A bit about a traveler in Germany, getting hacked, 100-year-old-plants from elementary school teachers, office life, love life, and more.
Little Darling, Rey, Jack, Sand Guardian - Guardian of the Sand
Francis Lark, Alex, Wilfrid Laurier - Former Governor of Pennsylvania, Kip Hackman
Catherine, Annabel Lee
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Hi, just a quick heads up that format of this podcast has changed since the first episode. I’ve left this one pretty much the same as a nice little historical relic, so don’t be confused if it’s not quite like other episodes. But anyways, hey everyone, this is Alex. And this is Imagining Other People.
---Intro music by B. Barbour of Psychic Skin---
Hey everyone, and welcome to the very first episode of Imagining Other People. This is a podcast that explores the daily lives of people from all around the world through listener submissions and recordings. My name is Alex Serpentini and I love listening and learning about other people - especially how they live and what they think and what they’re doing. I’ve been working on making this happen for the better part of a year, and I am SO excited to share this with you all.
This podcast is a spinoff of a 5-year project I started back in 2014 called Imagining 50 Other people. Each year on June 15th, I ask the same 50 anonymous strangers from around the world to write me something honest about their day using a fake name.
That project will be finished in 2018 and with it you’ll be able to follow people from all walks of life as they check in yearly and tell us what they’re thinking, and what they’re doing in places like England, Vietnam, China, Jordan, America, Singapore, and more. You can check out some of the sample submissions at fiftyotherpeople.com.
Like I said, this is the podcast version of that project because I’m insatiably curious…. or, you know, just really nosy? But either way, and I just want to learn more about everyone.
So here’s how it’s gonna work. The premise this is really simple - every episode is a new batch of anonymous submissions read aloud karaoke-style by complete strangers. So first, a completely anonymous, random stranger writes us about their day, and then a second, also completely anonymous stranger records themselves reading it using the recording button coded right into our website. This 100% built on community participation, so I would love! to hear from you in whatever way you’re comfortable with.
Like I wanna know…. what did you do today? Did you go to the grocery store? pet a dog? Work a million hours? Your day doesn’t have to have been eventful at all, I just want to know more about the boring, routine days too.
If you’re interested in getting involved, there’s lots more information, and frequently asked questions and directions and all that good stuff online at imaginingotherpeople.com.
---Break 1 music by B. Barbour of Psychic Skin---
So. Let’s get to it. Episode One. Today we’ll learn a bit about a traveler going through Germany, getting hacked, 100-year-old-plants from elementary school teachers, office life, love life, all that good stuff. We’ll start with written submissions read by different strangers- and remember, all under fake names. Let’s have a listen.
Hi! My name is Francis Lark and today I’ll be reading something by Little Darling.
“I woke up in a hotel in Germany and put on some music to shower to. It was a happy, upbeat song I like to imagine they play in Coffee Shops and I danced a little in the shower as I used the truly awful combination shower-gel-and-shampoo to wash myself with. Quickly - too quickly, it seems - I packed up my stuff in a plastic bag and threadbare briefcase and headed down to check out and grab a ride to the airport. The check out desk was playing highlights (if you can call them that) from the past American debates when finally a shuttle pulled up. I settled in the back, making room for an older Romanian couple and the shuttle driver looked at me and said, "Sorry, but that'll be 3 Euros." Fuck- I had used up all my Euros getting TO the hotel last night, and I had picked this hotel for the supposedly free shuttle. Instead I grabbed my depressingly small amount of luggage and went back in and asked the receptionist to call a taxi that takes credit cards. He was cute but standoffish and said of course. The taxi came, and an Swiss couple maybe 10 years older than me went to steal it first. I ran up to them and asked if they were going to the airport (obvious from their luggage) and if I could join them. We all piled in and for the fourth time again this week I found myself in the front seat of a small car full of strangers and the cabbie talked at length about the country and about nothing and everything. He tried to talk about the US election (God, why) but I couldn't tell from his facial expressions whether he wanted me to be for Trump or Clinton. I'm good at diverting topics, and soon we were all sharing about our lives (I lied about everything except where I'm from- easier that way) and soon enough we pulled up to the airport. I pulled out my card to pay for everything and of course the driver didn't take credit. I made myself smaller and widened my eyes and looked distraught- the couple in the back said it was no trouble and that they were going to pay full price anyway before I joined up. The cabbie then turned to me and dead serious looked me in the eyes and in a monotone voice said “You must thank these generous people. You are very lucky this time. Say thank you." It freaked me out, like there was a threat in his suddenly gravely voice and he he was trying to emasculate me. As innocently and vehemently grateful as I could manage I thanked everyone profusely and practically ran to the terminal. Ah well, it was my third free cab ride since I got here.
