There’s nothing worse than driving to work in the morning and listening to talk radio, especially when I’m sleepy from staying up too late watching reruns of “Parks and Recreation.” I need music to wake up and get pumped for the day, not a bunch of guys huddled around a microphone gabbing to one another and taking calls from strangers.
I thought podcasts would be the same – like NPR, but less informative and somehow more boring – so I avoided them for years. I thought if I put my hands over my ears and screamed “La La La La La” loud enough they would just go away, but I was wrong. If anything, the trend is only growing stronger.
It seems like everyone has a podcast from actors, comedians and authors to journalists and reality TV stars. We even started an election podcast at the Matthews-Mint Hill Weekly called “Coffee with a Candidate.” More than a dozen episodes, ranging from seven to 15 minutes, can be found on Anchor, Google Podcasts and Spotify.
So what’s all the hype about? On a recent road trip to visit my grandparents in Virginia, I decided to find out. After all, there’s only so much music to fill the air on a four-and-a-half-hour drive.
I started with a podcast recommended by my sister, who has been a true-crime fanatic ever since she was old enough to follow the plots of shows like “CSI” and “Law and Order: SVU.” She told me about “Crime Junkie” – currently the No. 1 true-crime podcast – hosted by Ashley Flowers and her sidekick Brit Prawat. Every Monday, they delve into a different case, each one more mysterious than the next. The storytelling is captivating, suspenseful and keeps you guessing until the very end. As a fan of psychological thrillers and binge-worthy TV shows, this was right up my alley. I guess my sister and I are related after all.
Listening to “Crime Junkie” made two hours in the car feel like two minutes, which was great until I needed to pee. I pulled over at a highway rest stop and, to my horror, there was only one other car in the parking lot. My mind went back to the episode I just heard about a girl who walked out of work and into a crowd in broad daylight. She was never seen again.
I had visions of going into that bathroom alone and thought about all the ways it could go wrong. The stalls would be empty, the room quiet and my attacker would be standing on top of the toilet, lying in wait. No one would hear me scream. I’d be the main character in the next episode of “Crime Junkie.”
Why did I do this to myself? I had a great life before I succumbed to this whole podcast trend. Now, I was fearful of deserted rest stops and about to pee my pants. I couldn’t let the podcast win, so I mustered up enough courage to push open the bathroom door and yell, “Hello?”
As it turns out, the other car in the parking lot belonged to a sweet elderly woman. She was cleaning the bathroom and I scared the crap out of her when I shouted. I clearly needed a break from “Crime Junkie.” Good thing there are thousands of other podcasts to choose from.
I wanted something more lighthearted, so I switched to a podcast by one of my favorite stand-up comedians, Chris D’Elia, called “Congratulations with Chris D’Elia.” He’s got no filter and the way he tells stories had me crying laughing the rest of the way to my grandma’s house.
Why did I enjoy this so much? Am I a podcast person now? I hate to admit it, but I was wrong about podcasts. I wish I had been more open-minded and removed my hands from my ears sooner because now I feel like I have to play catch up. I’m like a dad that’s trying too hard: “What are the cool kids listening too?” “What’s the latest ‘cast?” “Do you guys call them ‘casts?” I don’t know the lingo yet.
But for real, now that I’m listening, what should I be listening to? Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, favorite podcast, where to find it and why it’s so great. We will publish the responses in an upcoming edition of the paper.