDEITCHER: Go ahead.

YDSTIE: This is the town where I grew up: 58385.

Mr. ROSDEITCHER: Oh, whoa. 58385.

YDSTIE: It's a palindrome.

Mr. ROSDEITCHER: Yes, and it's this place right on Devils Lake, North Dakota.

YDSTIE: It's actually a little town up Highway 2 from Devils Lake.

Mr. ROSDEITCHER: OK.

YDSTIE: And it's called Wolford, North Dakota.

Mr. ROSDEITCHER: OK.

YDSTIE: And you're forgiven. And what restaurant do you eat in when you're in Wolford?

Mr. ROSDEITCHER: They do not have any restaurants there. Your mom's house--you eat at your mom's house. I have never had this many places I didn't know in a show I've ever done because people in a crowd are usually from places where there are other people living there. If it's a town more than a thousand...

YDSTIE: Yeah.

Mr. ROSDEITCHER: ...I'm probably not going to get stumped.

YDSTIE: You know, this is quite an impressive skill that you have. Have you ever thought you might put it to better use?

Mr. ROSDEITCHER: No. It's perfectly useful right now. It makes people laugh.

YDSTIE: Thanks very much.

David Rosdeitcher, the ZIP Code Man. He joined us from 80301. For the rest of you, that's Boulder, Colorado.

(Soundbite of street performance)

Mr. ROSDEITCHER: Anybody else? What's your name?

ZACH (Passerby): Zach.

Mr. ROSDEITCHER: Zach. What's your ZIP code?

ZACH: 98506.

Mr. ROSDEITCHER: You came from a place called Olympia, Washington, and you ate at a really good restaurant there called the Oyster House.

ZACH: Oh, yeah. Yeah. I've been there.

Mr. ROSDEITCHER: And that's where I like to go...

ZACH: That's right.

Mr. ROSDEITCHER: ...whenever I'm in Olympia, Washington. But...

ZACH: 'Cause they have Olympia oysters there, correct?

Mr. ROSDEITCHER: Yes, it's right on the waterfront there. Very nice. But that's just me. OK. Now watch this. I'm going to make something on the ground here. See if you can guess what it is.

YDSTIE: This is NPR News.

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