March 28, 2019

#139 The Reply All Hotline

by Reply All

Background show artwork for Reply All

This week, PJ and Alex open up the phone lines and try to solve your problems, big and small. Don’t type like my brother.

Further Reading:
Institute of International Education PEER
Michael Bazzel's workbook to remove your personal information online



ALEX GOLDMAN: From Gimlet, this is Reply All. I'm Alex Goldman.

PJ VOGT: And I'm PJ Vogt.

ALEX GOLDMAN: What’s the number? the dial pad there. 


[phone ringing]

ALEX: Can you pick that up?

AUTOMATED VOICE: Hello, thank you for using Google Phone Verification.

ALEX: You’re welcome.

AV: Your code is two–

TIM HOWARD: two–  

ALEX: Mmhm.

AV: Zero–

TIM: Zero–

AV: One–

TIM: One–

ALEX: Shut the fuck up.

AV: Seven–


PJ: (laughs)

AV: Zero–

TIM: Zero–

AV: Nine–

TIM: Nine–

ALEX: This is actually so annoying and distracting–

PJ: This is actually so annoying and so distracting.


AV: Two– 

PJ: (laughs)

AV: Zero, one, seven–

ALEX: The verification procedure has rec–has expired and must be restarted. 

PJ: We have to restart the verification…

PJ: So last week, we got in the studio with our editor, Tim, and a few producers because we'd asked people to call in with questions. Big questions, small questions, tech, non-tech. And we got a lot of calls and we tried to answer them.

ALEX: All right. Try hanging up and let's see what happens.

[phone ringing]


ALEX: Okay, we’re getting our first call.

PJ: Cool.     

[phone ringing]

PJ: Hello?

ALEX: Hello?

ERIC: Hey.

PJ: Hey, who's this?

ERIC: My name is Eric. I'm calling from Canada.

PJ: Where in Canada?

ERIC: Vancouver.

PJ: Cool. I've never been there. But I went to school in Montreal. What is your question?

ERIC: Let’s go on a quick thought experiment here.

PJ: Sure.

ERIC: I've got kids and (ALEX: Mhm.) um, if I send the kids to the store to buy– 

PJ: Wait, do you have actual kids or are these just kids in a thought experiment?

ERIC: Oh, wait, no, I actually have kids.

PJ: Okay.

ERIC: Um, and say I send them to Best Buy to buy, I don't know, something for the house, with cash, they can do it. That's fine. But if I send them with my credit card, they can't do it. 

ALEX: Right.

ERIC: Right? But if they're online, and they're buying an app in the App Store, they have to have a profile that is guaranteed by my credit card and they can buy stuff with my credit card. And I think that's probably a breach of some sort of contract. Right? Entering into a contract with a minor with a credit card that's not theirs?

ALEX: Uh, this–

PJ: Who do you want arrested in this situation? 

ALEX: Yeah. Who–

PJ: Is it your kids or is it Apple?

ERIC: (laughs) Apple. Because this is the thing that got me on this is that my kid bought this app Truth or Dare. And–

ALEX: That doesn't–

ERIC: I don't know the nature of the app, but I bet it's truth or dare kind of related–

PJ: (laughs)

ERIC: And (laughs) and he's 14, right? Like so him and his friends they're, you know, experimenting with girls, and friends stuff like that. So Truth or Dare was kind of age appropriate. It was free for the first month, maybe, or week. And then it started to pop up like, do you want to buy the thing? And he's like, no. And then it would say, right away, would you want to buy the thing? And–no, no, no, no. And so he got into this situation where he's just pressing no, a bunch of times. And then they flipped where the no and the yes were. So he pressed yes–

PJ: Oh my god!

ALEX: That's real sketchy.

ERIC: I know! But wait, that’s, that’s just the beginning. Guess how much it costs for this app. 149 dollars a week.

PJ: Are you serious?

ALEX: What does this app do?

ERIC: I don't know–!

PJ: Tricks kids into putting stuff on their parents' credit card.

ERIC: So, you know, what kids do is, and this is what my son did, and I don't blame him for doing it. Right away, he deleted the app, right? Because he's like, "Oh, no, something happened. I pressed yes. I didn't mean to. But if I delete the app, no big deal, right?"

ALEX: Mmm–

PJ: Yeah–

ERIC: Well, three weeks later, when I get my credit card statement, there's three weeks of 149 dollars for this app–

ALEX: Oh, that's, that's awful.

ERIC: (laughs)

PJ: That's, that is straight up predatory.

ALEX: Um– 

ERIC: Right? So Apple comes back and says, "No, he bought the app." And I was like, "No, he didn't, because you never fulfilled on that. He deleted the app. So he never used it." Right? And they're like, "No, technically he bought it." And I'm like, "But technically what in the hell?" You can’t have something where it flips from a no to a yes.

PJ: It just feels like such a straightforward scam.

ERIC: Yeah.

PJ: And so they just won’t help. They’re just like–

ERIC: And they’re like, “Okay.”

PJ: So what did they say?

ERIC: No, they did eventually help me. But they never got back to me on the like, isn't it illegal to enter into a- a contract with a minor? Like, why does a kid have to have a credit card verified iTunes account to get free apps? Why wouldn't you just make it so that a kid's account, you can't buy anything?

ALEX: Is–does he have his own individual iTunes account? Or you–is it your account?

ERIC: Yeah, yeah, he has a kid's iTunes account, but a kid's iTunes account has to be verified, or at least at the time, I think they were saying they were talking about changing it. But I don't know if they have. You have to put in your credit card. 

PJ: Oh, wait, I do have something to tell you. 

ERIC: Okay–

PJ: Okay, so apparently, iTunes does have a feature, which even though it seems like you do need a credit card to set up the account, you can take the credit card off the account once it's been set up.



PJ: Yeah–

ERIC: I want that.

PJ: You just select "none" as payment type.

ERIC: Oh, I'm doing that today. 

PJ: Yeah.

ERIC: You guys are the best.

ALEX: Thanks for calling.

ERIC: Thanks, guys.


PJ: That was the one person with a question.

ANNA: laugh

[phone ringing]

PJ: Oh, never mind. 

ALEX: Hello?


ALEX: Hi, this is Alex, and PJ’s here also, unfortunately. Uh, what’s your question?

PJ: That was–that felt really rude.

ALEX and CALLER 1: (laugh)

CALLER 1: Okay. So my question is–

PJ: Are you calling from a library?

ALEX: Is a baby sleeping?