As I went through security I realized I had forgotten all my liquids back at the hotel- completely lost all my fancy soaps, Cologne, contacts, hair products and - heaven forbid- my concealer and BB cream. I'm all for body positivity but I like my routines and not feeling like an awkward, gangly, spotty kid with bad hair. I go to do some duty free shopping instead, and the woman at the makeup till is so sympathetic she plies me with probably 50 euros of free samples.
I'm now on a plane looking out the window at the sunset. I have been on planes all day. I keep thinking about my love life and this person across the way that looks like my ex from uni and I wonder what happened to him. There are islands scattered out my window and the ocean around them is so flat and still and dark that they look like little bits of land just hovering perfectly still in empty space. I could be in a space shuttle looking down at a two dimensional x-y axis.
I've just finished reading a book about a nonbinary programmer who literally falls off the edge of a public fountain and onto a gorgeous married woman and she and her tattoo artist husband take care of the protagonist's sprained ankle. 70thousand words later the three of them are all in love and moving in together. It's sweet. The man next to me is open mouthed snoring. I'll be home soon.”
Hi this is Alex and i’m reading a submission by Rey.
“Today. 2016. October. I wake up and my first thought is of him. He is what I have been waiting for. It took 29 years. I text him first thing every morning. Even when my eyes can barely see. I start my morning rituals. All the cliché ones, minus making my bed. It is up against the wall now, so I don’t even bother with getting frustrated. I think of him again. He is on my mind most of the day. Not an obsession, but a place I have never been before. A place that has been filled with others trying to steal me away from the path that reaches that place. It was a fight getting here, but I found the place. I found him in the place.
I wake up my electronics. They keep me company throughout my seemingly lonely day. They are my friends and I get to choose who they are and how long I see them. A selfish relationship, but they don’t know the difference. I think about how I saw life as a child and what I anticipate my perfect future to be. Did I achieve that as an “adult”? No, not yet, but I am getting closer as the days pass. I miss being naive. Do I? Yes. No. Yes. No. That’s part of change. Self awareness. Am I too self aware? Yes. I feel like a free spirit, but not always. I think of him again. He is too wonderful not to.
I eat. I love to eat. I fucking love to eat. I think of food right after I think of him. It is a genetic poison. I need to stop eating. Fuck.
The building shakes. Earthquake? Construction. Never ending. I live in a constant “blasting zone”. I guess it could be worse. It could actually be an earthquake. I question my job. I question my ability to do my job. I question if I am keeping up with my job. I think about other options. There are none.
I think of him. How lucky I am. Did he settle? I am not adequate. I am not worthy of him. >shaking my head< Damn. Lucky me. Why do I live? For myself? For my family? For my partner? When will I die? How will I die? Why the fuck am I paying these student loans if I am going to die soon? Why am I thinking about dying? Ughhhh I don’t want to die. I continue work with these thoughts always circling. I eat.
I see him. My face does that thing. >eye roll< …gross. It is gross how much I love him. He is my “other”. He reminds me that I am important. He reminds me that I am valued. He is the first of the stealers that hasn’t disappointed me. I forget work. I forget death. I forget loans. I forget bed making. I forget the earthquake. I forget childhood. I forget eat.”
