I’ve learned a lot about the Bay Area from Uber drivers since I moved here a few years ago. Some of them are relatively new arrivals, like me, but others have watched the region change dramatically over the last few years. When I'm stuck in a car with a stranger at the wheel, I've been surprised by how personal conversations can get.
So in 2017, producer Katie Bishop and I took our microphones and recording gear along on a bunch of Uber rides all around the Bay Area. The company has been in the news a lot, but we set out to learn more about the drivers and what keeps them on the road. We talked about money, competition from other drivers and how they spend their long hours driving and waiting for rides. They also told us about domestic violence, grave plot sales, and the long ripples of the financial crisis. And we heard why one Pakistani driver has decided it's better to not talk to his passengers. Today, we're bringing you those conversations again.
A Former Debt Collector's Unpaid Bills
When Angela first started working at a debt collection agency, she says she barely understood what her job was. " I was so completely awestruck that people didn't pay their bills," she told me. "I thought this was going to be really easy. Honestly, I don't even know how I kept the job the first couple of weeks."
It wasn't easy. But Angela finally did start getting consumers to pay, and worked her way up in the industry. And then, 15 years into her career, she and several colleagues were sued for illegal debt collection practices by the Federal Trade Commission and the New York State Attorney General. Angela eventually settled, and as part of the agreement was banned from the industry for life and ordered to pay $4.4 million. She says she's not sure she'll ever pay that off.
Now, Angela also has medical debt that's gone to collections. At first, she says she would pick up the phone when collectors called, just to critique them. "N ow I just block the number and move on," she told me. "I will eventually get them paid off and until I can, there is no point in wasting their time."
If you're getting calls from debt collectors who you think might be breaking the law, .
When Breast Cancer Pauses Life At 35
Kate Pickert was 35 years old when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. A longtime healthcare policy reporter, she understood a lot about medicine and the healthcare industry. But even with all that insight, Kate wasn't prepared for what the experience of being a cancer patient could be like. So, she started researching — and found that the book she wanted to read, about the history of breast cancer and the way we treat it, wasn't out there. "T he fact that this book didn't exist and women didn't know this story is like...something went wrong," Kate told me. So she decided to write it, and included some of her own experiences too.
The resulting book is called Radical: The Science, Culture and History of Breast Cancer in America . Kate talked with me about the choices —both expected and unexpected—that she made to maintain a sense of normalcy in her life during her treatment, including not telling her young daughter about her illness, and paying extra to keep her hair. And we talk about the trauma of her shock at her initial diagnosis — and why she still thinks about her breast cancer coming back at least once a day.
Scattered: The Camp
About a year ago, we put out an episode that was actually a pilot of another show, by comedian Chris Garcia. It was his story about grieving his father's death from Alzheimer's, along with a conversation he had with fellow comedian Karen Kilgariff about her mother's death from Alzheimer's. We called that episode “ .”
At the time, we asked for your feedback about the pilot. And thanks in part to your enthusiastic response, that pilot has become a new podcast from WNYC Studios. The new show is called . In it, Chris explores his father's illness and death, but he also goes deeper into his father's Cuban roots, a history Chris can no longer ask his father about.
So we wanted to share some of that new show with you. This is episode two, called The Camp, where you'll hear about Chris's father's life before he left Cuba, when he was forced to work in a labor camp because he wanted to leave for the U.S.
Saeed Jones Talks About Sex. And Death. And Money.
Saeed Jones' mother, Carol Sweet-Jones, died in 2011 — six years after he came out to her over the phone from his college dorm room in Kentucky. They were close, but when Saeed walked into her hospital room the day after she had the heart attack that would end her life, he says he barely recognized her. "M y mom was always very - she was very beautiful. She was elegant, chic," he told me. "A nd that was not the woman I saw in that bed."
Saeed was raised by his mother in Texas, where he recognized early that he was gay, but was afraid to be open about it. He writes about the complicated and sometimes lonely sexual experiences he had with other men during his teenage years in his new memoir, How We Fight For Our Lives— and about dealing with the aftermath of his mom's death as an only child. I talked with him from Columbus, Ohio, where he recently moved, and even more recently turned on his dating apps.