What Don't We Know About Life In A Recession? We know you're doing your best to keep your job, or looking hard for a new one. We know some are going back to school, and we know everybody's scrimping. But what don't we know? Tell us what you, your friends, family, co-workers and communities are doing now that's new.
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What Don't We Know About Life In A Recession?

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What Don't We Know About Life In A Recession?

What Don't We Know About Life In A Recession?

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This is Talk of the Nation. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Tens of thousands more layoffs today from among others Boeing, Starbucks, and Cessna, more dismal news on home sales and unemployment, another dizzying drop 200 points on Wall Street. Yes, the House passed the stimulus bill last night but its still needs to go to the Senate and even it's most ardent supporters don't believe recovery will follow swiftly. President Obama continues to warn that things will get worse before they get better. We know some of the things we're all doing to adapt more time in the library, more time with family, looking hard for work, making our own soap and planting vegetable gardens. But what don't we know about your lives in these new times?

We are resourceful and resilient people. What are you doing to adapt? Tracy Sanders emailed to tell us that she and her husband turned a long year of unemployment into a new board game called, Job Search, a game of frustration. In Ithica, New York, Bruce Staff(ph) wrote to report that that city is staging a winter recess teacher's festival, where more than 100 small business has joined a town-wide promotion to draw 4,000 teachers and families from 10 states with an economic impact of a quarter of a million dollars. So, what are you doing to adapt? What's new? 800-989-8255, email us talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our website. Just go to npr.org, click on Talk of the Nation. And we'll begin with Joseph(ph), and Joseph is on the line from Pell City in Alabama.

JOSEPH (Caller): Hello Robert. How are you?

CONAN: It's Neal, but go ahead.

JOSEPH: Oh, I'm sorry Neal. (Laughing) I turned off the radio and lost my train of thought. Neal, I owned a chain of bail bonding companies. And there's a direct correlation between unemployment and theft, as well as other things such as domestic violence and alcohol abuse. We're living fairly well.

CONAN: You're business is - it goes up in hard times?

JOSEPH: Sadly enough, ours is inversely proportionate to well, what's happening to the good of society.

CONAN: Are you hiring?

JOSEPH: Actually, we are. We just hired two people. We're expanding into three other counties, and we're doing OK. One other comment, I own a Superstate(ph) Publishing. We do some arcane work, translations of ancient text, and we have seen that go up also as people stay home.

CONAN: Translations of what kinds of ancient texts?

JOSEPH: We got the best-selling translation, I believe at this point, is the Lost of book of Enoch. Oddly enough, my degree is in theology. I just hunt down bad folks for a hobby.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: So, by day, you're translating lost books of the Bible, by night rather. And by day, you're tracking down fugitives?

JOSEPH: Yes. It's the other way around. But yes, that's exactly right, sad but true, you know.

CONAN: Any - does it bother you at all that you're profiting by other's misery?

(Soundbite of telephone static)

And I'm not sure what words we should read in to the fact Joseph's cell phone went out just at that moment. We thank him very for his call.

CONAN: Let's see if we can go now to Lynn, Lynn with us from Phoenix.

LYNN (Caller): Yeah. Hi.

CONAN: Hi Lynn.

LYNN: Hi. Well, I just thought to let you know what I'm doing. My business has fallen down. But I figured one thing I would do with some of my free time is I'm volunteering for a hospice at the valley here.

CONAN: And what do you do for a living?

LYNN: I'm a massage therapist.

CONAN: And so, when you don't have regular customers, paying customers, you go to a hospice?

LYNN: Yeah. I'm going to the - I'm graduating this Saturday. I'm going to be working with the people that are, you know, they're ending their life. Their life is ending. And so, I figured I'd do some volunteer work.

CONAN: And make them feel more comfortable.

LYNN: Yeah. And kind of help me out, you know, and kind of help me feel better. And then, the other thing I'm doing for my businesses I decided to - get together with some other friends of mine that, you know, aren't doing as good in there. Healing businesses in all that and we're going to have wellness parties at people's houses. We're bringing together massage therapist, hair stylist, these different things and going to people's houses and trying to get some business going.