Hi there. This is Wilfried Laurier, former Governor of Pennsylvania, and Today I’ll be reading a piece by Sand Guardian, the Guardian of the Sand.
“It’s almost 1 am so I guess I’m going to count this as being the same day still. I woke up at 8 because I was out late getting tacos the night before with some friends from out of town and I need my precious sleep. I’m an unforgiving monster without at least 8 hours.
What did I do today? I sat in my new office and did so much life-admin. Yay me. But frankly, if I’m going to call a spade a spade, it was really just productive procrastination because I didn’t want to start programming a dungeon game that I’m meant to start. I’m totally capable of doing it, but fuck my anticipatory anxiety stops me from doing Any New Thing without making it into a certified Huge Deal. So I’m just biding my time until I can surprise myself by doing it. It’s like I have to sneak up on it and accidentally accomplish things otherwise I cannot get it done. Fun times. It once took me 5 years to email someone back but I swear to you it was never off of my to do list and I thought about it like once a month. Whoops, now all my friends for sure know who I am, ha.
Anyways, so I did all that great productive-but-not-really stuff and then my partner came home from work to pick me up to teach and so they could go to their second job. We went to a coffee shop and chatted for 15 minutes about some hilariously bizarre meta I read about Lord of the Rings and the journey of the ring being a horror pregnancy thing. After they left I just had to wait 3 hours for my class to start, and ((because yay anticipatory anxiety)) I had to distract myself enough to Not Think About Class. So! I texted with a friend from out of town and watched like 2 hours of vine compilations. At one point I was probably the weirdo in the coffeeshop with tears streaming down their face as they try to cry laugh, but silently.
Finally 6pm came and class started and of course the minute my students walked in all my anxiety goes away and I go into Super Awesome Teacher Mode and utterly relaxed and patient and full of wit and charm. My students have come a long way, but I taught them something particularly challenging things today but finally, Finally! at the end they got it, and it was really rewarding and they were all thrilled. After my partner picked me up from class I ran (literally) to a friends house to go over some music and give feedback on how a song was progressing. Then, I got home, slammed down a glass of meal-replacement drink and a full glass of water, had sex, and then, even though it was already 10pm, convinced my partner to go to the gym with me. We worked out for two hours and my I can barely lift water to my face to wash it. I’m currently helping my partner pick out outfits and shoes for some upcoming formal events, but now it’s 1:10am and I need to pass out. I probably sound like an asshole, but any day that I work in the evenings I basically just resign myself to a full day of elaborate song and dances to distract myself from the anxiety. My other days are nothing like this, I swear.”
Hello everyone! My name is Kip Hackman and I will be reading for Jack today.
“I had great day today, but yesterday was tax day ugh!! Also ran into old GF that twisted my head around. But was good closure! Had great talk with old friend for me back on track, had nice old man tell me he loves me like son :) nice to know good friends”
---Break 2 music by B. Barbour of Psychic Skin---
And that’s all of our recorded written submissions that were by strangers for today. Next up is our first caller ever.
Alex: Hey everybody, we’re here starting off our very first podcast and our guest today goes by Perry.
Perry: Hi Guys!
Alex: laughs So, hi Perry! Walk me through your day, how did it start?
Perry: Erm, it usually starts around 7 - that’s when the alarms go off but no one ever gets up at that time.
Alex: What time did you actually get up?
Perry: ‘bout 7:58.
Alex: So a whole hour [later], cool.
Perry: Yeah, I have a daily call at 8am every morning
Perry: So I just made sure i’m awake for that.
Alex: Do you have your daily call in bed?
Perry: Eh….. no, because erm, what’s-his-face would probably kick me out of bed if I tried.
Alex: Okay, uh, so you have your daily call, and do you work from home or…?
Perry: Yes I do. So our daily calls is basically a way for the development team that I’m working with to catchup and make sure that everyone is doing some work because remote working apparently can be very, very lazy. No but erm, it’s a daily call that take about 5 minutes and i’m just reported to so I’m allowed to just sit around and listen and could probably get away without being awake? And the current project, which requires a daily standard call, is developed to make our product and launch it in hopefully a weeks time?
