Monday, July 23, 2012

80-20 dirtbag

Probably my favorite piece of audio from the last couple of months (besides any and all episodes of The Book Room, my very own literary podcast) is this wonderful little vignette from Chicago Public Radio's most excellent show This American Life.

In this 13 minute documentary interview, reporter Nancy Updike talks with Neal Smither, a man whose disturbingly successful career involves the industrial cleaning of the remains left behind at crime scenes and all manner of accidental or natural but unnoticed deaths. This is rough audio in places, as you can imagine, but the downhome (and fake) southern folksiness of Mr. Smither goes a long way to covering up the stench of the actual job.

What I love most in this short piece is Mr. Smither's pragmatic indictment of our increasingly selfish and callous society, as seen from the perspective of someone called in to do the clean-up. Between the 17:30 mark and the 19:00 mark, Mr. Smither notes a suprising level of "dirtbaggery" in the world, settling on a ratio of 80-20 dirtbag.

I'm tempted to do some rhetorical acrobatics here to relate this profound observation of our society's crumbling level of general courtesy and respect for others into a judgment of the gimme gimme free culture movement (not to mention texting drivers, cyclists who jump the curb, movie-talkers, etc.) but I prefer to just let Mr. Smither's words stand on their own.

80-20 dirtbag. Yep. That's about right.

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