CALLER 1: Oh, no, no, no.

PJ: (laughs)

CALLER 1: I'm at work. 

ALEX: Oh, okay. 

CALLER 1: Okay, so I get this email ever since I went on vacation to Paris and connected to wifi. And it's one of those hacker emails where they're like, um, "We've been watching you. We have a Trojan on your computer. Send us Bitcoin money."

ALEX: Uh huh.

CALLER 1: And they're like, "In five days, if you don't send us the money, we're gonna, we're gonna like attack your account–"

PJ: Compromising photos of you.

CALLER 1: Oh, and send a million things out to all your friends and family. And I've always waited, and nothing ever happened. 

ALEX: Mhm.

CALLER 1: And so I just I want to know if I should be worried about it, or if it's just because they have my email.

ALEX: You shouldn't be worried.

PJ: You shouldn't be worried. The–

CALLER 1: Yeah!

PJ: The other version of this scam that is like slightly more convincing and scary, is that they'll, they'll go on the internet and they'll find password dumps where, you know, you used to have like an Adobe account or something and your old password leaked from years ago. And they'll send you an email where, where they're like, "We have your password." And even though it's an old password, it makes it feel more specific. And so people in that situation have been–

CALLER 1: Right.

PJ: Handing over money, but you definitely should not hand over money. They definitely don't have anything.

ALEX: I think the other thing that they do a lot is like, uh, "We hacked your computer, we've turned on your webcam–"

PJ: Yeah–

ALEX: "We've seen you watching pornography, we're going to send this video to your family unless you give us the thing." And–

CALLER 1: Right. 

ALEX: And honestly,  the scam does work. There–researchers have followed the Bitcoin account that they put in there–

PJ: It's like millions of dollars. 

ALEX: And it's like a couple million dollars that people have made from doing this. But you don't have to worry about it. It's not because of the of the–of the French wifi. It's just someone who's like taking a gamble on you. And I wouldn't worry about it.

CALLER 1: Thank you. Well that's wonderful.

PJ: Yeah, no problem.

ALEX: Yeah, no problem. 

CALLER 1: All right, bye.

[phone ringing]

CALLER 2: And they don't actually answer.

PJ: Hello?

ALEX: Oh, we answer.

PJ: We don't actually answer–?

ALEX We're right here.

CALLER 2: Oh my god! Oh my god, oh my god!

PJ: Very rude. 

ALEX: Yeah. 

PJ: You have been caught.

ALEX: (laughs)

CALLER 2: Thank you so much!

PJ: (laughs)

CALLER 3: We- we have–we have two minutes before we have to go to our philosophy class.

CALLER 2: We have to hand in a paper. But, um, we were wondering if you thought–did you hear the viral story about the rat that was putting away tools in a toolbox in like, I don't even know, Sweden or something? 

ALEX: I did.

PJ: Alex hears every one of these stories–

CALLER 2: It's gotta–is it–

ALEX: I- I can't–I can't not– 

PJ: And he would like more people to send them to him.

ALEX: No, no–

PJ: Just in case. 

CALLER 2: (laughs)

ALEX: I've heard every rat story since 2015. 

PJ: Can you just explain what the episode is in case somebody hasn't heard it?

CALLER 2: Oh, so the episode of Zardulu is all about this very mysterious and wonderful woman who aims to, uh, create viral videos that just kind of like screw with people's perception of the world. But not in like a necessarily malicious way.

ALEX: Yeah, not maliciously at all–

CALLER 2: She's just really elusive and fascinating. Like it's gotta be her, right?

PJ: Do you think it's Zardulu, Alex?

ALEX: Here, here's what I can tell you. I, I have a back channel pr–fairly regular conversation with Zardulu. And she's still–she's still working. I can't tell you more than that–

CALLER 2: Oh, good. We're happy to hear–

PJ: No, no, no answer the question. Do you think the rat in Sweden is Zardulu or don't you?

CALLER 2 &3: (laugh)

ALEX: Oh, I know it–I definitely think it was.

PJ: You do?

ALEX: Yes. 

PJ: Really? 


ALEX: Yeah. 

PJ: Really.

ALEX: She–she does work internationally–

CALLER 2: It's just like–

PJ: I feel like you're doing some winky Santa Claus shit–

ALEX: She does–she does work internationally. And every once in a while she'll get in touch with me and just send me a picture. It'll be like, it'll be like an alligator on water skis. And she'll be like, "What's up?" And like, I mean, that's not exactly the thing–

CALLER 2 & 3: (laugh)

ALEX: But she does that to me. I totally wouldn't be surprised in the least if it was her.

CALLER 3: Wow. 

CALLER 2: Wow. 

PJ: Wow.

CALLER 2: Oh my gosh.

ALEX: The only exception to the "It's always Zardulu rule" is whenever there's something that's rat related, where it's like, you know, there was a video of a rat washing itself for a while. And it seemed like–

CALLER 2: Yes. 

CALLER 2 & 3: (laugh)

ALEX: That rat was very unhappy in that video. And she, she would never do anything that would cause harm to an animal.

PJ: All right. Bye, guys.

ALEX: Bye. 

CALLER 2: Bye. 

CALLER 3: Bye.


[phone ringing]

ALEX: I went Krispy Kreme this morning. 

PJ: You did? 

ALEX: Ugh, my body feels terrible. I shouldn’t have done it. 

PJ: Hello?

ALEX: Hello?

SHANE: Hello. 

PJ: Who's this? 

SHANE: My name is Shane. How are you?

PJ: Good–

ALEX: Good. How are you?

SHANE: I'm doing well. So I had a question. 

PJ: Yeah–

ALEX: Okay.

SHANE: Um, I was trying to get myself off the internet. And I started doing some research. And I found that, uh, there's like a couple websites, one's called FastPeopleSearch. And the other one is–

PJ: Oh, I know what you're talking about–

SHANE: Yeah–yeah–

PJ: These websites where they can search your name and they get your full address and your family–

SHANE: Right–

PJ: And your age and all this stuff.

SHANE: And phone number. 

PJ: Yeah–

SHANE: And the reason I’m doing this is because I work with people who have at risk behavior.

PJ: Is it okay if I ask you a followup of just like, what do you mean by at risk behaviors? 

SHANE:  I work with people with developmental disabilities. 

SHANE: And some of them have issues with like boundaries. And one of the people on my caseload, um, had some sexualized behavior and had stalked people like really intensely in the past–

ALEX: I see.