CONAN: So, one stop shopping if you will.

LYNN: Yeah, yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LYNN: Well, you know, it's just like - somewhat, you know, you got to be creative with new ideas now.

CONAN: I like the idea of going to the hospice because as you point out it's going to make you feel better as much as it's going to make them feel better.

LYNN: Yeah, right. Just give me a way, you know, we need to get away from ourselves a little bit, you know. I know that we have to think about ourselves but it kind of helps me get away from that a little bit too.

CONAN: Thanks Lynn very much and good luck to you.

LYNN: Oh, thanks a lot.

CONAN: Bye bye.

LYNN: Bye.

CONAN: Let's see if we can go now. This is Rich, and Rich is with us - Rich, where are you?

RICH (Caller): I'm in Live Oak, California, a little town near Sacramento.

CONAN: Uh huh. And, what are you doing?

RICH: Well, we are losing our house due to foreclosure because of the way business and gas prices were last year. And we're moving our family into a motor home to make ends meet that way and keep our business going on the road.

CONAN: And what's your business?

RICH: I'm an airbrush artist. We do lots of body paintings, spray tattoos, and t-shirts at festivals and parties.

CONAN: So, you need to be mobile anyway?

RICH: Well, yeah, it helps to be mobile in this sort of work and so, we decided to go ahead and go all the way mobile.

CONAN: And how many of your family members are going to be living in that in that motor home?

RICH: Well, it would be my wife and I and our two children ages six and four, I'm sorry, seven. She just turned seven.

CONAN: Well, wish her a happy birthday from us too.

RICH: Thank you.

CONAN: And that's tight quarters and a seven-year-olds can be delightful, so could four-year-olds. Are there moments when they are less than delightful.

RICH: You know, it maybe a little tight but we are also lucky. My grandmother actually has some property with the hookups from the motor home and room to run. And she recently lost her sister. So, we're going to move in there and help her out. And she'll be helping us out and together as a family we'll figure out a way to make this work.

CONAN: And how long do you think you might have to continue doing this?

RICH: Well, we're planning on at least six to eight months until we can get our credit back up and get a little bit of cash together and then perhaps to find a place to rent.

CONAN: Keep a diary. I think you'd be interested to keep a diary. So, someday you can look back and have a better memory of what you and your family did.

RICH: You know, that's a great idea. I'm actually hoping to do some pod casting too. I've been listening to some of the other programs on NPR. And I think we might record some of it on audio and submit, we'll see.

CONAN: Alright. Having some experience with audio. The only danger with that is you're going to go back and edit it.

RICH: Oh, this is true.

CONAN: Alright. Thanks very much.

RICH: Thank you.

CONAN: And drive carefully.

RICH: I will. Bye bye.

CONAN: Bye bye. Let's see if we can go now to John(ph), and John with us from Grand Rapids, Michigan.

JOHN (Caller): Oh, hi Neal.

CONAN: Hi John. Go ahead please.

JOHN: Well, I work for a company that sells automated industrial equipment. And I did the installation and that sort of stuff. I find that I'm busier than ever now because the people that we sell to their staff, that they would normally have repairing the machineries, these people retire, later, get laid off or whatever. Instead of rehiring for that position they're calling me in to do the work.

CONAN: They're calling you in to install machinery to do the work..

JOHN: To repair the equipment that they had bought from us or in stuff like that.

CONAN: So instead of having in house mechanics come and repair the equipment, they're bringing you in from outside.

JOHN: Oh yeah. I got a lot of that. I'm very busy.

CONAN: So, this is again because of, well, other people's situations. I assume they'd prefer to have somebody in house. They don't have to wait for the contractor to come in from the outside. Nevertheless, because of those situations you're benefiting.

JOHN: Yeah, yeah. They see the, you know, savings. You know, they don't have to pay insurance, million, and things like that. And when they don't need me, they don't have to, you know - doesn't make their unemployment insurance go up. But yeah, that's - you know, they apparently realized the savings there somewhere. ..TEXT: CONAN: And in a way, you almost hate to look at it this way, but it's a little more efficient maybe.

