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Lu vs. Soo

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Lulu Miller, reporter at NPR and former Radiolab producer, tells us the story of how her entire world view flipped in one scary moment. It happened on a bike trip she took with her friend Soo. Lulu and Soo are, well … different. Lulu tends to be an optimist who sees the best in people, while Soo has always been a bit more of a pessimist about her fellow man. Not surprisingly, a bike trip across the country turned that charming difference into a friendship on the rocks. But then, an unexpected encounter in the wilds of Virginia left Lulu and Soo deeply confused about the right way to greet an imperfect world.


Lulu Miller

Comments [51]


A fabulous story that is hardly "high-schoolish." Would that we all exercise such self-awareness (or self-reflection). That these ladies did so publicly is commendable, even if a book is in the offing. Super Radio Lab----thanks for providing insights into the human condition. Many of us are glad!!

Mar. 14 2017 10:31 AM
Jc from Houston, TX

I stayed in the car to finish hearing the story when I reached home. Thinking there was more to it after the break I rushed inside to listen on radio, even googled the piece online only to confirm it had ended rather abruptly wth two young women's introspective self questioning.

I'm a Soo, also Asian American, also a woman who came to live in the States in my early teens. I have met many Lulus in my lifetime.. a few became long time friends of mine. I can relate to this rich cultural dilemma. I live in Texas, and have met many simple good hearted locals. I appreciate (and have read through all 49) all the comments. Thanks to comments from the good folks in Pittsburg and the commenters who were also customers, I feel like I have a good enough grasp of what exactly happened in the bike shop story.

What I'd like to say is this: there is the truth, and nothing but the truth to everything. We may not have access to the whole and complete truth of the matter at all times or when we really need or want it, but that's what makes life such a rich, nuanced and intriguing journey.
The only way to reach the truth is to communicate.. to dialogue w eachother.. and to be a Lu and a Soo at all times.. to have the humility to give ppl the benefit of the doubt that sometimes things aren't laid out in front of us to make sense of immediately so trust our instincts and trust (have faith and be patient)that the ppl involved have our best interest in mind (Lu); to have the humility to give ppl the benefit of the doubt that sometimes things aren't laid out in front of us to make sense of immediately so ask questions and be urself and seek information and clarification as prudent and necessary (Soo).

I can tell Soo has been conditioned to act like a "go getter". Her family must have struggled to make ends meet, or fought dearly to assimilate socially and economically. Perhaps there was anger, or even jealousy toward her friend who may have been raised inside a waspy upper middle class (speculated) therefore "privileged" bubble.

Perhaps Soo's impatience toward her friend's treatment of the bike shop situation stemmed from her observation and subsequent judgement of Lu's "over engagement" style.. a projection of the differences in the two young women's social upbringings.

Are judgments good? Yes and no I guess. They cld save ur life or they cld alienate ur neighbors. The key is perception, "recognition" and nuance.

Lu may have used her judgement (in the face of poor communication and lack of information) to correctly assess the character of the bike shop mechanic.

It seemed that Soo picked up the correct signal from the crazed hiker (in the face of his awkward seemingly delusional confession) that there was a struggling soul inside the facade pleading for help.

Human connection is an amazing thing. And it may be difficult to fully verbalize at those moments.

Perhaps that is why the practice of mindfulness can save humanity's future.

Mar. 12 2017 03:22 AM
Theresa from Mpls MN

Soo you are a system Buster. Way to go girl! You learn to love yourself completely and it doesn't matter what anyone else responds. They learn to love you too. System Busters are the best!

Mar. 11 2017 04:11 PM

I love this story. But why are we left with "should we be like Lulu or Soo"? It feels clear to me that we need Lulu's and Soo's in this world and that people should just be their authentic selves. There needn't be a right or best way to be. Just be as you are and deal with the fallout.

Mar. 08 2017 08:46 PM
Delta from El Cerrito, CA

I listened to this story around the time it was posted and it has stayed with me ever since. I think I spend most of my time living like Lulu did but I do recognize its "happy hopelessness" quality. I'm sure there is a medium between the two outlooks as there is no genuine need to be stuck in one outlook or another. I strive to include more of Soo's passionate, correctional outlook in my life. I really want to thank Lulu and Soo and Radiolab for sharing this story with us.

Jul. 17 2016 12:59 AM
Carmel from Philadelphia

i just re-listened to this yesterday, and all I want to know is: what other English mash-up words has Soo (or her family members) coined? Crazzled, grubbish, and trapezing are now commonly used by me and those in my close circle, but we need more!
Seriously, I'd like an offshoot show about Soo and her family.

Dec. 08 2015 02:34 PM
Jordan from Utah

A few weeks ago I discovered Radiolab and subsequently started binge listening. This is the first episode I have encountered that really left me feeling empty, like there was a notable drop in quality. If the scenario that happened to Soo and Lulu happened to me, I think that I would tell a few friends, maybe jot it down in my journal, and largely forget about it. I remember a couple years back a man strung out on drugs held me and a couple friends up with a gun on the streets of Peru. He then inexplicably walked away. At the time it shook me, but now it's just a piece of trivia I pull out from time to time. I feel like my story is more interesting than this story, but my story is still boring.