SHANE: Yeah. So, um, just to kind eliminate that and protect my family, change my name and whatnot, um. And I didn't know how to go about like getting rid of that information. You know what I'm saying?

PJ: Yeah. So the–the thing with these websites is, there's a million of them. Um, but–

SHANE: Right.

PJ: All of them that I've seen have the ability to opt out. It's just the annoying thing (SHANE: Sure.) is you kind of have to go like one by one by one by one.

ALEX: Legally, they have to offer you the option to opt out.

SHANE: Right–

PJ: But the nice thing is that the, the more popular ones, which would be like the first ones you would see, which you would take your name off of, would also be–

SHANE: Fair–

PJ: The first ones somebody trying to get your address would see. And so if you, like, we actually–

SHANE: That's a good point.

PJ: We have a resource, it's a big list of all those sites.

ALEX: Yeah, if you look in the show notes of Episode 130, "The Snapchat Thief." There is a worksheet of, I think about 90 of these websites. And it shows you the URL and what it takes to opt out. And a lot of times it just has a link directly to the opt out page. So you should check that out.

SHANE: Okay.

ALEX: It'll be very helpful–

SHANE: Great–

ALEX: In terms of that stuff.

SHANE: So, okay, you guys said 130 on that right?

ALEX: Yeah, Episode 130. Thanks so much, man. Take care.

SHANE: Hey, thank you, guys. 

ALEX: Bye.

SHANE: Bye bye.

[phone ringing]

ALEX: Hello?

NICK: How long–oh my god, I got through. Are you fucking serious? 

PJ: Were you complaining about being on the waitlist in that moment? 

NICK: I was. In that moment dude– 

PJ: You're not the first person we've caught in this behavior. 

NICK: (laughs) Dude, I have fucking called so many times. You have no clue. For two days–

ALEX & PJ: (laugh)

PJ: Who are you?

NICK: It's been like, "hang up call back, hang–" my name is Nick, dude. I'm from Illinois.

PJ: Cool.

NICK: Oh my god, dude–

ALEX: What can we do for you, Nick?

NICK: Okay, I got a couple questions. All right?

PJ: Uh huh.

NICK: First of all, what was your–what was your user handle on TripSit? it? Will you tell me? 

PJ: Oh–!

ALEX: On TripSit.

PJ: I don't remember.

NICK: Oh, come on, dude, you're probably an active user. Come on, bro–

PJ: You think I'm an active user of TripSit? So, for people that don't remember, TripSit is the website you go to if you're too high, and you need to be talked down from a drug trip. Or if you want to talk down people who are too high, what do you–in your imagination where I'm using TripSit all the time, am I too high all the time? Or am I counseling people down all the time? 

ALEX: He's too high all the time–

NICK: Oh I use–

PJ: Alex, I'm not asking you this question.

NICK: It's probably (laughs) no it's, um, just probably too high all the time. I assume you're a stoner–

PJ: Oh, come on, man! (laughs)

ALEX: Yeah, come on. You've got a, “I'm going to get too high” kind of personality. 

NICK: (laughing)

PJ: That's true. Are you using TripSit?

NICK: Me? I use TripSit constant–yeah I love TripSit. 

ALEX: (laughs)

PJ: Are you talking people down? Or are you–are you talking people down?

NICK: I go both ways. 

PJ: What's your handle? 

NICK: Uh, Def Not Nick.

PJ: Def Not Nick? Like this is definitely not Nick?

NICK: Yeah.

PJ: But your name is Nick.

NICK: It's definitely not Nick. Definitely not Nick.

ALEX & PJ: (laugh)

NICK: (laughs) Yeah. 

ALEX: The last time I did mushrooms was in 1998. That was before there were–

NICK: What–?

ALEX: There was a TripSit. And, um–

NICK: Right.

ALEX: And it was a pretty bad situation for me, because my life was definitely–

NICK: Oh, really?

ALEX: Not in order at the time. And you know, like (NICK: Mhm.) when you're stressed out about something, there's like an amplification that happens. And so what I remember is trying to alphabetize my record collection and getting too stressed out over it. And then calling my mom and crying. And if I had TripSit–


PJ: Very cool. 

ALEX: If I had TripSit, things probably would have been a little better for me. So–

NICK: Okay.

PJ: What did your mom say when you called her crying trying to alphabetize your record collection–?

NICK: Yeah, that's great–

ALEX: I didn't call her and say, "I can't alphabetize my record collection." I just called her and cried more generally about the difficulties of being alive. And she was pretty sympathetic. I feel like–

PJ: She's your, she's your mom. 

ALEX: She's my mom. I feel like I should give her a call and thank her for that.

NICK: You should because I've been there, like, it was not that long ago. I had my mom involved in a huge acid trip–

PJ: What happened?

NICK: Oh, I was–well I took too much acid, for one. Like I shouldn't have taken that much. 

PJ: Yeah.

NICK: And, and I thought, I thought I was dying.

PJ: Oh.

NICK: Like, I literally was like–oh, dude, and then like, I was–it's so weird. Because, like, I traveled into a different universe in my head. 

ALEX: Mhm.

NICK: And like, I went to a place where it was just one building. And there was this, there was two people, right? And they just kept eating and eating and eating and like they were turning into slugs, right? 

PJ: Oh my god.

ALEX: This is pretty yucky–

NICK: I know that this all sounds crazy. But this is, it's like me in my head–

PJ: Yeah–

ALEX: Mhm–

NICK: Like, I wasn't like, I'm not, I'm like seeing this shit. I'm like dreaming reality. I don’t know. It's weird. But so they're like eating and eating and eating until the point where there's nothing left to eat except for each other. 

PJ: (gasps)

NICK: And like, that was the end of the world. Like that's how the government killed off our species. And I come to and I'm like, "What the fuck?" You know?

PJ: (laughs)

NICK: And my mom is sitting in my bedroom. My mom is at my house in my bedroom. And she's like–I'm like "The world is fucked up, mom." And she's like, "I know, Nick. The world is fucked up."

PJ & ALEX: (laugh)

NICK: She’s like, "Go back to sleep, Nick." (laughs) [indistinct]–

ALEX: That's a lot like the conversation I had with my mom.

NICK: Dude, hey, man. Moms are good people, dude, you know? Life’s hard, but moms are good people, dude. You know?

PJ: That is so true–

NICK: Oh, man. Yeah, it's crazy. Man, I'm just so happy I got to talk to you guys today dude, for real.