JOHN: Yeah. Well, it can be. It's not very efficient when production line is down because that machine isn't running and I'm on my way there or can't get there that day.

CONAN: Well, John, where are you on - on your way to now?

JOHN: Well, right now, I actually just got (unintelligible) some equipment. I'm headed back to my home office to get my paperwork caught up.

CONAN: All right. John, drive carefully.

JOHN: Thank you.

CONAN: Thanks very much for the call. Let's go now to Curtis. Curtis, with us from Chesapeake, Virginia.

CURTIS (Caller): Hi, Neal. How are you?

CONAN: I'm well. Thanks.

CURTIS: Good. What I'm doing to compensate in this hard time is I have lowered my prices.

CONAN: And what do you do?

CURTIS: I'm a woodworker.

CONAN: And what kind of woodworking? Carpentry, that sort of thing?

CURTIS: Carpentry, but I also do all kinds of custom cabinetry and furniture.

CONAN: That can be pretty expensive.

CURTIS: It can be. You know, I'm the only one doing it either. In my trade, I would say even in my area that's doing pretty well, I'd say most of the woodworkers are lowering their prices.

CONAN: And that is in response to lowered demand?

CURTIS: No, not so much into - from lowered demand. Just that people are shopping a little harder and have less money to spend and it's if you want to get the job, you have to bid it at a lower price...

CONAN: I see.

CURTIS: In order to compensate for, you know, other's lower income.

CONAN: And because of all that - so in a way, you're helping the cost of living go down a little bit.

CURTIS: Well, let's hope so.

CONAN: Uh huh. And what about your cost of living?

CURTIS: My cost of living is not really going down.

CONAN: No, it's not. So how are you making it when you're actually charging less for your time?

CURTIS: Well, it's getting more and more difficult and I think that's something that isn't really being addressed. There's a lot of talk about people losing their jobs, but there are not - there isn't a lot of conversation going on about people actually working for less money, which is also hurting families.

CONAN: And do you - a lot of people get to work with their hands like woodworkers, who really love what they do.


CONAN: And that's compensation, too.

CURTIS: It is. If I didn't love what I was doing, I'd probably be looking into changing my situation, yeah.

CONAN: Yeah. I always say if I didn't love radio, you know, insurance is a pretty good business. (Laughing) (unintelligible) it is, but that's what I always say.

CURTIS: Well, I sure wouldn't get into real estate right now.

CONAN: No. It might not be the best time to do that.

CURTIS: (Laughing) No.

CONAN: Are you working mostly in re-having people's homes, helping them, you know, put in a new kitchen and that sort of thing or working on new homes?

CURTIS: I do some of both and I also work in the marine industry. Right now, I'm remodeling a 1970s yacht.

CONAN: That must be pretty cool.

CURTIS: It is. It's really cool. You know, a whole new galley, a whole new salon. And you know, there are still people around with money and in this situation, I've been able to bid the job rather competitively, I would say.

CONAN: Oh, congratulations.

CURTIS: Thank you.

CONAN: Appreciate it, Curtis.

CURTIS: Thanks, Neal.

CONAN: We're resilient people, we're resourceful. How are you responding to hard times? Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Send us an email, talk@npr.org. We report on your lives all the time. Well, we want you to report on your lives yourself. Tell us what we don't know about what you're doing. I'm Neal Conan. Stay with us. It's the Talk of the Nation from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is Talk of the Nation. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Every state in the union jumped in unemployment last month. In hard times, many people find creative ways to adapt and some people find that well, times can be difficult. This, from Rose in Michigan, the trend I am noticing, she emailed, and experiencing with this recession is the separation of families. Families cannot sell their homes and cannot find jobs where they own a home. In our family, this means that dad was working in the D.C. area with mom and the three kids at home in Michigan. We also know a number of other families with the same situation. So how are you adapting to difficult economic times? Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Send us an email, talk@npr.org. And let's see if we can go to Susie. Susie is with us from St. Louis.