Dec. 02 2015 03:55 PM
Deb from Pittsburg, KS

I'm back to share an article printed in a local newspaper yesterday about who the real Roger (the bike shop owner) is. I don't know if the link will work here, but maybe you can copy and paste it in your browser. Also, Pittsburg is not a dried up town. I'm so sick of seeing that in these comments. You never gave it a chance. You didn't even see half of it. It is small, yes, but it is a vibrant thriving university town.

Oct. 07 2015 11:19 PM
Marc daczewitz from Pittsburg Kansas!

I live and work in Pittsburg Kansas since this summer! I wouldn't necessarily say this is "a forgotten town" but it is not by any means New York. It has its poverty but also a thriving university on a beautiful campus.

I just got my bike fixed up at the shop mentioned in the story! Everything from the bald head to the couch in the back of the store is still there. And, it took 5 days longer to get my bike sorted out than he said. Hmm. I wish I was more like Soo in this story and not so much like Lu but there you are.

Sep. 30 2015 09:41 PM
AListener from Tampa, FL

As I listened to this story, I felt a profound connection with both girls. As a high school teacher, I make daily judgments about problematic teen behavior and how to address it. Sometimes, the confrontational approach is what the kid really needs in a particular moment, but at other times that same kid might just need positive acknowledgement of their status and feelings. It isn't an easy judgment to make, and I do sometimes feel at a loss when I am dealing with deliberate disrespectful behavior. But this underlying struggle, which Lulu does a fair job of presenting, is much more complex than "optimist" vs "pessimist." I want to say to both girls: it is OK to be confused about your attitudes and how you respond to friends/strangers/the world. Don't box yourselves in with labels like optimist or pessimist, because I assure you that your attitudes will change over time. This was a thoughtful and well-presented story, and I appreciated the nuances very much.

Aug. 03 2015 07:41 PM

I truly appreciate this story it has made me see things in a new light. THANK YOU FOR SHARING

Aug. 03 2015 04:13 PM

This moved me. I totally got it. Then I blacked out and woke up with a knife to my throat. I totally called myself on it, but I hate myself for doing so.

Aug. 02 2015 10:29 PM
SG from Denver

Boy named Soo. First, what were two young women doing out there all alone with no backup ? Seems far too risky behavior for them. Also wasted a lot of time on details that did not matter much and not enough time on the big moment or the event directly leading up to it and not sure what happened.

Aug. 02 2015 02:22 PM

I adore Radio Lab
I thank LuLu for being honest enough to admit she snapped out of Pollyanna Land (it sounded like she realized she lived in an oblivious state) and as they say we're I'm from in the south "you betta recognize" and she did.
I am African American and a woman and sometimes we get labeled with angry black woman's syndrome... and in truth some of us are like Soo out of necessity because we don't have the luxury of living in a bubble..
I like that Lulu reveals that Soo came here at 12 yrs old from Korea in some countries that age is equivalent to young adulthood.

I believe that revealing Soo's nationality and her background was justified because it sets the premise for the story. I do however agree with the comment from Lee above "why didn't LuLu also give us her background.

The answer could be that since she works for this show she made the assumption, listeners would be familiar with her nationality and race (if you google her she appears to be Caucasian and Her accent sounds American). It equally could be that it never occurred for her to describe her background as she did Soo's. Naive or people in power live in bubbles out of necessity. But I do know that you can get far more with honey than with vinegar as we southerners say.

However in the words of Kenny Rodgers " you got to know when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em, and not count your money while you sitting at the poker table.
In LuLu's defense, it was a little to gangster for Soo to demand that another guy from the bike shop drive them to the next town.
That man was "pulling their chain's he probably was in a situation were he was at the mercy of someone and it "gilted" him or caused him to overly exhort his power to make these stranded girls stay in his shop. Maybe his shop did poorly in that dried up town and he could not afford to take his "sweetie" two young sons on a vacation so he was "hating" on these young women.

If I were Soo and I was with my "Pollyanna" Friend LuLu I would have "recognized" too. But I would not have shouted at him like Sue did and I would have politely but with a stern tone of voice thanked him and take my broken wheel and get out of there and call cab or take greyhound to the nearest reputable bike shop ( with good online reviews) in another town ( research don't assume that just because your out of town and vulnerable people will help you that is a damsel in distress mentality) if Soo had not taken control of the situation they would have been there for a few days and he would have realized how dumb they really were and concluded that if they had money to pay for a hotel when he visibly did not touch the bike in a day and a few hours time he probably would have lied and told them an expensive part was needed.

I don't think Soo should have yelled at him and told him this was all his fault. They were in a desolate town he could have been the only means of transportation for that day if no other was available.

