CARL KASELL: From NPR and WBEZ-Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!, the NPR News quiz. I'm Carl Kasell.
KASELL: We're playing his week with Adam Felber, Paula Poundstone and Maz Jobrani. And here again is your host, at the Nokia Theater in downtown Los Angeles, Peter Sagal.
PETER SAGAL, HOST:
Thank you, Carl.
SAGAL: Thanks everybody. Right now, it's time for the WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME! Bluff the Listener game. Call 1-888-Wait-Wait to play our game on the air. Hi, you're on WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!
CHRISTY THOMAS: Hi, this is Christy.
SAGAL: Hey Christy, how are you?
THOMAS: I'm doing great, thanks.
SAGAL: That's terrific to hear. Where are you calling from?
THOMAS: Portland, Oregon.
SAGAL: Oh, it's beautiful in Portland.
SAGAL: Yay, we have some Portlanders here. Portland is the place where a lot of people in L.A. imagine going as soon as they hit it big, right?
SAGAL: Welcome to our show, Christy. You're going to play the game in which you must try to tell truth from fiction. Carl, what is Christy's topic?
KASELL: World's greatest dad.
SAGAL: If you're a dad, then you are, by default, the most embarrassing person in the world.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)
SAGAL: But this week our panelists are going to read you three stories of dads going above and beyond in their efforts to become the world's coolest dad. Guess the true story; you'll win Carl's fatherly voice on your voicemail. Ready to play?
SAGAL: First, let's hear from Maz Jobrani.
MAZ JOBRANI: Paul Wallich, a dad from Vermont, used to walk his son to the school bus stop every day. But after a while, he got sick of walking his boy. So, he came up with a solution: a homemade drone that could do it for him.
He fitted a quad copter with a camera and GPS tracker to follow his son to the bus stop every day. Used to be parenting meant a parent had to actually be there to parent, but not in this day and age of technology. Why teach your kids the ABC's when you could have Siri do it for you?
JOBRANI: Wallich's invention might be the first step into this world of step-parenting. Wallich said, "I fantasized about sitting at my computer while a camera-equipped drone followed my son overhead. So this year, I set out to build one."
Wallich attached a smart phone, running a video chat application and a sensor that can track a GPS unit in his son's backpack. It's designed to stay a preset distance away from the tracker, to avoid knocking right into his son in the process.
JOBRANI: At least he's made sure the drone won't actually attack his son, unlike the local bullies, who will.
SAGAL: A father creates a robotic drone to walk his kid to school. Your next story of a dad pulling out all the stops comes from Adam Felber.
ADAM FELBER: What do you do when your son is running for student council president? How do you pitch in and help? Well, if you're businessman Bill Upton of St. Louis, you buy the election.
Yes, classmates of Gareth Upton at the George A. Jackson Middle School found themselves with new computers on their desks, a new athletic center and just outside the school grounds, a table giving away free Xbox Kinects, engraved with "Vote for Gareth."
Sounds unfair, but according to Principal Caroline Framkey, quote, "We can't do anything about it. Money is speech." Yes, the effects of the Citizens United decision have been felt all the way down the political food chain, allowing Bill Upton to become the middle school equivalent of Sheldon Adelson and young Gareth his Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney, if you will.
FELBER: And just as with Sheldon, Newt and Mitt before him, Gary lost the election.
FELBER: Yes, at the end of the day, the kids took the treats and voted for the other guy, who in this case was a girl Lita Lis Fish. Bill isn't talking to the media right now, but young Gareth insists it was all worth it. "Hey," he says, "at the end of the day, I got an Xbox Kinect."
SAGAL: Which when I think of it, is more than Newt Gingrich got. A kid's dad becomes a sugar daddy for his kid to win election and it doesn't work. And your last story of a father going to extremes for his kids comes from Paula Poundstone.
PAULA POUNDSTONE: The second graders in teacher Marsha Green's class at McKinley Elementary School in Fort Lays, Indiana always looked forward to the annual my favorite animal project. This year, student Andrea Brant made a box turtle out of construction paper and cut-up milk jug. Cameron Barrett painstakingly twisted 100 legs onto his balloon centipede.
Little Gordy McKeys' favorite animal is the elephant. So his father, Thomas, gave a little parental support. Did he drive him to school, so his clay elephant wouldn't get broken on the bus? No. Did he give up his newspaper for the paper Mache elephant? No. He rented an elephant.
POUNDSTONE: "The play yard is ruined," says Principal Tosha Funenstein, "and the kids will never have to walk single file through the cafeteria door again."
POUNDSTONE: "At about 11:30 a.m., just after healthy snack time, I felt my desk shake. My Slurpee nearly fell off. I thought it was an earthquake, so I made the announcement for the students and staff to get under their desks, and I looked up to see an elephant crashing through the main office without a pass."
POUNDSTONE: "The stupid thing ripped the door off the refrigerator in the teacher's lounge. You'd think the shelves of ancient yogurts would have stopped him cold, but no," says Funenstein. "He smashed through the AV closet as well. Now we have no projector for the words to the non-Christian holiday songs at our holiday sing-along.
POUNDSTONE: "And who the hell knows the words to any non-Christian holiday songs?"
POUNDSTONE: "Pardon my French, but Thomas McKey is a big doo-doo head."
SAGAL: So, these are your choices. Each a story of a father going that extra mile. From Maz Jobrani, a father who built a robotic drone to follow his own child to the bus stop and back, because there's no surveillance like automated surveillance.
From Adam Felber, a father, a wealthy one, who tied to buy an election for his child and it didn't work. And from Paula Poundstone, a father who loved his child so very, very much, he rented an elephant, which then wrecked the school. Which is the true story of parental overachievement?
THOMAS: Well, I wanted to go with Paula at first.
SAGAL: We all do.
POUNDSTONE: I would.
THOMAS: I just can't get over the principal's name. That just doesn't sound right.
SAGAL: What was the principal's name, Paula?
POUNDSTONE: Tosha Funenstein.
JOBRANI: Are you asking us or telling us?
SAGAL: Wait a minute.
POUNDSTONE: I don't see a problem with that.
SAGAL: All right, but go on.
THOMAS: So now, I'm stuck between the political scandal in the middle school or the drone. I think I'm going to go with the drone.
SAGAL: You're going to go with the drone? You're going to go with Maz's story. The audience approves.
POUNDSTONE: That's ridiculous.
SAGAL: Well, we were lucky enough to actually speak to this ambitious father himself. Here he is.
PAUL WALLICH: If you're going to be a helicopter parent, you might as well have one.
SAGAL: That was Paul Wallich.
SAGAL: Who's a writer and tinkered and the father who made a drone to walk his son to school. Obviously, Christy, you were correct. Maz had the right answer. You trusted your instincts. You were correct. You've won our game and Maz has won a point. Congratulations, Christy, you did well.
THOMAS: Thank you very much. This was great.
SAGAL: Thank you, Christy, so much.
POUNDSTONE: Bye, Christy.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.