Have you heard of the Man Repeller Writers Club? Every month we pose a story idea, you write about it and then send it to us (email@example.com) with the subject line “MR Writers Club.” We go through all submissions and post the winner on the first Saturday of every month. Ready? Let’s go.
Maria Matheson, mother of “This American Life” producer Sarah Koenig, is a very particular woman. In episode #511, which aired on November 8, 2013, she was invited on the show to share her strict policy for dinner table talk, which involves seven banned topics she believes don’t make for quality conversation. They include: sleep, periods, health, dreams, money, diet, “and finally, my mother’s number one killer of discourse — her crown jewel — route talk,” Koenig says in the prologue.
“Route talk is when people tell you how they arrived,” replies Mrs. Matheson, “or how they came, how they got on the road, which road, how long it took. That is on the top of my list for what you won’t talk about.” For the rest of the episode, Koenig and Ira Glass attempt to prove her wrong with interesting stories that center on each of her forbidden topics.
I heard the episode when it first aired, and soon forgot her rules with the exception of route talk, which is forever implanted in my mind. I was struck by both how much I agreed with the rule and how often I and everyone I knew defied it. It’s hilarious once you notice it. Route talk is especially prolific in New York, where whining about a broken train is the only respite from dealing with it. When it comes to commuting, route talk is particularly hard to avoid. No matter where you live or how you get to and from work, commuting sits at the frustrating intersection of being both incredibly consistent and annoyingly unpredictable.
In that sense, I have to disagree with Mrs. Matheson: commuting makes for great stories. For this month’s Writers Club prompt, I want to hear your most memorable one. Tell us in 500 words or less and send it to write [at] manrepeller [dot] com by 12 p.m. EST on Tuesday, May 1st.
Photo by Vernon Merritt III/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images.