Aug. 01 2015 08:19 PM
lisa from Boston

I think Radio Lab needs to do a story on grammar. "Her and Sue"??

Aug. 01 2015 03:53 PM
Laura from NH

I definitely think there's a happy, healthy medium between their two personalities. I am definitely as Lulu said, "an over-engager", I love talking and listening to people, hearing about what they do and why they do it, etc. And I'd be forgiving to the bike repair guy too, and probably wait around a little too long, patiently. But there's a line to draw, at a certain point I would have spoken up, but it wouldn't have been nasty, just assertive. And with the guy who "almost killed a woman", I would have probably gently suggested counseling, or shared a friendly word that this is something he should be concerned about, but no way would I have aggressively confronted him in that situation, in what sounds like a remote location and potentially dangerous situtation. I guess the key is being an optimistic, forgiving person but also knowing there are times to speak up - but even more importantly, HOW to speak up. I suspect Soo's social problems develop as a result of HOW she said something, not THAT she said something.

Aug. 01 2015 12:48 PM
max stirling

The issue with Lulu and Soo is that every person is different. Soo's approach is appropriate to certain people and Lulu's as well. It's a matter of being able to read people and ascertain which is the right response to get what you want from them, for yourself or for themselves. It all depends on what you're trying to accomplish in the moment.

Jul. 31 2015 02:33 AM
John from OH

This story is proof that I do not miss Lulu Miller.

Jul. 30 2015 09:25 AM

More interesting than two young ladies finding their world view - one naive and "kind" and one critical and cautious - is how these two world views are actually masks for other things. Lulu said she basically believed that people were selfish and assholes which seems to contradict a social policy of being kind, patient and forgiving with the people for which she comes in contact. If you believe people are selfish assholes, you'd think Lulu's policy would be to be critical and cautious. Vice versa for Soo, it betrays a certain amount of optimism for Soo to not write off the young man with apparent mental problems and connect to a sane part of him.

I do believe some of this is common, especially for younger people still formulating their world view and general social policy, that we believe one way and, yet, act in an almost opposite way. From my own perspective, I see much of "acting nice" as a false social persona that people use to get through social interactions. Of course this does not mean there are no genuine acts of kindness, patience or forgiveness. It's probably most effective and personally satisfying to be open to both social outlooks: be cautious and assertive for yourself, but don't let your past pains or history of being burned close you off to being genuinely kind, patient or forgiving.

Mar. 08 2015 07:35 PM
Kimberley from Sydney, Australia

I entered the comments section here about 34:00 minutes feeling that Soo, though idealistic was very courageous in her reaction. People are too often afraid to stand up for what is right, particularly when it comes to standing up for themselves - and even more importantly, others.
How often do we hear of racism, sexism, homophobia and not step in to stop it in that instant? Why? We should say - this is not OK.

I have to admit I got a bit teary when Lulu came to the realization that it's possible her friend was fighting the good fight. Confrontation can have a purpose in creating change - for an individual or at a greater level. We should stand up for the things we believe in - while being conscious that they are not causing greater harm to anyone.

I found myself relating to Soo. Here is my story:
When I was 24 I was waiting for an international flight (Spain to England) that had been delayed around 6 hours. Everyone was exhausted, bored and stuck in a large waiting area for the entire time. At around midnight an older English man (50 or so years) started to rudely question and then berate a young Spanish stewardess - saying that he wanted to speak to someone who spoke proper english (her english was perfect though with a Spanish accent), and venting all of his anger on her for the flight delay.
This made my blood boil, I could feel the heat rise in my face and my eyes cloud over. I couldn't hold back: "How dare you speak to her in this way. Her English is perfect and in case you haven't realised it - you are in SPAIN. How DARE you treat her this way! You should be ashamed!"
He suddenly went sheepish; couldn't look anyone in the eye and left the area with no response.

This 'blood boiling' feeling has happened on several occasions and it is a very physical response particularly when I see someone being mistreated. Sometimes I don't stand up and do something and I think about it for the rest of the day - I should have done something, what will I do next time?

Oct. 16 2014 09:43 PM
Bob from Durham NC

I loved this story. It was inspiring to hear about two young women with opposite personalities and different ways of looking at the world struggle to understand themselves, each other, and humanity... This is a wonderful example of how we all need each other for humanity to be whole. There is no "right" way to handle other people. Every situation requires a different response, and each person brings a unique set of traits and skills that can be either/both a hindrance and a solution. I was moved at the end as they both spoke introspectively and self-critically, and were honest about the confusion and self-doubt they were experiencing as a result of their trip... Isn't this what young adult adventures like this are supposed to bring? Challenge, introspection, questions, and opportunities to learn? Good luck to Lu and Soo as they continue defining themselves and their friendship in the future!

Jul. 16 2014 12:05 AM
Jerett from California

I think what we see in this story is two extremes with dealing with a problems in world. Soo takes the extreme approach of judging and correcting the world, just give it people straight. Lulu approaches problems through relationship, compassion, and understanding. In the end both extremes is not usually the best approach. Instead the best approach is usually some where in the middle, you can correct the world around and be loving at the same time. However there are times when confronting someone is best or times just being loving is the best.