Alex: Oh! Okay
Perry: Now is really (dog barking in background) kind of when things should be kicking off? But, you know… put it this way: i’m not really that bothered.
Perry: Just doing my job! sarcasm
Alex: Hah! Okay So you have your daily call and you just work from home for the next couple of hours?
Perry: Yeah I pretty much stay at home all day, all of the time because as soon as I go out money is spent and we’re trying very hard to not do that. And, um, at the moment it’s quite relaxing because my days work involves a lot of supervision and management so there’s not a lot of hand-on work for me, so I can really be anywhere I want if I want to be.
Alex: Oh that’s nice!
Perry: Yeah, but my partner is.. he’s preparing for his new job so he’s actually at home, he’s been home the last week so we’ve actually just been catching up on lots of home stuff.
Alex: Will he be working from home as well?
Perry: No, he’s starting at the studio next week. In fact he’s in the same studio that he left…
Alex: That’s awkward…
Perry: …with a different start up. I know! It’s all very funny.
Alex: What sort of industry is he in?
Perry: He’s uh… design? He’s a digital designer but there’s a lot of strategy going on at the moment. So, it’s pretty vague for him.
Alex: So… your day, are you mostly doing emails or like.. using software or? what sort of thing.
Perry: Emails? Because there’s a lot of paperwork to go through in preparation for the launch, so there’s a lot of legal stuff. A lot of the time we’re on slack because that’s the new go-to-way to communicate between everybody nowadays. And I suppose my phone because the rest of the whole team on my side are all across the world so there’s a lot of mobility. But no, yeah so we’re using this app called Signal, I don’t know if you’ve come across it
Alex: No I’ve not.
Perry: It’s actually supposed to be one of the best encrypted messaging apps, so there’s a lot of like, “Oh no! WhatsApp’s been hacked,” around the world, but Signal’s been going quite well. They’re pretty basic but it does the job and you can set your message to disappear after like one hour, a day or a week. So it’s quite an interesting one.
Alex: And everyone on your team uses that?
Perry: Um only the top few because that’s when you talk about the sensitive stuff. And since we’ve been leaked before we’ve become very conscious.
Alex: Yeah, i’d imagine so. Does that affect you on like a personal level or anything?
Perry: Oh yeah, i’ve never had so many passwords in my life? Erm, and all my passwords are at least like 25 digits long. I don’t like, locate.. it’s kind of crazy so all of my, all of our devices, because of me, have a little sticker over the webcam?
Alex: Because of you, how do you mean?
Perry: Yeah i’ve just been going around going “no, we’re going to put a sticker on that, and a stick on that, because I don’t care if you get hacked but if i’m in the background i’m still affected.” But no so like, lots of location settings, like privacy settings, like anal-ness I suppose? And I get so freaked out anytime I get any kind of messages that looks remotely like…
Perry: Like yeah someone is attempting to phish me. But yeah! It’s definitely something that you wouldn’t hardly go to the extent that I do unless something has happened. So it’s quite interesting to be like, “No you shouldn’t use the same password!” but everyone’s like “nahhhh,” and I’m like laughs you just don’t understand?. But it’s okay.
Alex: No, that’s alright!
Perry: It’s pretty cool.
Alex: It’s better to be safe than sorry. phone buzzing in the background As cheesy as that is.
Perry: Yeah, ‘cause you know, who wants to get hacked more than once in their life?
Alex: Oh god, nobody. Not even once. So alright. To recap: you woke up for a call, then you worked from home? Did you do lunch at home? Have you just been home the whole day? Like..
Perry: Um sooo actually its not as boring as I thought. We’ve actually spent the last weekend redoing our kitchen so we have retiled the kitchen walls and redid the worktop surface, so, since we’re both home this week we’ve actually spent like a lot of free time, erm, fixing up bits and pieces. Just tidying up loose ends. But also means that i’m like, “ohhh, I don’t really wanna use the kitchen because it just looks so pretty.” Wo we ended up going out to lunch to this local Korean place which we are always go to.
