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Bluff The Listener

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 Luke Burbank, Roy Blount and Neko Case. And here again is a host at the Chase Bank Auditorium in downtown Chicago, Peter Sagal.



Thank you, Bill. 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.

BARBARA SCHMUCKER: Hi, this is Barbara Schmucker from Buffalo, N.Y.

SAGAL: Hi, Barbara Schmucker.


SCHMUCKER: Hi (laughter).


SAGAL: Of all the jokes that get made about your name, which are you most sick of - the one based on the Yiddish root, or the one based on if your name is Schmucker, you have to be good?

SCHMUCKER: Well, since I'm pretty good, you know...

SAGAL: So was that your married name or is that your birth name?

SCHMUCKER: That's my birth name.

SAGAL: That's your birth name. And you never thought to get married just to get rid of it?


SCHMUCKER: Well, I sort of took it back after I got unmarried.

SAGAL: Oh, I see. Barbara, 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. Bill, what is Barbara's topic?

KURTIS: It landed right in my lap - ow.

SAGAL: Day after day, our jobs are a struggle. Let me tell you, this one is. But what if one day something came along and suddenly made everything easier? You know, like Sisyphus pushing that rock up a hill just all of a sudden getting those stair chairlifts? This week, we heard a story of someone getting some unexpected assistance with their work. Our panelists are going to tell you all about it. But guess the real story, you'll win our prize - Carl Kasell's voice on your voicemail. Are you ready to play?

SCHMUCKER: Yup, bring it on.

SAGAL: All right, here we go. First, let's hear from Luke Burbank.

LUKE BURBANK: Cpl. John Spaans of Boyle, Alberta, has taken on his share of tough cases with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. However, this was not one of them. You see, back in 2014, Spaans got a new cellphone and shortly thereafter started getting weird calls from people asking him if he had any more, quote, boy. A quick Googling found that boy was slang for heroin. And do you have some was slang for the illegal activity of purchasing drugs.


BURBANK: Having infiltrated this complex criminal syndicate, Spaans started asking the callers who they were trying to reach - Trevor Dennis, the would-be druggies/Mensa members answered. And in a twist everyone saw coming, Trevor Dennis turned out to be a local man police were already investigating for selling drugs. His cellphone was one digit off from Spaans, and he was promptly arrested. Meanwhile, Span's from continues to serve as the world's most effective crime-fighting tool, as would-be drug buyers have continued calling it. Spaans hasn't had the heart to tell them they've been calling a cop this whole time. This after all is Canada, where the mounties credo is contra vigilantium semper nefas, which translates to ever vigilant against wrong in a way that doesn't make anyone feel, you know, too embarrassed or anything, eh?


SAGAL: A mounty getting calls for a drug dealer who people think is him, thereby making arrests easy. Your next story of a helping hand comes from Neko Case.

NEKO CASE: Brad Carson didn't love his job at the Lids in Springfield Mall in Springfield, Pa. Often he'd go a whole day without a single customer coming into the store and buying a hat. He'd sit and look across the way at the bare-headed shoppers enjoying Cinnabons and think I could make you happy, too, Cinnabon eater. I could make you happy, too. Brad's saving grace came in the form of a particularly aggressive redwing blackbird who nested right outside the entrance to the mall. One day should begin to furiously dive-bomb mall shoppers, both to protect her nest and, according to many witnesses, because she seemed to enjoy it. Brad said, I do knew my luck was changing when the first screaming customer came into the store. Brad realized the hats might protect the customers leaving the mall. "I sold 250 hats the first day Becky moved in - that's what I named the blackbird, Becky." Brad thanks Becky for helping him become Lid's November salesman of the month. In the end, the hats really did save a lot of customers' heads, and Becky had to be content satisfying her bloodlust in another way, which was attacking the senior citizen mall walkers who get there before Lids actually opens.


SAGAL: A hat salesman in a mall getting saved by an aggressive bird. And your last story of a helping hand comes from Roy Blount Jr..

BLOUNT JR.: Captain Andreas Vandeveer of the Coast Guard says he knew his work in ice management had reached a tipping point last week when his crew attached a towline to a 20-foot iceberg and the iceberg sank. Just the weight of that hull was enough to overbalance the 'berg and send it under, reported Vandeveer. Forget all those old expressions about the tip of the iceberg. Your average iceberg today is 80 percent above the surface. Vandeveer's ship, the U.S.S Molly D., is part of a fleet that tracks, and when necessary tows away floating ice formations (left-that threaten ships or drilling stations in the North Atlantic. As global warming sends more and more chunks of Greenland out into the open water, it also renders them smaller and slushier. "There's still a lot of flotsam out there that we'll be cleaning up, says Vandeveer. But as for cleaning up an old-school head to head with a righteous iceberg, now it's a pushover.

SAGAL: All right, one of these people is getting help from an unexpected source. Is it from Luke Burbank, a Canadian mountie getting help from drug buyers misdialing their dealer's number? Is it from Neko Case, a hat salesman in a mall getting help from angry redwinged blackbird named Becky, or from Roy Blount Jr., a man whose job it is to tow icebergs out of the way getting the help from well, all of us, in terms of our effect on climate change? Which of these is the real story of a lucky worker that we found in the news?

SCHMUCKER: They all sound totally impossible, but I'm going to go for the iceberg.

SAGAL: You're going to go for the iceberg? You're going to go for Roy's story of a guy who's towing icebergs out of the way all of a sudden finds the icebergs are lighter and easier to sink.


SAGAL: All right.


SAGAL: Well, as always, to bring you the correct answer, we spoke to someone involved in the true story.

JOHN SPAANS: I think they thought that I was a drug dealer and I was playing hard to get. They were really trying to prove their trustworthiness and, like, name-dropping to show how trustworthy they are.

SAGAL: That was Cpl. John Spaans of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Boyle, Alberta, Canada with the finest Canadian accent I have ever had the privilege to hear. He, of course, is the mountie, who, as Luke told you, is getting calls from addled drug buyers. That means, of course, you were fooled, I'm afraid, by Roy's very credible story.

JR.: Yeah, I was too...

SAGAL: You didn't win, but you earned a point for him just for being realistic. Thank you...

JR.: I was too credible, I'm sorry.

SAGAL: Yeah.


SAGAL: Well, thank you so much for playing, Barbara.

SCHMUCKER: Thank you very much.

SAGAL: Bye-bye.



UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Singing) I get by with a little help from my friends, with a little help from my friends. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.