It think this story also illustrates that people (Lulu and Soo) have different temperate that have more to do with there personality. It also might have to do with how they were brought up by a Korean Parents and a American Parents.

However this brings to the question how do we determine what is right and wrong? Evolution, DNA, Culture, or something else?

Jul. 08 2014 06:17 AM
Maurice from Yorktown Heights NY

Wonderful job Radiolab of presenting the story of Lulu's and Soo's trip with the questions that were raised about assertiveness versus acceptance.

The two commenters from Pittburg Kansas add a dimension to who Roger is.

I think the lesson is as much about tone as it is about assertiveness versus passivity. Lulu's instincts to be polite should always work. That is not to say that she couldn't have been more assertive to find out the timing of Roger's repair.

I believe that the only people who can change are people who want to change. It was amazing the Soo could facilitate a break-through with someone who she thought my be psychotic but why was that necessary and why would she do that with a potentially violent person in a remote location.

Neuroscience tells us that the brain is plastic and that change is possible and that clearly evokes hope. I would repeat change is possible only for people who are capable of change.

Clearly, her roommates were not open to her criticism. The piece ended with an inference that so may have an anger problem. If she advocated for change with an angry or critical tone then perhaps so. But if she advocated for change a civil tone with roommates that were change resistance, then perhaps they were just a bad fit and it was best for her to move on.

Gandhi said "be the change that you want to see in the world."

Thanks again for this thought provoking piece.

Jul. 07 2014 01:42 PM
Ross Mercer

Two comments about this story:
Lulu's naivete in dealing with the bike shop is astounding. This is not just about repairing a wheel; it's about arranging with somebody to do a job--communicate what is needed, find out what will be done, when and at what price and move forward. It's hard to imagine this woman ever being able to function in society.
More importantly, I was like amazed at her speech and her like continual use of the word "like". Is she like an adolescent? Credibility in the working world is hard enough to attain and people who speak in this manner will never be taken seriously. I'm like really surprised she was ever hired at NPR.

Jul. 05 2014 10:09 PM
Jerre Harris from Portland

Thank You for this story! This "people-pleasing" versus asserting one's rights is a huge problem in our society, I think. So very many people have been taught that we must be "nice" to others - as a way of living! Of coure society teaches this; others can I think many people see this in us, and they don't treat us with dignity and respect. They recognize that they can treat us badly and we will not object. We become victims by being "people pleasers". Of course being nice to others is taught in our society; others can get what they want from us if we're nice.

My parents were alcoholic. They could not teach me about individual wholeness, autonomy, self-love - and setting boundaries. I think this occurs to many people who have been reared in abusive situations, and there seems to be an infinite variety of abusive environments and people. I was a people-pleaser. Not only did I not set boundaries with others, I did not even know what I was supposed to set boundaries for. I searched to find those boundaries.

I found The Personal Bill of Right. They are 25 rights that we all have - if we assert them. Each right/sentence begins with the words, "I have the right". For example, "I have the right to be treated with dignity and respect", and "I have the right to have my needs and wants respected by others, and "I have the right not to give reasons or excuses for my behavior", and "I have the right to say no to anything when I feel I am not ready, it is unsafe, or it violates my values", one more, "I have the right to be uniquely myself". They can be found by Googling, "Personal Bill of Rights". I try to read them out loud every day, but as one more right says, "I have the right to make mistakes and not have to be perfect".

Best of wishes to Lulu and Soo. I think this is such a valuable topic. Thank you for presenting it.

Jul. 05 2014 06:22 PM
Rick Evans from 02368

Useless waste of radio time. Cut out the number of times the word like acts as filler and it's only half a useless.

Jul. 05 2014 03:38 PM

I normally love RadioLab but this was such a non-story. At the end I was waiting for the second part to start. But it didn't. How on earth Lulu expects to make a book out of this is a completely mystery to me!

Jun. 09 2014 10:06 AM

Confronting a schizo stranger who is sharing your hotel? Would be idiotic for a burly 40-something man. I come from a culture like Soo's, and I've learned to mediate it (I hope). I've been the person on a full airplane (back to that culture) to get extra room for my ill mother. Why, because I offered to move to an emergency seat so she could spread out. She didn't have to fly overseas, nor did we choose to pay for first class, just like these girls probably could have shelled out for a new wheel or new bike. Yes I know what a good cross country bike costs, and I know what hotels and lost time cost. Work out a deal, a premium for prompt work, or buy another wheel and sell this one to Roger for parts. I have a relative who is the endlessly squeaky wheel, and is praised when it comes to these stranger-interactions. She's the one who ignores the line at the bar, who undertips cabs and waiters, who asks for the biggest slice of anything anywhere. It's like prisoner's dilemma, that it works to be the jerk in a one-off situation, but it bites you when the situation is ongoing.