PJ: Thanks, Nick–

ALEX: Thanks, Definitely Not Nick.

NICK: Hey, thank you guys, dude. It’s a blessing talking to you.

PJ: Do you remember your second question or no?

NICK: Oh, oh, I- I–fuck I wish I did, dude, so I could talk to you guys longer. I really do. I do not. I do not.

PJ: That's all right.

ALEX: All right, Nick.

NICK: But maybe I will remember and I'll call you guys back.

PJ: Cool. 

ALEX: Sounds good. Thanks, man.

NICK: We'll go for that. 

PJ: All right–

NICK: Alright guys, thank you so much. Alright, later guys.

ALEX: Bye.

PJ: Later, Nick.

NICK: Rock on, ha ha, bye.

[phone ringing]

ALEX: Did you hear how he ended that?

PJ: What did he say?

ALEX: "Rock on, ha ha!"

PJ: (laughs) That is a good soul.

[phone ringing]

KATELYN: Hello–?

PJ: Hello?

ALEX: Hello?


PJ: Who’s this?

KATELYN: This is Katelyn.

ALEX: Hey Katelyn, how you doing? This is Alex and PJ.

KATELYN: Hey! Great, how are you guys?

PJ: Good. What’s your question?

KATELYN: Um, so, my question is I have a garbage phone.

PJ: A garbage phone?

KATELYN: I started–a garbage phone.

PJ: Okay.

KATELYN: I started a new job a couple months ago (ALEX: Mhm) and basically, I got a new number to the office and I started getting all these calls from people wanting to know if I could come pick up their trash for a garbage company.

ALEX: (laughs)

PJ: Oh, so you don’t mean, you don’t mean like a bad cell phone?

KATELYN: No, no, no.

ALEX: I was trying to figure out what garbage phone meant (KATELYN laughs). I thought you were just like, it didn’t work right, or like, you were going to say (KATELYN: No.) I got a new job and they gave me like a crappy old flip phone.


PJ: When they call, what do they say about their garbage?

KATELYN: They, so first they were calling to try and start, like a new service for pickup.

PJ: Okay.

KATELYN: And I was like, “No, I am not the garbage company.” So, then, I researched the garbage company because I was getting a good number of calls, and they went out of business last October. But I was still getting these calls, and I didn’t see my phone number on their website anywhere. But these people who were calling me would, like, read me back my office phone number, but I had no idea where they were getting it from.

PJ: Did you ask them?

KATELYN: Yeah, they said they would get it online.

PJ: But when you went online it wasn’t there?

KATELYN: No, it wasn’t on there. So I kind of stopped answering my phone for awhile. So finally, I decided to call the number that was listed online  (ALEX: Mhm), which was not my office phone number. And so I called that number, and it went to my voicemail.

ALEX: (gasps)

KATELYN: But it wasn’t my number.

ALEX: (gasps)

KATELYN: I know.

PJ: Okay, as shocked as Alex is, what it sounds like is call forwarding. Like…


PJ & ALEX: (laugh)

ALEX: But it’s so weird, what are the chances?

PJ: Well–but it’s actually good because if it’s forwarding, you could, if you could reach them, you could get them to stop it from forwarding or you could block that number. I feel like you could call your phone company and be like, “Someone’s forwarding my phone, can you block anything that’s forwarded from this number?” 

KATELYN: Okay, yes, but it also got a little deeper.

PJ: Oh.

KATELYN: So, on the website for the garbage disposal company, it says that they had to go out of business last October, and to call this new garbage disposal company where all of their accounts were being transferred. 

ALEX: Mhm.

KATELYN: So I called the new garbage disposal company, and I said, “Look, the old number is being forwarded to my voicemail, can you take care of this or tell me how to contact these people?” And they said, “No, they’ve literally fell off the face of the Earth. No one knows how to contact them. We have no contact with them. We just have their accounts.”

ALEX: Weird.

KATELYN: But then, later that day, I got a call from someone, and at this point, I’m invested. So I pick up the phone, and it’s this guy who’s looking for the garbage disposal company and telling me that he’s still being charged for the defunct garbage company.

KATELYN: And I said, “Sir, they went out of business last year,” and he said, “I know, I’m getting charged for two garbage disposal companies.”

ALEX: Uhhhh.

PJ: At this point, you’re kind of, you kind of have just been willed into actually having a job working for a defunct garbage company (KATELYN: Yes!), like you’re doing a, you’re, you’re fielding customer complaints.

KATELYN: I know!

ALEX: Can you tell me what they’re called?

KATELYN:They both have super patriotic names, these two garbage disposal companies, and they have patriotic logos and–

PJ: Super patriotic names? 

KATELYN: Yes. Yes. So one–the defunct one, is called Freedom Disposal.

PJ: Freedom Disposal. 

KATELYN: And then–

PJ: That could also be super unpatriotic. Like you’re throwing freedom in the trash.

KATELYN: I guess it could be. Yeah. I guess. (ALEX: Okay, and–) Yeah. It definitely could be, but then the other garbage company is called American Disposal.

PJ: Again (laughs) 

PJ: When you put “disposal? after things.

KATELYN: (laughs) I mean, I mean, true–

PJ: Could you change your number?

KATELYN: I think I could, but I’m kind of invested in this garbage story too (PJ laughs), like I want to see what happens, so I haven’t, I haven’t like taken those steps yet. But if it becomes excessive, if there’s like no way to figure out some kind of end to this story, (laughs) then I probably will have it changed.

ALEX: Also, it’s just the principle of the thing, you know?

PJ: What is the principle of the thing? I feel like whenever somebody says, “It’s just the principle of the thing,” they mean there’s no reason for what they’re doing.

ALEX: Why should you have to change you number, when they’re the ones who are screwing up? It’s not your fault.

KATELYN: That’s–

PJ: But the alternative is to do so much extra work. Like it’s not like (laughs)

KATELYN: I know, but I just got new business cards printed (laughs).

PJ: Look, you have, you have two options here. One is you change your phone number (KATELYN laughs). The other is (KATELYN: Yes.) you just acknowledge to yourself that you are a person who likes being in a weird vortex where sometimes you get calls from a garbage company (KATELYN laughs) and you enjoy this part of your life. But either you’ve got to- it’s a very- you’re–you’re a very Alex Goldman personality. Like, you either have to decide to solve it or not solve it, but you don’t get to have it both ways.

ALEX: Can I just say that this is (KATELYN: Oh!) very much not in the spirit of Reply All, what you’re doing right now?

