Off The Wall: Reality of Unintended Consequences

Karla Johnson writes…

Mike – I follow you. Not just on this page, but wherever your media appearances take you. (To be clear, I do not follow you around in real life. That would be weird.) As a former public relations hack for a large company, I’m always curious to see how you deliver whatever message it is you’re focused on. Lately, you’ve been all over the map. I see you pretty much everywhere, talking about pretty much everything. The cancellation of Returning the Favor, your foundation, the possible return of Dirty Jobs, (please?) student loan forgiveness, Six Degrees, occupational safety, the oil industry, jobs, unemployment, trade schools, your dog…My question is this – how do you keep it all straight?

Hi Karla

I’m flattered by your interest, and relieved by its limitations. Following people around during a plague is so…2020? The short answer is, I don’t keep it all straight. I don’t even try anymore. on the positive side, I don’t have to, because everything is connected, and when I approach an interview with that in mind, there’s really no telling where it might go.

Yesterday for instance, on one of the news shows, the anchor asked me to sum up the goal of Six Degrees with Mike Rowe, the new smash hit on Usually when I get this question, I answer by explaining how a horseshoe can help you find your soulmate, or how a mousetrap can cure your hangover, or how a sheep can do your taxes, or some other seemingly impossible claim from the series that is in fact, not only possible but provable. But yesterday, having grown weary of answering the same question the same way several thousand times, I reflected instead on the current difficulty of getting the vaccines into as many arms as possible, as quickly as possible. Specifically, I recalled a conversation I had back in March, with a garbage man named Fred, who predicted a very bumpy rollout. I asked him why, and he told me this.

“Well Mike, they just shut down all the recycling plants. The worlds gonna need billions of glass vials for all those doses. There’s gonna be a glass shortage, just you watch.”

Fred was correct, as garbage men often are.

Anyway, Fred’s prediction was on my mind when I launched into a monologue about the unintended consequences of lockdowns, and the unseen challenges posed by a long and complicated supply chain. This led to a few thoughts on the disastrous fallout around the cancellation of the Keystone Pipeline, the ironic dangers of putting safety first, the problem of promoting a four-year degree at the expense of all other forms of education, the perils of student loan forgiveness, and the risk of raising the minimum wage. Next thing I knew, I was announcing a new round of work-ethic scholarships through my foundation and ruminating on the difference between being cancelled and getting fired, vis a vie the sudden termination of Returning the Favor, the smash hit that was formerly on Facebook. Facebook of course, is where all my shows are essentially focus grouped by the only people whose collective opinion actually matters. In fact, the people on this page not only program most of my shows, they also named my dog, Freddy, who turned seven yesterday – a fact I felt obliged to mention during the interview in question. Freddy of course reminded me of Fred the garbageman, which brought me back to Six Degrees and the surprising ways that everything is tied together – including the coincidental fact that each episode is sponsored by the energy industry, which led to further ruminating on the undeniable criticality of fossil fuel with regard to the civilization so many of us currently take for granted. Obviously, any discussion of civilized life brings us back to Dirty Jobs, which may very well reemerge later this year, and quite possibly feature Fred, my garbageman, who not only predicted a glass shortage would impact the rollout of the vaccine, but graciously shares the name of my dog, which – not to belabor the point – was chosen by the people on this page.

In other words, Karla, I’ve come to understand that the best way to promote Six Degrees with Mike Rowe, especially on a news channel, is not to discuss the specifics of each episode, but rather, the inescapable reality of unintended consequences, and the many ways we’re all connected.

Carry on,


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