Jun. 03 2014 07:40 PM
Nate Rhoden from Norfolk, VA

I just heard this story and I have to say it put into words something that I've struggled with my who life. I float somewhere between abrasive and accommodating in my interactions with people, and I can never decide which is a better way to interact. Typically, I'm very accommodating with people I don't know and harsh with people close to me... which is pretty much the worst way to maintain relationships with the exception of people that are kind of insecure with themselves.

May. 27 2014 02:20 PM
ira woodward from Seattle

This story hit home for me. One thing that often grates on me about NPR is what I'll describe as a wishy-washy refusal to assert the truth, a reticence to take sides in the name of balance.

Of course, thought-provoking and informative reporting I like. Honestly, I'm as confused as Lulu or Sue.

About what to say or do, how to relate to people and the world.

Here's what I believe: As long as the jury is out, the verdict could come back either way. We're all sitting here, waiting. Patiently. Because no matter what happens, at the end of the day, we get to go home.

Apr. 27 2014 02:25 AM
Jean from Rochester

To sum up many of the comments below - this story was just not very interesting. Maybe more suitable for a high school-age audience.

Apr. 04 2014 05:23 PM
Gary from Pittsburg Kansas

Sue and Lulu's story about the little town and Roger is not exactly how I remember it. For one this town that they play off as some little desolate town is a little underrated. Pittsburg Kansas is the Home of the Pittsburg State University, this school has a football team that has won multiple NCAA Division II National Championships, the town has a population of over 20,000 people. Not a huge town, but not what I would call desolate. I guess it's not unusual for journalist to over dramatize things. As far as Roger goes, these ladies came into the shop and Lulu was friendly, but Sue was very rude and unfriendly. I know because I was one of the three mechanics that was working in the shop including Roger. I was finishing my graduate studies and I would help out Roger during the summers and in-between classes.

Lulu, did the two of you ever ask Roger why he hadn't finished her wheel in the time frame you expected? That shop is the only shop in that area and the only one within 300 miles on either side of the trans am route that they were riding. During the summer there is at-least 2-3 weeks of backlog. Most of the costumers live in the area and wait for the expert level mechanic work, yet Roger was kind enough to put these two ahead of others that had been waiting weeks for their bikes to be completed. They waited a little under 24 hours to get a professionally built wheel and would have probably waited less hadn't Sue been such a hag. What Lulu is failing to mention is they showed up 15 minutes before closing time and then expected it to be done when they came back the next morning at 10AM. The shop opens at 9AM. Next my good friend Jon was friendly enough to drive them out of state, they gave him a whole 20 bucks for his effort and time. That wouldn't even pay for the gas not to mention his time. Don't forget that I had to pick up Jon's slack while he drove these ladies to Missouri, in the mean time locals are still waiting for their bikes. These ladies are lucky Jon was working that day, because as rude as Sue was I wouldn't have been as nice as Jon. Sue was so rude that I remember it very well, and it should be noted that this was nearly two years ago that they came through the desolate town of Pittsburg Kansas. I remember it well, It's sad that rude people make such a big impact on ones memory.

Mar. 29 2014 11:40 PM
Angelina from Ithaca

I'm surprised no one else brought up that there is a middle way! As a buddhist, I shall do that. There is a concept in my school of thought coined by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche (I think he coined the English term) called idiot compassion. I think Soo brought it up when she chided Lu about her doormat behavior. By letting people around you exhibit cruel/destructive behavior either towards others or themselves and you tell yourself you are being nice or compassionate (talking about you Lulu) by letting them slide, you are actually doing damage and committing an act of aggression. This would include the man in the bike shop who was being aggressively disrespectful of the women's time (assuming they properly communicated to him their situation and needs). By allowing to behave poorly you are letting them accumulate karma which is a cruel act if you know better. This is very similar to the idea of enabling the addict. The BIG key to this, where Soo is going too far to the other side, is in knowing how, when, and to whom you should actually point out bad behavior. How to do that would not possibly fit in an internet comment box.

May all beings be happy!

Mar. 18 2014 08:43 PM

What is the ethnicity of Luu? The only reason I ask is b/c she goes into detains about Soo being Korean American. Does that information matter? If so, why is Luu's ethnicity not matter?

Mar. 18 2014 12:09 AM

I love Radiolab ,
one of my favorite shows on the radio, internet whatever.
The pieces are well thought out , expertly edited and not only entertaining , educational but also they cause us to question the world around us , to take stock of our humanity and to take responsibility for the world around us.
Although I feel this way about almost every show ,
This show dropped short of making any sense .
Out of all the comments , I think only one other person heard the same show I did , everyone else sounded delusional.
Radio lab where are your standards?
I don't know where most of the listeners live , I am native born New Yorker and I found the naiveté of Lulu laughable.
I am under the impression that most twenty somethings might be new to NYC and perhaps live in an exclusive neighborhood.
Otherwise there would be no reason other than coming in fresh from Iowa to be so unrealistic about your expectations of strangers when on a cross country bike ride.
Two young women should be expecting a few wrong turns along the road and if it wasn't for Soo
Lulu might not be alive let alone have the guts to put this silly story on Radio Lab.
The only genuine statement was made by Soo to Lulu
"you romanticized even this , won't you even see this moment for what it is "

The fact that this story even made it into the show as a "thing" is beyond understanding.
Spooky ? What is so spooky about this, this is human nature unless you live in a bubble
which is what I am guessing.