PJ: Just bossing people around?

KATELYN: (laughs)

ALEX: No! Telling people to change their number when the actual, correct, morally (KATELYN: Yeah!) righteous solution–

KATELYN: Yes, yes!

PJ: I, literally, I would just love for you to explain to me what is morally righteous?

ALEX & KATELYN: (laugh)

PJ: It’s not like someone wronged somebody.

ALEX: Someone is doing– 

PJ: You could get mad at like a random number pattern.

KATELYN: Well, no. Someone is getting- someone–someone is getting charged for two garbage companies, and that’s morally wrong.

PJ: That has nothing to do with–

ALEX: Yeah, that has–I can’t stand behind that. That has nothing to do with the phone (laughing).

PJ: The two of you live in a moral universe where (KATELYN laughs), like, there are people, you know, all sorts of misery in the world. In your moral universe, when someone stops using a phone number, and people call that phone number and reach the new person, that is a moral wrong that has to be corrected.

ALEX: But that’s not what’s happening. People are calling a number and it’s getting forwarded to her. Somewhere some phone is doing that.


PJ: Yes.

KATELYN: Some phone. Mhm.

PJ: That’s true.

ALEX: And it’s being done with no regard.

PJ: Look, everyone gets to choose how they spend their life (KATELYN: laughs). You just have to, you just have to embrace your choice, I think.

ALEX: Never give up.

KATELYN: (laughs)

ALEX: you gotta smash every phone until you find the one that’s forwarding to your phone (KATELYN: Mhm.) and that will fix the problem.

KATELYN: (laughs)

PJ: Alright, good luck man.

ALEX: Thanks so much for calling.

KATELYN: Thank you.

ALEX: Bye.

KATELYN: Mhm. Bye bye.

ALEX: (laughs)

PJ: What are you giggling about?

ALEX: Just, just, just the–my fundamental brokenness.

PJ: (laughs)

ALEX: Just a thing that can’t be fixed.

PJ: (sighs)

ALEX: (laughs)

[phone ringing]

ALEX: Hello? 

SCOTT: Hello. 

PJ: Who's this?

SCOTT: I'm Scott.

PJ: Where are you calling from? 

SCOTT: I'm calling from Congress. 

PJ: The one in D.C.?

SCOTT: Yeah. I’m actually in one of these small rooms where you can have private conversations.

PJ: How do- in your job- what is your job? 

SCOTT: I’m just an intern.

PJ: How do people who work in Congress use the internet?

SCOTT: If you want to talk about some congressional specific things.

PJ: Yeah.

SCOTT: There are databases that we can access from our IP addresses that we can't access at home. But it's basically like a lobbying database where you can, you can track the sort of revolving door of Congress. Like, let's say like, um, Chief of Staff of X left to be the Public Policy Director of a marijuana firm or something like that. So and all their congressional salaries are disclosed on that website–


SCOTT: All of their assets. So you know, they're working–

PJ: All of their assets, like their house? 

SCOTT: Yeah. And all–any investment they have, that has to be disclosed. 

PJ: That feels like a thing that should be available to more people for free.

ALEX: I agree.

SCOTT: No, that is available for free. It's just hard to get to now.

PJ: Oh.

SCOTT: But these are all public disclosure. That's why we have that. 

PJ: How do you or how do people in your office use the, like, Facebook lobbyists site? Like what, what do you, what do people have to look up there?

SCOTT: No one necessarily has to look up something. It's just something we have for free. 

PJ: Mhm.

SCOTT: So, like sometimes I'm just curious about, say if I'm dating someone, and I like, and they just left the hill, like if they're on the hill, then I–if I want to see how big their salary is and stuff. 


PJ: Oh my god. And you can just do that.

SCOTT: Yeah, because that's public information.

PJ: So have you actually gone on a date and looked somebody up and found them, found their salary?

SCOTT: Yeah, of course. 

PJ: Tell me the story. 

SCOTT: Someone was on Tinder. And then like, you know, he said, he was an attorney on the hill, which means he works in Congress, right? So he showed me his Instagram and from Instagram I found his name. And then from his name, I just looked up his salary. And apparently, he was not an attorney. So he was Chief of Staff. 

PJ: So had this guy inflated his title or deflated his title–?

SCOTT: No, no, no. He deflated it. 

ALEX & PJ: Oh.

ALEX: And did your–

SCOTT: He's attorney–

ALEX: Opinion of him change based on his salary and his position?

SCOTT: Well, I recommended a more expensive restaurant.

ALEX & PJ: (laugh)

PJ: That's amazing.

SCOTT: Because I was like, I was on Yelp. And I did like dollar, dollar. And then there was dollar, dollar, dollar. 

PJ & ALEX: (laugh)

ALEX: That's a pretty savvy move.

SCOTT: I told him that that was what I did, and he thought it was smart. 

ALEX: How did the date go?

SCOTT: It didn't go well. He didn't look like his photos. But I got a dollar, dollar, dollar out of it.

PJ: (laughs)

SCOTT: I’m happy. I didn’t like the restaurant that much, but whatever.

PJ: Thank you for telling us about Congress internet. It's very interesting–

ALEX: Yeah, yeah.

SCOTT: No problem.




[phone ringing]

PJ: Hello?

NICK: Hello?

PJ: Who's this?

NICK: Oh my god. I got through again–

PJ: Nick! (laughs)

ALEX: Welcome back, Nick!

NICK: [indistinct]–

PJ: Do you remember your second question?

NICK: I do. What is–

PJ: Are you eating food right now? 

NICK: I was. I'm not anymore. I figured you guys probably weren't going to answer anyway.

PJ: Nick, we've picked up the phone twice for you now. I feel like the idea that we don't answer the phone is not something you're allowed to believe.

NICK: Oh, I know. Well I don't know anymore. Now I'm a firm believer that you guys are not full of shit like–

PJ: (laughs)

NICK: “Oh, we’re going to answer the phone.” Like, “These guys ain’t answering their fucking phones. They’re so full of shit,” is what I was thinking the first time–

PJ: I feel like you’re going back again!

NICK: (laughs) But no.

PJ: Do you remember your second question?

NICK: I do. Okay, so here's my question.

ALEX: All right. 

NICK: What is the difference between a proxy, a server, a host, and a VPN? And like, what is your better choice between the three?

PJ: Okay, Alex can answer this. Where is this question coming from? What are you trying to figure out? How to browse the internet anonymously? 