SUSIE (Caller): Hi.

CONAN: Hi, Susie.

SUSIE: I was a college professor. And now, I am finding that my husband had to foreclose on about - well, 10 properties initially. People that didn't pay him anything tore our buildings apart, who were supposed to be re-having them, and so we had to take back these destroyed properties. So what we're doing is employing minority businessmen and women to do some of this work. Most of it in what you could maybe call marginalized communities. In some cases, it's the house that will be standing on the block. (Laughing)

CONAN: Right.

SUSIE: And - but it worked out really well because the communities have sort of rallied around us and gotten interested in what we're doing and gotten their friends that are interested in the neighborhood to kind of support, watch out for us. At one point, we were being broken into in one place multiple times. And we had a man from across the street with quite an interesting character. He said he would watch for us and he did, indeed. And called the police (unintelligible) saw any activity and now, we're not having break ends any more. And it's really wonderful because we can feel that the community is happy that good things are being done there.

CONAN: And so a story that starts out with - well, you might be a little discouraged about human nature.


CONAN: In the end or at least now, it's turning out to be well, a little sunnier.

SUSIE: Well, it is kind of a win-win situation because we're employing that were losing their jobs and we ourselves were losing our - well, actually, our savings - our retirement money. (Laughing)

CONAN: Yeah.

SUSIE: And we're beginning to recoup our investment. Their neighborhoods are looking better and people are being employed.

CONAN: So win-win...

SUSIE: Yeah.

CONAN: You said you were a university professor. What did you teach and did you lose your job?

SUSIE: I didn't lose my job. I had a reason to have to live.

CONAN: Uh huh.

SUSIE: It was a health reason. But no, it really has been wonderful.

CONAN: Well, Susie, congratulations and good luck.

SUSIE: Thank you.

CONAN: Bye-bye.

SUSIE: Bye-bye.

CONAN: Let's go now to - this is Zach(ph), Zach with us from Kalamazoo, also in Michigan.

ZACH (Caller): Yes.

CONAN: Go ahead, please.

ZACH: Well, first, I'd love to say I love your show.

CONAN: Thank you.

ZACH: I had been working in the environmental field in government and go laid off about a year ago. And now...

CONAN: That's supposed to be the growth sector of the industry.

ZACH: I know, I know. But money is not coming quick enough from Barack yet. (Laughing)


ZACH: And I just got a call today that I received the job with the Unemployment Agency here in Michigan, so the irony - it just kill you. (Laughing)

CONAN: So they found you a job or you're going to be working at the Unemployment Agency?

ZACH: I will be working at the Unemployment Agency.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Well, of course, any job is better than no job. But nevertheless, Zach, you're right. That's pretty rich.

ZACH: Yes, yes. But I'd love to thank you for letting us voice this - letting us voice our opinions in this economic time.

CONAN: One thing I want to ask, if that money and the stimulus package to do among other things, develop a green power, if that does come through and they start hiring again, I assume you'll be happy to leave the Unemployment office.

ZACH: Well, I hope they're not listening, but yes, Neal.

CONAN: All right.

ZACH: (Laughing) I would like to go back.

CONAN: In the meantime, you get to help other people in these situations that you were in as of this morning.

ZACH: Yeah, I know where they're coming from.

CONAN: All right, thanks very much.

ZACH: Thank you, Neal.

CONAN: Bye-bye.

ZACH: Bye.

CONAN: Let's go now to - this is Chuck. Chuck, with us from Ashland, Massachusetts.

CHUCK (Caller): Hi, Neal. I'm a re-modeler and remodeling contractor. I have been for 25 years. I had my entire winter canceled out - two big projects in a 48-hour period.

CONAN: Oh, my God.

CHUCK: Which turned out to be a mixed blessing. Actually, real blessing overall, yeah. I got this financial squeeze that's intense, but my mother, who's 93, had been declining a bit. Three weeks ago, she entered hospice care and suddenly, I have time to be with her and help with her care. And the other surprise that (unintelligible) with it, my daughter-in-law gave birth this weekend a bit prematurely to my first grandchild, which is very exciting, and I've been able to be there and back and forth doing many things. The previous month, I've been finishing up their house in the anticipation of this baby coming next month. And as we speak, I'm on my way back from the hospital to the house with the new baby.