I did not feel anything new was revealed about human nature or reality other than the possibility that everyone was so hard up to fill the space in the show that they chose this unremarkable story about someone who represses their feelings to the point of becoming a doormat and believing its being nice
and someone who speaks their mind and gets marginalized by her peers of having "anger issues" .
I guess I since I was born in the last decades of the twentieth century this type of pablum seems like cry me a river nonsense that generation UM types like Lulu who haven't experienced any "real" life altering experiences will contemplate writing a book about this.
The funny thing is I think she will write this book and I bet she will make the New York times best seller list , and the only reason "Taste" not withstanding will be that her readers all see the world in this candy ass way .
It makes me yearn for the fear and loathing of the late 70's and 80's , at least that generation you got straight up and authentic perspective and not some hollow and trite representation of what passes for soap opera emotion.

I wonder if Adam Krulwhich had anything to say about this ?
I hope he did.
Please no more ridiculously bad stories guys you have a reputation to maintain.

Mar. 16 2014 12:05 AM
Amberley from Angwin, CA

Loved this episode (as always!) and the Lulu/Soo story especially--so much, I needed more, so I came here to see what you other listeners had to add to it. Reading the comments is like a continuation of the point of the story--its pretty complicated and we don't all agree about the best way to deal with each other (or apparently to some, even if the topic warrants consideration in a world full of more interesting science and art.) But I think it is absolutely vital for us fans of science and art to allow ourselves to be entertained, provoked to thought and to conversation over topics as simple as how we might best interact with one another. I'm grateful to Deb for writing about her friend Roger. I wish that Roger and the man from the Appalachian hostel has been interviewed or maybe just followed up on. How were they affected by Lulu and Soo's treatment of them? To me that question carries the same significance as following up on Ibrahim in the previous story and finding out that Ibrahim had always intended to Steal, but was conned into sharing the money instead.

We almost never have enough information in the moment to know what is going on with the other person (slow-goers with poor communication skills or cruel classist?, too far gone into a dangerous mental illness or in need of bumping into a societal reality that will curb their trajectory?) Having a life philosophy helps to prepare us for the actions we will take and yet I agree with William that choosing thoughtfulness over impulse would be most ideal. I guess that's why I loved this story so much. It gets us to think about staying open to keeping the peace while having the courage to challenge what is wrong. I for one, really needed this--THANKS Radiolab and commenters!

Mar. 14 2014 01:26 AM
William from DC

The most important thing in my life is to increase my positive sphere of influence and decrease my negative sphere of influence. From that perspective the Lu vs. Soo confrontation is a false dilemma. It arises only if one presumes that one must either always confront or always tolerate people. If someone chooses to always be one way regardless of the circumstances then they are no longer truly interested in doing good by one another. That person has given that up for a philosophy, like non-violence. If one wants to do good one must look at each circumstance and understand it. By doing so one can understand the consequences of one's own actions in said circumstance. If one is open to understanding situations one comes to realize that there are times when confronting leads to the least harm and times when toleration leads to the least harm. There are even times when a certain amount of confrontation and toleration in the right measure lead to the least harm. Tolerating Hitler led to greater harm. Confronting him right off would have led to less. The harmonic statements of "I don't know" from Lu and Soo only go to show that they are both looking for a life philosophy, not to do the least harm or the most good. A life philosophy is comforting to have, no doubt. It reduces our requirement to think and to observe every situation and behave accordingly to a simple reflex: follow one's philosophy. Problem is, doing the right thing requires mindfulness, thoughtfulness, not reflexiveness.

Mar. 13 2014 02:14 PM
Matt M

Love the show, usually. But with this one I rolled my eyes. A lot. If I wanted to hear white middle class 30 something pablum, I would listen to TAL's human interest stories.

I see that most people liked this piece, but I just heard a bunch of adolescent avoidance behavior. I admit, I sometimes will have trouble owning my feelings and communicating them respectfully, I'll be afraid of conflict, so instead I'll make small matters in the moment into large academic emotionally indulgent speculations about the nature of people and human relations. It works all to well. And is boring. And my relationship with people suffers for it. That's all I heard in this show.

This is why i like Radiolab more than TAL - because Radiolab usually doesn't fall for this boring, ethno- and age-centric formula.

It's worth my time to complain a bit on here in hopes that Radiolab will focus on science and art, and not so much on Jad's coffee shop sociological philosophizing.