NICK: Yeah, I guess. Yeah, because, like, you know, you go on the dark web and shit, and I have a VPN and all that, but like with tor it says you need a bridge. But like, okay, so what’s–if I have a VPN, what’s the point of having a proxy or a bridge? You know what I’m saying? Like, I just–I guess I don’t understand like why you would need all that shit?

ALEX: So I don't totally know the answer to your question.

NICK: Okay. 

ALEX: What I know is a VPN is essentially like, basically like it's a virtual private network, that, (NICK: Yeah.) that's what VPN stands for. And what it means is like you are now part of a network that is elsewhere on the Internet. So it's not technically a server, it's more like you are connected to a different network. And, and (NICK: Okay.) your traffic all, when it hits the Internet, all looks like it's coming from this network, which happens to be somewhere else–

NICK: Whatever. Okay–

ALEX: I don't know exactly what a proxy is. So I don't know the difference between that and a VPN.

PJ: My understanding is it's a, it's a server that you're–that is between you and the place you're connecting. Like you're sending your traffic–I send my traffic to you, you send it to the website–

ALEX: Ah, I see. So okay, so that, I guess that's the difference. A proxy server is like an actual computer you're hitting, whereas a (NICK: Okay.) a VPN is a network that you're connecting to.


PJ: What are you doing on the dark web?

NICK: You know, just stuff and stuff, you know?

ALEX: (laughs)

NICK: Stuff. (laughs) You know, just, just hanging out.

PJ: Okay.

NICK: Buying stuff and stuff, you know?

PJ: Buying stuff and stuff?

ALEX: Buying stuff?

NICK: And stuff, you know? Yeah, that’s it.

ALEX: (laughs)

PJ: Definitely not stuff?

ALEX: Definitely not Nick.

NICK: Definitely not Nick though, Nick, definitely not Nick buying stuff (PJ laughs) that’s for sure though guys.

PJ & ALEX: (laugh)


PJ: Thanks for calling, Nick.

NICK: All right–

ALEX: Thanks for calling back, Nick. 

NICK: Dude, thank you. Yeah, thank you. Alright, you guys have a blessed day, man–

PJ: If you call back again and we pick up and you're talking about how we don't pick up, that's going to be messed up.

NICK: (laughs)

ALEX: Yeah, we're going to have problems, man. 

NICK: Hey, you know what, dude? I've, I've, I've been greedy enough with your guys' time. I'm going to bless some other people with it. 

ALEX: All right. 

NICK: Thank you guys so much for answering guys. All right.

ALEX: Take care.

PJ: Talk to you soon.

NICK: All right. Bye, guys.

[phone ringing]

ALEX: Hey, this is PJ and Alex. 

PJ: Hello?

HANNAH: Hello?

ALEX: Hey, who's this? 

HANNAH: Hi, this is Hannah. 

PJ & ALEX: Hey Hannah.

ALEX: How's it going?

PJ: Woah. Weird. 

ALEX: Jinx.

HANNAH: It's good.

PJ: What's your question?

HANNAH: Okay. Important. Do you remember the dress from years ago? White and gold or black and blue?

ALEX: Mhm.

HANNAH: Well I just need you to answer it. Do you see black and blue or white and gold?

ALEX: Black and blue.

PJ: I, I see white and gold. What do you see?

HANNAH: I see white and gold.

ALEX: I–do you think that it's like too on the nose that we saw the different colors. Like it just feels.

PJ: It didn't surprise me.

ALEX: (laughs) I think that you- that–that this is how we tell whether someone's a PJ or an Alex. We just ask him what color the dress is.


PJ: The question everyone is dying to know about their own personality. Whether they're a PJ or an Alex–

ALEX: (laughs)

PJ: You got a healthy ego there, buddy.

ALEX: (laughs)

PJ: Thank you for calling. 

ALEX: Thanks, Hannah. 

HANNAH: Have a great day, guys. 

ALEX: Bye.

TIM: That is like the most solipsistic thing.

PJ: Oh my God.

ALEX: I don’t give a shit.

PJ: So are you, you, you are turning red.

ALEX: I am turning red. I’m a, I’m an Alex.

[phone ringing]

PJ: Was there a part of you that told- that–that like knew that that was a bad thing to say?

ALEX: No, there was no modulation in my head that told me not to say that.

TIM: Scary dude.

PJ: Scary.

[phone ringing]

ALEX: Hi, this is Alex and PJ.


ALEX: Hi, who's this? 

KIMBERLY: Hi, this is Kimberly.

PJ: What question do you have for us?

KIMBERLY: Um, okay, so my question is that I recently discovered um, that my Amazon Alexa has recorded everything that I've ever said to it.

PJ: Not great–

ALEX: Wait a minute. How do you–is that just a fact of Amazon Alexas?

PJ: Yeah. It's just a fact of Amazon Alexas–


ALEX: What? 

KIMBERLY: Yeah, you can access the recordings and like listen to yourself, everything you've ever asked it, which is so creepy by itself. But then–

ALEX: Oh, so everything you've ever asked it, but not everything you do all the time? 

PJ: No.

KIMBERLY: No. Uh uh. Just you have to trigger it. But my follow up is like that I read this news story about how Alexa had sent this lady's like, things she was saying that weren't triggered, like to some of her contacts. And that got me thinking, like, can, like, how hard would it be for somebody to hack your Alexa? I don't want to put on a tinfoil hat here. But you know, and hear everything that you're saying in your house? Is that a thing that can happen?

PJ: I assume so. I mean, it, I haven't seen a story of it happening. A thing that it took me a while to understand is that with any voice activated device like Alexa, Siri, whatever. It's not as if it turns on when you say the word Alexa, like it's always passively listening to you. And then it just like, (KIMBERLY: Mhm.) starts recording when it hears Alexa. But in theory, you have a microphone that's open in your house all the time, all the time forever. And so that capability is there. I feel like if somebody had hacked it, the–a news story would have been out. But like, it does seem possible to me. Actually sometimes I'll, like, just paranoidly unplug those things.

ALEX: Really?  

PJ: Yeah. 

ALEX: I always thought that you were just sort of like, "Meh. If they're recording me. What are they going to hear?"

PJ: Yeah.

KIMBERLY: (laughs)

PJ: I literally–the thing that changed my mind was I went into the thing and I just heard little recordings of every time I talked to a robot, and it just made me feel a little uncomfortable.

ALEX: Huh.

KIMBERLY: Yeah, exactly. I kind of had heard that it did that. And it wasn't until I logged in and actually listened to myself talking to it, that I got really creeped out about it.