CONAN: Well, congratulations.

CHUCK: And this couldn't have happened if I've been in my usual busy working conditions. So I'm feeling blessed even though I'm feeling squeezed here.

CONAN: Yeah, I can understand that. But this time is utterly precious.

CHUCK: Yes, yes.

CONAN: It's like that commercial - priceless.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Chuck, congratulations and we wish your mother well.

CHUCK: Thank you.

CONAN: Bye-bye.


CONAN: Here's an email we have. This is from Charice in Portland, Oregon. Five years ago, we purchased a 40-acre parcel of rural land, planning eventually to sell it at a profit to a developer. Now with the current economy and uncertainty about the future, we're seriously considering moving on to the property with some friends and living cooperatively growing our own organic produce - fruits and nuts - perhaps buying a milk cow to share, sharing child care. Right now, we live close to the city center, so this would be quite a change for us. Well, good luck with that. Sometimes it's not as easy as it sounds. Let's go with Richard. Richard, with us from Ashland, Oregon.

RICHARD (Caller): Hello, Neal.

CONAN: Hi, Richard.

RICHARD: Hi. I recently moved from San Francisco Bay Area and sold a house and came up here. The property is quite a lot less expensive and purchased the house and (unintelligible), so...

CONAN: The property is quite a lot...

RICHARD: Pardon me.

CONAN: Property is quite a lot less expensive than San Francisco everywhere, I think.

RICHARD: (Laughing) Yeah, well, everybody seems it's taken (unintelligible) property. It's about 25 percent pretty much right across the board that they've lost in property down in the Bay Area. But I have a company that I moved up here and basically, we do art(ph) reproduction, we print murals for office spaces, restaurants, things like that. And we've shown right straight across the board, about 50 percent decline in profits.


RICHARD: What I'm working with now is groups that are in barter agencies that we barter service for service.

CONAN: And how do you negotiate that?

RICHARD: It's negotiated by a barter currency and the currency is valued at the dollar. And basically, it goes into a barter currency bank and that barter currency bank holds the money for you. You go through their Web site, you search out what you need. It could be a restaurant, hotel, could be car rental, could be a vacation property, and you just basically spend your dollars as you're spending regular...

CONAN: So it's - let me clarify this. You're issuing script - pieces of paper that say this is worth $5?

RICHARD: No. It could be script. You can work either way - script or basically a barter bank account. You go online, you check the - you make your deposits through your own barter account that you have and you sell your services. And when your service is sold, that amount is deposited in your account before you provide the service. And then when you purchase a service, you basically get the same thing. You can do it online or just basically through the telephone and give your barter account number.

CONAN: And how many people are involved in this?

RICHARD: Across the nation, probably 150,000.

CONAN: And - but it's awful(ph) if they're in your area, right?

RICHARD: Absolutely. If they're not in your area, it's - that's where it becomes - you know, any goods can be shipped, of course. Like for instance, if we print a mural, if we can put it in YouTube and send it in panels and then that could be hung on site wherever we send it to.

CONAN: And if you got Fedex in on this deal?


CONAN: No. I mean, do they accept the barter services?

RICHARD: (Laughing) No. Unfortunately, not. I'd love to get them included (unintelligible).

CONAN: Oh, you might want to give them a phone call.

RICHARD: Oh, we'll do.

CONAN: All right. Richard, thanks very much. Good luck you.

RICHARD: You're welcome.

CONAN: Bye-bye.


CONAN: Let's go to Gary. Gary, with us from Berkeley, California.

GARY (Caller): Hey, Neal. Isn't it an exciting town we're living in?

CONAN: Yeah. Isn't that a Chinese curse?

GARY: (Laughing) It's wonderful. Neal, I think your former called made a great point and I think the future of this country - we have to think about not making so much money, but we have an excessive time and excessive skills and we've got to garden and farm and teach each other and play music and dance and we've got the opportunity to do all that now.