Mar. 12 2014 01:18 PM
Dan from Edinburgh

Fascinating stuff. Though I think Soo's actions in the second story were extremely reckless. When a complete stranger starts rambling about being a prophet and assaulting prostitutes, it is wise to treat him as unpredictable, socially unconstrained and likely dangerous. It's blind luck that her aggressive approach didn't escalate the situation.

Mar. 11 2014 11:57 AM
jandybee from MA

In doing business it is perfectly appropriate to agree up front, what is the job, how much will it cost, and when will it be done? Roger said “tomorrow”. When the wheel was not done in the morning, it would have been appropriate and not at all confrontational to ask “what time today can I pick it up?” Perhaps the girls thought that waiting IN the store would prioritize the job. Perhaps Roger was passive-aggressive. But this was a case of bad communication and not of being mean vs nice.

Mar. 09 2014 03:52 PM

I got weepy when I listened, too, like Marie-Ange. What she said, I could have said: I'm always trying to walk the line between being nice and saying what people want to hear, and saying what I really think. I can't even understand being a Lulu. From the very start, I thought, who would do that? Of COURSE you should confront the guy who's ignoring your bike. I got it all. I understood confronting the guy who'd held the knife to the woman's throat, and bonding with him later, and listening to your friend being proud of you, and being flummoxed that a personality trait you've struggled with could be seen as brave. I had a friend once tell me, "I'd rather be kind than right," and I was astonished. That's the choice? I lie pleasantly or speak truth painfully? Tell me that's not the choice.

I'm also left-handed. I wonder ...

Mar. 08 2014 12:00 AM
Clio from Santa Rosa, California

Like Soo, I came to America when I was twelve. The hardest part of assimilation is buying into the "nice" culture. The binary is skewed that if you are not "nice" you will get violent. There are hues of expressing anger and frustration that do not result in brutality. You have to stand for something from time to time and you have to let people know "it's not ok".

It's also ok if everyone does not like you. People by nature do not like everyone, so why cover yourself in the shroud of nice. Nice is confused for good manners and other virtues. That is not that case. Nice is accommodation, submission out of fear and out of laziness.

Go Soo, you are daebak.

Mar. 06 2014 10:40 AM
Mark from Montreal and Oregon

30 years ago I married a Quebecois woman (like Marie-Ange A.) from Montreal. My wife is a lot like Soo. I am english from the US and am a lot like Lulu. When we're in the U.S., most folks are like me. When we are in Montreal, many more (not all) are like her. It's been a hilarious, turbulent ride and I wouldn't change a moment. Our daughters may have their own opinions :)... I'm not confused about our relative value, we complement each other... Morals: 1) Soos must marry Lulus (they would kill another soo). 2) always go on vacation with a Soo, it will be much more interesting. 3) Let Lulu talk to the police at the boarder when you have a car full of furniture and boxes. Enjoy!

Mar. 05 2014 09:04 PM
Geneve Lopez from Macon, GA

I can't began to explain how this one touched me. My heart ached after hearing this and I haven't been able to stop thinking about the questions this story asks.

If there is public contact information for Soo like an address or email I would really appreciate it.

Mar. 03 2014 01:34 PM

This is a wonderful risk vs. reward piece, rather than right vs. wrong. Both Soo and Lu are right and wrong in their approaches; they both balance each-other out, which I'm sure adds to their friendship. Lulu cares too much what others think of her; who cares what some bike-shop-owner in a podunk town thinks? Soo cares too little; people tend to respond to hostility with hostility. They both could probably communicate a little better.

But the bigger picture here is that Lulu leans towards minimizing her risks; avoiding confrontation avoids getting hurt, but also means she changes nothing and is walked over sometimes. Soo on the other hand is good at taking risks; she sees the reward of confrontation (changing someone else's approach to the situation) as worth the risk of being hurt herself.

We all fall on this spectrum, and it was a nice story to contrast the two extremes. I will definitely think of this story next time I come across someone who voices their strong opinions, or the next time I avoid voicing my own. My only criticism is that I would have loved for this story to have fallen amongst others about loss avoidance (most humans generally avoid loss more than they pursue gain; finding $20 does not feel as good as losing a $20 hurts), since I see that as the real heart of the matter.

Mar. 03 2014 10:38 AM
Marie-Ange A. from Montreal, QC

This episode was like... fate finding me. After hearing this particular story, I burst into tears in the metro. I am a Soo and am currently facing a difficult "confrontation" where I have two options... take the Soo approach, be myself, tell the people at fault what I think, instigate real change but risk alienating myself further and getting a bad reputation, or take the Lulu approach, tell people what they want to hear to get what I want without ruffling feathers or improving things, and basically denying my nature and lying to be "nice." I was hoping for an answer but the segment has an open ending...

