Bluff The Listener Our panelists read three stories about improving workplace morale, only one of which is true.

Bluff The Listener

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BILL KURTIS: From NPR and WBEZ Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME, the NPR news quiz. I'm Bill Kurtis. We're playing this week with Paula Poundstone, Faith Salie and Luke Burbank. And here again is your host at the Chase Bank Auditorium in downtown Chicago, Tom Hanks.


Thank you, Bill Kurtis with a K. Thank you, thank you, thank you.


HANKS: Yeah, boy, howdy, hey. Next up, the WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME Bluff The Listener game. Call 1-888-WAIT-WAIT to be involved. Hi, you're already a winner on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.

NINA NCKISSOCK: Hi, my name is Nina, and I live in Old City, Philadelphia.

HANKS: Old City, Philadelphia. What do you do there in Philadelphia, Nin?

NCKISSOCK: I'm a hospice nurse during the week and I umpire on weekends.

HANKS: You're out.


HANKS: You are a Renaissance woman. It's very nice to have you with us.

NCKISSOCK: Oh, thank you.

HANKS: So now let's go - now, you know the drill here. Tell truth from fiction and then revel in the bragging rights. What's the topic, Bill Kurtis with a K?

KURTIS: I love my job.

HANKS: (Laughter) Well, you should, partner. How does Bill Kurtis make his workplace better? Well, he brings in sugary donuts - French crullers, everybody.


HANKS: He decorates his cubicle according to the holiday season. Boy, does he go nuts at Yom Kippur. And one Wednesday (laughter) he hilariously tried to jam the paper shredder, but he was wrestled to the ground by the office intern, Kijin Higashibaba, who is not to be messed with. Anyway, here's a way somebody's working to improve workplace morale. Our panelists are going to tell you about it. Now, Nina, you divine who's telling the truth and you'll win Carl Kasell's voice on your voicemail. Hands on buzzer now. First up, Faith Salie.

FAITH SALIE: The employees of an Asheville, N.C., indoor cycling studio called Lady Cycle are totally in sync. They ride together, sweat together and bleed together. Yes, the ladies of Lady Cycle menstrually cycle together. We like to say we're blood sisters, manager Kim Noble (ph) says. And for five days a month, we're bloat sisters. What scientists call menstrual synchrony started at Lady Cycle when Noble noticed that the studio's bathroom was always out of tampons at the same time of the month. I realized some of us were syncing, Noble, who happens to be pursuing a Ph.D. in biology, reports.

So Noble decided to enroll all the employees in the flow by sending the women home to sleep in each other's sweat-drenched shirts, thereby absorbing each other's pheromones. It's been a bloody success. Now the Lady Cycle kitchen trades protein for carbs at the appropriate time of the month. There's less body envy because everyone starts to feel like crap at the same time. And no one gets funny looks when she starts crying to Adele during the cool down ride. The groove here is totally tribal now, manager Noble concludes. Sometimes it feels like we're a pack of she-wolves - period.


HANKS: A story of women in sync from Faith Salie. Your next story of office life getting better comes from Luke Burbank - Luke.

LUKE BURBANK: Is there anything more terrifying than the phrase corporate team building retreat? Yes, there is - the phrase corporate team building retreat, upside down, underwater, in the rapidly sinking hull of a downed aircraft. And yet, amazingly, the stuff of nightmares and various Tom Hanks films is now the new hot way for companies to make sure their employees are properly bonded to each other. Forget trust falls and truth circles. Survival Systems USA of Groton, Conn., will put you and your coworkers in the husk of a crashed plane and submerge you in a pool of cold water, upside down, just to see if you're a team player.

According to the company's CEO, the sessions lead to, quote, "improved morale, self-esteem and capabilities people didn't know they had." Yeah, like crushing Renee (ph) in accounting's windpipe if she blocks your way out of the death tomb.


BURBANK: Yes, it is $950 per person, but as an employer, can you really put a price on reminding your employees that death is always there in the dark, waiting, watching? Not unlike those dirty dishes in the break room sink, which are not going to wash themselves, people.


HANKS: A near-death experience bringing employees nearer together from Luke Burbank. Now, your last story of workplace morale comes from Paula Poundstone.

POUNDSTONE: Jeffrey Swamu (ph), Durham, N.C., rancher turned successful It's A Party party supply manufacturer, found some glitches in his business over this holiday season. The company accidentally shipped 5,000 gold paper hats that read Happy 1702 that had to be returned and 10,000 Happy Birther Day banners that were mistakenly printed and shipped but the customers were able to keep and make do with. Swamu concluded that there were breakdowns in the lines of communication between his department heads and called on his experience for many years working with bulls to solve the problem.

He brought an enormous bull named Hotsy Totsy to their Tuesday night meeting. You have to be able to read a bull, says Swamu. It's a vital communication skill and that's what was lacking in my crew. Bob Blatany (ph), for example, head of sales, wasn't listening and reading the signs Betsy Striker (ph) over in tiaras was giving him. That's how mistakes happen. The 20 or so It's A Party employees in attendance were all stunned to find the bull in their small meeting space, especially the Valentine specialty employees all clad in red.


POUNDSTONE: Most flattened themselves against the wall while CEO Swamu explained that a bull can see a person as a rival. Within seconds of opening the meeting with the sounding of the noisemaker, as is their tradition, the bull charged about the room, upending tables, sending hot coffee flying and goring Bob Blatany just below the rib cage. I told them that when Hotsy Totsy lowered his head and his eyeballs protruded, they should get out of the way, Swamu said, undaunted, as he defended himself before a judge. But Bob Blatany didn't listen. Well, now he knows, and I believe it has improved his communication skills. Now when he doesn't listen to Betsy Striker over in tiaras, he'll do it with a five-inch radius hole in his gullet.


HANKS: Well - all right, Nina, you're pretty well-versed on those, don't you think? You got Faith's story of women, well, shall we put it, Bill, cycling together, Luke's story of a screening of "Sully." (Laughter) Thanks for the - it's On Demand on your local television.


BURBANK: Easy, Hanks.

HANKS: And Paula's story, which may or may not be total bull. Which one is real?

NCKISSOCK: I'm thinking...

HANKS: Yeah.

NCKISSOCK: ...Luke's survival systems.

HANKS: OK let's...

POUNDSTONE: There we go.

HANKS: OK, let - find out the correct answer. We spoke to someone who participated in the real workplace morale booster.

MONTANA WOODS: Was a simulated plane crash. They just spun you 180 degrees and you had to knock open a window and just be able to get to the surface. Oh, yeah.

HANKS: So that was Montana Woods, sophomore at the University of Connecticut...


HANKS: ...Who participated in a crash simulation. Congratulations, Nina. You're a champeen.

NCKISSOCK: (Laughter) Thank you, everyone.

HANKS: You earned a point for Luke and you've won a prize worth about a thousand bucks - Canadian - Carl Kasell doing the greeting on your voicemail.

NCKISSOCK: Oh, it's so wonderful.

HANKS: Thank you, Nina. Thanks for playing with us today.

NCKISSOCK: You're welcome. Bye.


ANNE FEENEY: (Singing) We just come to work here. We don't come to die.

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