PJ: Alex today (KIMBERLY: Yeah.) wants to know with every single person we talk to whether they're–

ALEX: No I don't! Stop this!

PJ: Quote unquote, an Alex or a PJ because he thinks that's really important and that most people have thought about it a lot.

ALEX: I- I–so are you an Alex or a PJ–?

KIMBERLY: I feel like most people probably have thought about it, and I, I, I have thought about it. And I have an answer, but I'm not gonna tell you because it's mean.

ALEX: Whoa, now we need to know, unfortunately–

PJ: Yeah, I think so. 

KIMBERLY: (laughing) No you don't.

ALEX: No, we do. I promise you that we can handle it.

KIMBERLY: No. Y'all have an awesome day.

ALEX & PJ: (laugh)

PJ: Oh my god.

ALEX: I'm so desperate to know.

PJ: I'm gonna think about this for the rest of my life. Have a great day!


[phone ringing]

PJ: Hello?

SAL: Hello?

PJ: Hey, who's this? 

SAL: Oh my god. Am I–

PJ: (laugh)

SAL: Okay, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I'm Sal from Syria. I know it's weird. I'm Syrian, okay?

PJ: It's not weird. 

ALEX: That's not weird–

PJ: It's kind of cool that you're calling from Syria.

SAL: No, I'm, I'm act–I'm like in Turkey right now. 

SAL: I’m, I'm not joking. I don't know.

PJ: Yeah, no, I know you're not joking. 

SAL: Um, I'm calling you over like Google Hangouts. I don't know. This might–

PJ: You there?

ALEX: Did we lose him–?

SAL: Okay. Okay. You're disconnecting.

PJ: No, no, no we're here–

ALEX: We're still here.

PJ: We’re here.

SAL: You're disconnecting. Just a second. 

PJ: Okay. 

ALEX: Okay. 

SAL: Can you hear me? 

ALEX: Yes we can–

PJ: Yeah. 

SAL: Hello?

PJ: Hey. 

ALEX: Hello?

PJ: Hello?


PJ: Yup.

SAL: Alex?

ALEX: Hey–

PJ: Hi. Can you hear us?

ALEX: Don't hang up.

SAL: Hey, are you there? 

ALEX: Hello–?

PJ: Yeah, we're here–

SAL: Hello, hello–

[crackling noise]

SAL: Hello?

PJ: Hey–

ALEX: Hey, are you there? 

PJ: Hello? Is there a way to chat with him? 

ANNA: Chat with him. 

ALEX: Numbers are coming in so fast I can’t keep up 

ANNA: Can’t you see which numbers you connected with? 

ALEX: No. 

TIM: Country code for Turkey is 90.

SAL: Hello?

PJ: Hey, we're still here. Don't hang up. 

SAL: Hey, you're back. 

PJ: What's your, what's your question?

SAL: Oh, okay. So, I, like, ever since like, ninth grade or something, I’ve been like working really hard on my English. I don’t know if that’s apparent.

PJ: Your English is great.

ALEX: Yeah, your English is amazing.

SAL: Oh, thank you so much. And ever since like, 2016 I've been really working hard, and trying to like, get into college abroad. And so, towards the end of last year, December of last year, I take the SAT and I get a 1540.

PJ: Holy crap. 

ALEX: Oh my god.

PJ: That's really good.

SAL: And, like, in 2016, Trump comes into office. And obviously, there's a travel ban. And I'm no longer allowed into the U.S. So, god damn it–I'm really tongue-tied. 

PJ: Oh, that's okay. Just take your time. We're here. 

SAL: Okay. And so, like, the only option I had then was Canadian universities. And I tried to register to the best of my ability on the internet. And I just, like, there was–the websites, all of them, were so bad and like–

PJ: Just like hard to actually use?

SAL: Like, so many problems. Like, for example, my name is in all caps in English, because that's how we do it in Syria. I don't know who decided that. And so like, on a lot of the, like, websites, I put my name. And they were all like, "Oh, the–your name is case sensitive. So you need to capitalize it as it is in your like passport." And, I go in there and put it in all caps, because that's the way it is in my passport. And they're like, "We can't accept that." And so like I literally hit them up. I, I call them. I call the university and they're like, "We don't know." They're, they’re just like, "We don't know." Flat out. That–that's like McGill.

PJ: Oh, yeah. I went to McGill. They're–I had very bad experiences when I needed help with them.

SAL: You went to McGill–? Goddamn, okay. 

PJ: Yeah. 

SAL: So like, I- I- I've kind–I've kind of missed all of my deadlines now. And it's been like, these three months have been super depressing for me. Like, I just don't know what to do. I've been like searching for counselors on the internet. I, I literally can't find it–anyone. And like, I don't know if that's even something that like–you said anything, so.

PJ: Yeah–

ALEX: Yeah, totally.

SAL: I, I don't know what I'm doing.

PJ: Well, let's try to help. So it sounds like you need somebody–you literally need somebody who can help you navigate the–

ALEX: College admissions process.

SAL: Mhm.

PJ: Okay, I mean, it's not like we know that person off hand, but we can–

ALEX: We'll help. 

PJ: Yeah, we'll help.

SAL: That- that–that I mean that's fine. Okay. Thank you guys so much. 

ALEX: I'm really sorry that you're going through this. How long have you been in Turkey?

SAL: I've been since like, 2013. 

ALEX: And are you with your family?

SAL: Yeah. We came together. 

PJ: What's your family like? Like what’s–mom, dad? Like do you have siblings?

SAL: I have three siblings. All females.

PJ: That’s how I grew up. 

SAL: And–

PJ: Younger or older?

SAL: I’m the youngest kid.

PJ: And what, like, what’s your life like in Turkey right now? Like, where are you talking to us from?

SAL: I'm live in a coastal city. So, I can't like go to Gaziantep. I can't go to Istanbul, unless I have a permit. And–

ALEX: And what does it take to get a permit?

SAL: You have to have either family somewhere else. And they don't always accept that. Or you have to have something like a like a test or something. 


SAL: Like when I took my SATs, I had to fly out to Ankara. 

ALEX: And so what do you doing- are–you're done with school? What are you doing with yourself?

SAL: I- I- like I skipped a–I went to a year–to school a year earlier. Like, like I skipped a year. 

ALEX: Okay–

SAL: And so yeah, I'm done with school now. But like, I'm as old as a senior year student.

ALEX: And are you working?

SAL: Not really, no.