You see, people like Soo and I (I think we're alike) are labelled condescending, bullies, opinionated... the thing is, speaking for myself, I try to be nice aalll the time but am very hard on myself. I hold myself to the highest of standards, and like Lulu said, I always assume if I can push myself and live up to my potential, other people can too. So I treat people teh way I treat myself sometimes. The problem with constant over-estimation is constant disappointment. My boyfriend often says "please under-estimate me, it is impossible to live up to your standards." So in a sense, yes, people like me believe others are capable of the best. Our problem is expecting the best and reacting negatively when people don't "deliver."

As for my confrontation, a wise friend of mine told me it's about the delivery, not about the content. It's an art to bridge the gap between honesty (sometimes the truth is ugly) and kindness. I've been practising my speech accordingly and I hope it all goes well.

In conclusion, we need Soos and Lulus in the world because we learn from each other, like two tethers bringing each other back to equilibrium. Thanks Radiolab for another fantastic, introspective, story.

Feb. 28 2014 11:15 AM

I agree with commenter Deb's statement about balance. These two young girls are, in a way, two sides of a similar coin...philosophical opposites, contrasting personalities, but what they have in common: they're both YOUNG and they haven't had time to live the full experience of life.

I wouldn't exactly describe myself as a fully realized person, but having the benefit of a few more decades behind me than they have, I can honestly say that once a reasonably reasonable person has had time to experience both ways of being in the world, if they are truly open minded, they'll learn to synthesize both of these approaches and determine what blend of the two is appropriate for a given situation (as commenter Zachary's approach suggests). It's about really paying attention to what's going on around you, getting out of your head, and also realizing that you don't live in a world of people who are all like you. Watch, listen, adapt, and trust your gut. These are the seeds of common sense.

Feb. 27 2014 09:16 PM
Rachel ah from Houston

I am a new fan of radiolab, and while I enjoy most of the stories this is the first that has touched me deep down. My best friend and I are so similar to Lu and Soo, myself being the more pessimistic and at times brutally honest of the two. She balances me in numerous ways and helps me see outside of my thought process and for that I'm Thankful. Her brother was diagnosed w schizophrenia and a few other things about 2 years ago, so when the story continued on to talk about the young man I felt even further pulled in. I have sent her the link to this ( we live thousands of miles apart or I would play it for her w me right beside her) and just wanted to thank you for taking the time to tell your story.

Feb. 27 2014 11:25 AM
Deb from Pittsburg, Kansas


I live in Pittsburg, KS and I'm a cyclist. I know Roger very well. I just wanted you to know that your instinct was correct. Roger is a good man, a devoted dad, and the most generous person I've ever met in my life. That's no joke. He is also the best bike mechanic I've ever known.

Yes, he is slow. Part of why he's slow is because he an absolute perfectionist about what he does. I bet that wheel lasted you all the way to the east coast, and beyond. I doubt he was brushing you off as silly college girls. That's not his style. More likely, he was worried about you getting stranded in the middle of nowhere, and felt responsible for making sure that didn't happen. He fixes a lot of bikes for a lot of cross country cyclists. Most of them are trashed by the time they make it to KS, and many weren't that great to begin with.

Another reason Roger is slow is that he's perpetually understaffed. You described Pittsburg as a ghost town, but it isn't. After you dropped off the wheel he probably had a dozen other people come in the shop with equally urgent problems. I might have been one of them. He isn't perfect. He's easily distracted and he doesn't always manage his time well. I've also been furious at him for not getting my repairs done on time, several times. But I love him like a brother. I'm glad you were nice to him.

Your next story was really scary. Maybe the moral of the whole thing is that you need balance. Sometimes you need to be nice, like it was your instinct to be with Roger. And sometimes you need to take a stand, like Soo did with the scary guy. You definitely don't have it "all wrong," as you said in the end. I hope getting perspective from someone who knows the real Roger will help you feel less confused about that part of your trip.

I'm sorry this is so long. I hope you will show it to Lulu, even if you don't post it.


Feb. 26 2014 09:33 PM
Kamal Pathak from Miami, FL

brilliant piece of journalism (although I must say completely poor judgment in the way you handled your interaction with the psychotic stranger). loved to see the unfolding of soo's character as the narrative proceeded. great presentation of the depth of your friendship.

Feb. 26 2014 05:41 PM
Zachary Florence from St. Louis

This story was so weird. I understand not wanting to upset the man who has your bike trip fate in his hands, though why couldn't either of them make what I would consider normal conversation and ask questions to gather more info(which is how you make better decisions), which was readily available to them. For example, "Hey, how long do you guess the wheel is going to take now?", "do you have all the parts you need?", "Are one of your employees going to work on it" etc. Or they could ask the really obvious question but in a respectful way,"did you run into some problems with the wheel? I'm sure specialty jobs like this aren't that easy?" - Voila! you've asked the most important question and complimented the person in the process. Instead, they do look like two "touristy" college girls that don't know how to communicate with people. Soo knowing not how to moderate her anger(even though I side with her in her wanting to take action), and Lulu who should understand "confrontation" has no negative connotation to it, only if it's put there by some one.

Feb. 26 2014 02:40 AM

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