CONAN: And what are you doing?

GARY: I'm great. I'm a horseshoer and handyman and an organic farmer and I've got the cell phone on my hand in (unintelligible), tending some of our garden as we speak.

CONAN: You don't think of - you know, and necessarily, people who shoe horses for a living having cell phones.

GARY: Hey, it's the future. It's going to be great. We're all going to have cell phones and we're all going to be able to do a lot more with the time that we have.

CONAN: And is the horseshoeing business still going strong?

GARY: The horseshoeing business is OK, but it's a combination of everything, which is - gives me the ability to survive and I think we're all going to have to...

Hey, it's the future. It's going to be great. We're all going to have cell phones and we're all going to be able to do a lot of more with the time that we have.

CONAN: And is the horseshoeing business is still going strong?

GARY: The horseshoeing business is OK but it's a combination of everything which is - gives me the ability to survive and I think we're all going to have to think a little bit outside the box and do a number of things and just enjoy our time and try enjoy everything we do a little bit more not worrying about the bottom line dollar but took(ph) for each other and dance with each other it'll be great.

CONAN: Gary, you revive our spirits. Thank you very much.

GARY: Thank you, Neal.

CONAN: Bye-bye. Let's go now to Tony, Tony with us Cleveland.

TONY (Caller): Hello, Neal. How are you today?

CONAN: I'm well. Thanks.

TONY: OK. I - my comment is almost - I just graduated from college a year ago and I'm a drug and alcohol counselor. Now, if you're talking about my property, well, I got a job because of other people's misery. And my thing is this - is that, you know, people are coming here now because of the economy that's the number one thing and I hear what people come in to treatment. The stress of all of this is people starting to drink and use drugs more to kind of camouflage and mask all the pain. And it's a hurtful thing to me because you hate to see people to like this, you know, but I got a job, you know, and in a way some time I feel real guilty about it, you know what I'm saying? My thing is to try to help people and - and they get people to help themselves and to refer them to people that can help them. But it's hard, Neal, (unintelligible).

CONAN: Yeah, I can hear you talking about a little bit of survivor guilt where you've got a job and they don't - nevertheless, your job helping them that's stressful enough and alone.

TONY: Yeah, it is. And it's very stressful because, you know, it was time when I didn't bring stuff home and I'll bring it home because, you know, the fact that substance abuse as we know is fixed everyone around as a family. But, you know, with the economy going on people worry about how they're going to pay house loans and car loans and bills and they, you know, in America, you know, all of a sudden, you know, we are society of (unintelligible) at that time. And now, you know, people are just saying, how am I going to make it? How will I send my daughter to private school, my kids? How about my grocery? And this is putting a life stress on people regardless what I know and like I say, this is the chief complaint. Still I hear now, you know, besides what I used to hear now (unintelligible) time and again...

CONAN: Yeah.

TONY: How people losing jobs and they turn into drugs and alcohol to try to mask and hide all of this. It's a hurting thing and I just hope things get better for everybody, you know, and I want to say to everybody out there, if you do have a problem with any substance, you know, that's not the way to handle this, you know, and try to reach out of yourself and, you know, allow family and faith and try to make it through on that.

CONAN: Absolutely, and - and sometimes, particularly with drugs which aren't cheap, I wonder how they can afford that and what they must be doing to get the money.

TONY: Exactly. That's another issue and I heard the bail bonds, the bounty hunter caller earlier, the bail bonds…

CONAN: Right.

TONY: And they go to commit a crime. Petty crimes, too, you know. And, you know, that's another issue within itself.


TONY: You know, the behavior that, you know, the substance is (unintelligible) you know. And it's a sad thing nowadays.

CONAN: Tony, good luck to you.

TONY: Yeah.

CONAN: Thank you so much.

TONY: And thank you, Neal.

CONAN: Bye-bye. We're talking about resilient people in extraordinary circumstances and what they're doing to get by in the new economy. You're listening to Talk of the Nation from NPR News. And let's go to Martha, Martha with us from Suttons Bay in Michigan.