Alex: Alright, so you came back home and just worked the rest of the day?
Perry: Yeah we did and we’re actually hosting like a little bit of a dinner party tonight, so we ended up starting probably prepping around 5? pm? our time? So there’s a lot of basically we’re making chicken katsu curry for five people from scratch, so there’s lots of curry-making and we’re actually frying the chicken. We’ll, my partner’s frying the chicken as we speak. And I think our guests have just arrives so it’s pretty cool.
Alex: That’s actually pretty good timing then. Um, okay i’m trying to think because it sounds like that…. after your company was hacked… going back to that, because we talked about the logistics, but i’m trying to see if there’s like, anything, any thoughts or feelings about the day or anything like that that you’ve been kind of like… a little emotionally detached? based off of some of the answers you’ve gotten? (note: I meant answers you’ve given). Is that right?
Perry: Oh yeah, absolutely. So, I think that incident, the whole incident is out of… basically required me to detach myself from my work so much that I think i’ve remained detached, because it was so stressful for the first 48 hours that I had to just not treat it emotionally or personally? And since then that’s just how i’ve been treating my work. I suppose it’s partly reading that I can actually do that, and like having detached myself so much from it it’s not only that i’m less stressed, but, i’ve probably because a lot less motivated to do what I’ve been doing. And interestingly I don’t think it’s just me, I think it’s affected everybody at the company, so… there’s not as much drive, as kind of getting things done, and um,..
Alex: Is it hard to have a community then? If there’s, if you’re not all like, excited about what you’re doing?
Perry: Em… I suppose so, and I think a lot of, like when we did have the product before the hack, and it was getting to the point where we had a very like close community, but there was also like, like the trolling was getting increasingly problematic, and since the hack, just the trolling has like hit the roof and beyond, and like a lot of the time it becomes personally targeted, even though I wasn’t the one who was getting the majority of it.
Perry: As soon as you get, I think as soon as you’ve been personally targeted on the web, even by a very small minority, it was probably like only like a handful of people who’ve said mean things, but it all of the sudden, you’re just like, “oh god why am I working so hard for it if this is what i’m gonna get in return?” erm, it’s… and all of the sudden I realized like, cyberbullying…. I don’t think… it’s like not gone as far as cyberbullying, but all the sudden i’ve realized like how the victims of cyberbullying feels and it’s so much worse than you can EVER imagine, that you would ever imagine it to be. You know when you watch the news and somebody describes the experience and you’re like “eh,” well now i’m like, “man, I feel you. I really do.”
Alex: Well that explains the like… not that i’m bashing it or anything, but the stickers over all of the cameras and everything. I mean I do that too, but, you know.
Perry: Yeah and it’s actually realizing how, so much of it, I think a lot of people consider it almost like urban legends, and just like, bullshitting, but…
Alex: Yeah you just like hear it and it’s just like, “that’s somebody totally separate from me or anyone I know.”
Perry: Yeah, it’s kind of like, “oh, it’s just me.” Like I’m not like not working for any big company, I’m working for a startup. It’s such a small out of the huge, out of the giant scheme of things, once you’ve been target you suddenly feel like it’s so much bigger… like… like… I dunno. The problem is really quite minuscule in retrospect but at the time you’re kind of like, “why the fuck is this happening to me?”
Alex: And it sounds like you still, and you know, even though you feel that way that you do about your job, you still have a social life going if you’ve got friends coming over and everything.
Perry: Yeah, but i’ve become so lazy, I think that’s definitely part of working from home. You become so cocooned, like its so difficult to get me out of the house. And um… but no, i’ve been very much encouraged to like, really go out and socialize because I’m starting to forget how to talk to people who’s not like, my dog or my partner. Barely hold a conversation.
Alex: laughs i’m glad you’ve got people coming over tonight then. Ah, what’s your crowd size gonna be?
