Matthew Jelalian 01

Matthew Jelalian poses for a portrait in the Daily Herald studio on Friday, March 6, 2015. SAMMY JO HESTER, Daily Herald

There’s a podcast I really like called “Alice Isn’t Dead.” It’s a narrative podcast that lasts for three seasons. It’s also a horror story.

At the end of each episode of the first season, the creator wraps up the episode by answering the question, “Why did the chicken cross the road.”

His answers for why the chicken crossed the road aren’t jokes. Not really. Rather, he uses this old joke format to explain different reasons why people (chickens) make decisions that others don’t understand (cross the road). Each answer has something to do with that episode’s part of the story.

I’ve been relistening to “Alice Isn’t Dead” recently, and I wanted to tell some of my own non-joke chicken-crossing stories as they relate to either experiences I’ve had this week or to conversations I’ve had with people about their experiences.

It’s going to be weird and experimental, but here goes nothing.

So, why did the chicken cross the road?

Because it reminded him of home. Because the chicken is a baby boomer. He really liked how things were as a kid and can’t see why these younger chickens want to change everything. He thinks that if he crosses the road, everyone will have the life he remembers having. He thinks his country is losing that special something that made his upbringing enjoyable and he’s worried how that will affect future generations.

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Because the grass looked greener over there. Because she’s a millennial. She was raised in a divorced home and so were many of her friends. A lot of her friends are overeducated and underemployed. She crossed the road because she has the internet and realizes that, although her boomer parents had good lives growing up, a lot of other people do not look back at the ’60s and ’70s as nostalgically as they do. She knows that no system is perfect, but she still thinks we should actively change things to make them better and more equitable for everyone.

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Because someone was offering a better job on that side. Because the chicken graduated into the recession. She came into adulthood in an era where employers didn’t even try to pretend that they had loyalty to their employees. So why was she going to be loyal to her employer if the guy on the other side of the street offered her a better job? She finds herself crossing the road every few years while her parents stayed on the same side of the road until they retired.

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Because sometimes, you have to change things up to stay in business. Because profit margins are thin in his industry, and sometimes, he has to cut employees who are costing him money instead of making him money. Because he’s trying to feed his family too, and he can’t do that by hanging onto every single employee no matter what the economy is doing. He crossed the road because if he doesn’t cut costs more than one person will lose their job if the recession hits again.

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Because there was a protest on the other side. Because he’s a black chicken living in a predominately white neighborhood. Because racism drives people crazy because it’s hard to tell whether people treat you the way they do because of who they are or because of who you are. He crossed the road to join the protest, because just this week, a guy who looks like him was shot and killed by a passerby who saw him fighting with another person.

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Because he saw a fight break out and thought it was his responsibility to help the person who he felt was on the more severe end of it. He was armed and thought he was ready to cross the road and help.

So why do chickens cross the road?

Chickens cross the road for many reasons. We could argue there are as many reasons to cross the road as there are chickens crossing.

The fact is, we’re all chickens and we’re all going to cross to the other side of the road at one point or another in our life. That crossing may come in the form of a vote at the ballot box, a divorce, a change in jobs or simply being rude to someone at the grocery store.

We’re all going to do things that make sense in our head, but leave everyone confused.

And sometimes, that process of crossing the road is going to be even more difficult because it’ll have a direct impact on someone else. But that tension has to be dealt with.

Whether that road crossing takes the form of a vote or a gunshot, we all need to do a better job at understanding motives instead of assigning them.

That doesn’t mean we should take people’s explanations for why they “crossed the road” at face value. We don’t always fully understand why we do the things we do. And sometimes people act irrationally. Sometimes they lie.

Nonetheless, we have to try.