MARTHA (Caller): Hi, Neal. How are you?

CONAN: I'm good.

MARTHA: Well, what I'm doing to survive a sole practice in a small town is I cut my rates in half and I'm spending money on radio advertising.

CONAN: Well, we encourage that but what kind of practice do you have?

MARTHA: It's a general practice, let's say, planning divorces…

CONAN: Legal - legal practice.

MARTHA: Lot of collection work. Yes. I'm a lawyer.

CONAN: Uh-huh. And cut the rates in half. This is - where did you learn that in law school?

MARTHA: (Laughing) No where in law school, it's pure survival. Business is very slow all over Michigan as you know, but it's tough for people to pay their bills and I'm finding that they still need the help. They're just afraid to go out and get it. So, maybe they'll come see an attorney if they can, you know, pay half the normal rate.

CONAN: And you advertise your lower rates on the radio?

MARTHA: Yeah. We're about to we're just signing it up for this week.

CONAN: Are you hiring any announcers?

MARTHA: No. It's on an AM station. I listen to NPR all the time but I don't know that all of my customers do so...

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Alright, Martha. Good luck.

MARTHA: Thank you.

CONAN: Bye-bye. Appreciate it.

MARTHA: Bye-bye.

CONAN: Let's see if we can go now to Bill, Bill with us from Logan, Utah.

BILL (Caller): Hey, Neal. How you're doing?

CONAN: Good.

BILL: Hey, I'm taking - I guess traditional approach. I'm going back to school.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Going back to school, learn new skills so when things get better you can get a better job.

BILL: Get a job that's more needed all the time, teaching school, history and math

CONAN: Ah, so you're studying to become school teacher.

BILL: Right, right.

CONAN: Elementary school, high school or what?

BILL: Secondary at (unintelligible) Junior High high school.

CONAN: And again, the subject you're interested in?

BILL: Math and history.

CONAN: Math and history.

BILL: I'm getting a dual major.

CONAN: Dual major - and what's it like going back to school?

BILL: It's a lot tougher with four children than it was when I was single.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BILL: But (unintelligible) carpet for about 15 years and I've had three days of work since Christmas this year. So, things are ugly.

CONAN: Well, laying carpet, that's mostly in new houses, right?

BILL: Yeah, yeah. And this time of year usually you don't have a whole lot of I guess remodel. It's mostly new construction that carries it through this time of year anyway. So, without any new construction it's not surprising how slow it is.

CONAN: Well, and three days of work I assume you're still working when jobs come up.

BILL: Oh, yeah, yeah. I might have work tomorrow, I think (laughing) so anyway...

CONAN: Well, Bill, good luck to you and I look forward to - when you get your certificate.

BILL: Hey, so do I, next spring.

CONAN: Alright, Bill.

BILL: Thanks.

CONAN: Thanks very much for the call. Here's an email we have from Cathy in Boone, North Carolina. Life takes some strange turns. I'm a former English teacher who, with roughly 20 years clerical secretarial experience plus a Ph.D from Virginia Tech, and now I find myself as a crew member at the local Wendy's. At age 57 I found out I couldn't even get a job interview. I'm getting through this by telling myself that I'm not working at Wendy's per se. I'm getting paid to work out 5 days a week. I've lost 40 pounds since I've been there and can now slap a 36 pound box of French fries with a little trouble. You do what you have to do. And that's the story we're hearing from an awful lot people. Thank you so much to all of you who called and sent us email. We're sorry we couldn't get to all of your letters. And we will try this again soon. This is Talk of the Nation. Coming up, Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, he decides that he'll make an appearance at his impeachment trial after all.

(Soundbite of speech)

Governor ROD BLAGOJEVICH (Democrat, Illinois): I'm here to give every possible explanation to everyone of these allegations.

CONAN: We'll hear exactly what that meant in a moment. And those of you in Illinois, did Governor Blagojevich make his case today? Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us talk at npr.org. I'm Neal Conan it's the Talk of the Nation. Stay with us from NPR News.

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