Perry: It’s only the five of us so we’ve got, erm, a friend of mine who we’ve invited over because I think she’s feeling a little bit lonely at the moment, and then we’ve got my partner’s friends, who’s a couple and um, yeah so it’ll be interesting.
Alex: Well, I hope you have a really good rest of the evening.
Perry: Thank you, and I hope you have a good rest of the day, too.
Alex: Thanks! will do. Take care. Yeah.
Perry: Yep. bye!
---Break 3 music by B. Barbour of Psychic Skin---
Well that finishes all of our callers. Now let’s send off this very special first episode with a couple of voicemails.
Hi, Katherine here. This is my first time calling in it's a little weird, but I'm going to go for it. I'm also driving. So if I stop talking randomly, you know.. forgive me. I just left a woman's house. Whatever I was a kid, um, she was a teacher at my middle school and, anyway, we've got a long history. She's up getting me really into photography, she's amazing, and I love her. But she invited me over to come see her garden at the end of the season and to give me three plants that I now have in my car with me, and I'm taking home. Um, they came from her family, which is kind of awesome. One was from her grandmother that she passed down, and you know, did cuttings of, and now i’ve got one of those. And one was from her 112 year old neighbor. She said she gave it to her back when she was just about 92 years old or so, and I can't remember the other, but I did I did a video of her telling me about each one. So I'm just so excited because the plants, you just can't buy ‘em in stores anymore. They've been passed down, and I don't know the history just I don't know it feels really special and exciting so I'm going to go home and do some cutting to some plants from me to take over to her and her garden, that way she can have them too. I just, uh, man it's gorgeous, it’s beautiful, I totally just want to do my whole back yard now, and I have absolutely zero time to do it, but…. I don't know she was showing these beautiful giant trees that came from Christmas trees. She had them up for the season and, you know, after Christmas. She just stuck ‘em in the ground and now they're alive, you know, two-story beautiful beasts in her yard. I want a green thumb like that. Anyway, that's all I have to say. I hope whoever’s listening has a great day.
Hello! My name is Annabelle lee from your favorite anthology of Edgar Allan Poe, and my day was something that I've grown accustomed to in the last few months, but overall something that I'm still trying to get used to in the overall scheme of things. :ately I've started experiencing a lot more pressure, I guess you would say, at work and a lot more days filled with an endless to-do list and an endless array of things that you can't necessarily plan for, or, for somebody who is as particular as I am, not plan well-enough for. And, it's something that I've tried to get a better grip on. But! What day is filled with meetings and was conversations with people and with things that you never seems that you never have enough time for, it was a day that I tried to feel more like an adult? As silly as that sound, and more as though I am in control of my life, as clichéd as that might sound, but overall it was a day that I only had two 30-minute pockets to get my work done. But, overall, as overwhelming as it was, and as frazzled as it was, it ended by a nice happy hour with colleagues and co-workers. We try to do once a month and the craziness of our lives, both personal and professional, at the end of the day it was nice to grab a couple beers with people that I'm lucky enough to call friends at work and share some laughter and some stories, some concerns and some worries. But at the end of the day, it was a great day to remember that we're all in this together near or far, whatever continent you call home, however you may feel — drowning, or swimming, or lost at sea — today was a good day to remember that at the end of the day, as long as you've people with you, you’re never alone. Tomorrow, will just bring new adventures. That's all.
---Outtro music by B. Barbour of Psychic Skin---
Thanks for listening to Imagining Other people. Again, I’m Alex Serpentini and I’d love to hear from you. Check us out at Imaginingotherpeople.com to learn more about this project and how to get involved.
This podcast will always be free, but it’s also a DIY operation on the tiniest of budgets. If you’d like to help support it and keep the stories coming, please consider donating or sending us a couple bucks every month. You can learn how to do that on the support page of our website.
The music you heard is by the incredibly talented and amazing artist B. Barbour, who also goes by Psychic Skin. The additional humming was done in collaboration with myself and Collin Lloyd of the band Big Prey.
It was produced by Serpentindustries.
Thanks, and take care.