PJ: Alex said that like he was your dad and it–it's okay that you're not working (laughs).

ALEX: I'm not trying to like, yes, it's fine that you're not working. I was just curious. 

SAL: No, no, no. I, like, the thing is, as Syrians we're not allowed to work here. Regardless, if you have like a college degree or anything. I think recently they instated some sort of process for people to, you know, convert their diplomas, their college diplomas, and try to work here. But for now it's mostly like educational fields and like markets and stuff that get the jobs that can work. But otherwise no one can do anything.

PJ: How do people just like survive financially? 

SAL: We've just been like, borrowing money from my grandpa, from my uncle for the past, like, three years, four years. And that's what we've been subsisting off for the whole time. 

ALEX: That sounds really, really, really hard.

SAL: Yeah. 

PJ: Tim has a question for you. 

SAL: Go ahead. 

TIM HOWARD: Hey, how's it going, Sal? 

SAL: Mhm.

TIM: Okay, this is a, this is a kind of uninformed question. But I'm, I'm just really curious. So I live in Berlin, Germany. There's a huge Syrian population there. And I've met a lot of Syrians there. And I'm just curious (SAL: Mhm.) is that, I don't know, I'm, I'm genuinely curious. I don't know. Is that a, a thing that you guys think about? Is Germany still possible to emigrate to? Or has it–has that become really difficult?

SAL: We wanted to go at some point back in like 2015. My dad and sister wanted to go to Sweden, or something like one of those countries. And basically what you do- that–is you get on a boat, and you go all the way there. 

TIM: Right–

SAL: But obviously, it's very dangerous. And a lot of the smugglers are basically criminals. You might get- stolen- might get–you're definitely going to get your stuff stolen on the way there.

TIM: Yeah–

SAL: You're–you might never get there. You might sink, whatever. But like my dad and sister were going to go. The way it works is that like, once a family member goes there, like your parent, like your dad, he can reunite and with all of, uh, with all of his children, as long as they're under the age of 18. 


SAL: And so, my sister was above 18. And she had to go. So like, it was really scary. You know, the days leading up to it. And eventually, the day came, they were going, I went to school, and I returned and turns out they hadn't gone. And the–like right about that time, uh, there was a law that was in, uh, put in place that would prohibit Syrians from traveling between states, between Turkish states, or cities without a permit. And so my dad was on his way to like, wherever the city was, where they were going to get smuggled. And they didn't let him get–get through. And so he returned, and that was that.

ALEX: Did it–did it make you feel–did it make you feel disappointed or sad that he wasn't able to make it? Or were you just glad that he was not in harm’s way?

SAL: Look, obviously, I was comforted that [cuts out] but a lot of my friends [kind of cuts here too] had gone and they were going to reunite with them. And it's really not good here in Turkey. Again, no jobs. And yeah, I obviously- like I–I don't enjoy my stay here. And so I would have been happy had he like gotten there safely and reunited with us there. But–

ALEX: I see.

SAL: You know?

ALEX: Yeah, totally. 

SAL: You don't want like anyone in harm's way.

PJ: Do you–what do you do for like fun?

SAL: For fun? Mostly read. Have friends, obviously. And–

PJ: Who do you like to read?

SAL: I like mostly 19th century–20th century, what was that, uh, fiction.

PJ: Damn, dude–

SAL: Like I love Joseph Heller.

PJ: Yeah.

SAL: (laughs) Catch 22 is like–

PJ: Catch 22 is good. 

ALEX: Yeah, it is good.

SAL: It's about war. And the, and the main character is Yossarian. And I'm a Syrian. So representation–(laughs) 

PJ: And, how, like what made you start being interested in teaching yourself English and reading books in English? What was that?

SAL: Ninth grade, I like decided to go to a Turkish school. So the deal here is that we all go to like Syrian schools. They're like temporary educational centers that are like for refugees, solely. But you can choose to, to go to Turkish schools. And when I went, uh, I got, like, I'm, again, I told you, I skipped a year. I'm smaller than most of the other guys. And I'm like, 5'8" right now. Like I was–I'm pretty small. And at the time I was smaller. But, anyway, but it really was bad. I got like, beat up a lot. I got bullied a lot, obviously. You know? Xenophobia. And so, I was like, I kind of reacted instead of trying to learn Turkish, I went the complete other way and just went with English. 

ALEX & PJ: (laugh)

SAL: And I had like a notebook with words, whole bunch of like SAT words from like the old SAT. And I just, everyday, like school is like eight hours, which is like hell. You completely don't understand anything. You're just sitting there, teachers babbling away, and you just don't know what to do. And so I sat there, you know, memorize as many words as I could. And that was the beginning.

PJ: I, I was, it's not the same thing or anything, but when I was a kid, I got bullied a lot because I was tiny and had no social skills. And I did the same thing. I would just read (SAL: Mhm.) books like in class, just so I didn't have to pay attention to what was actually going on. And I would always get caught and get in trouble. 

ALEX: I used to skip class.

SAL: Hm.

ALEX: I used to, I used to go hide behind the school building and read books. It was the same thing. And I remain (SAL: Yeah.) about 5'8" today, so you're not alone.

SAL: Okay.

PJ: You said you taught yourself English?

SAL: Yeah yeah it’s not super hard but-

PJ: A lot of people think it’s super hard.. And like literally how did you do it? 

Sal: Um, I kinda of started off on YouTube. 

PJ: What YouTube videos would you watch when you’re learning English?

PJ: Oh God, anything like I remember Good Mythical Morning was a lot of fun. 

PJ: What? 

ALEX: What’s that? 

PJ: Good Mystical Morning?

SAL: Yeah,  Good Mythical Morning. Do you know it? 

ALEX: No. 

SAL: Why don’t you guys-

ALEX: (laughs)

SAL: You’re a podcast about the Internet, jeez! You have millions of subscribers, dude!

PJ: So, wait, what is it? 

SAL: It’s just like a morning show. 

PJ: Like morning news? 

SAL: No, not news. It’s like just- I don’t know they do all sorts of click baity stuff. 

PJ: Oh yeah, I’m looking today they did March Milkness taste test healthy cereals. 

SAL: I’m really surprised you don’t know them. But, anyway, I mean Youtube has the kinda the easiest - generally the language is not that is used is not complex, so I started off with that. And then I moved on to podcasts which usually tackle stuff that is more complicated, although not necessarily. Then, I started reading books and the rest is history.

PJ: So you don't really speak–you speak English really well, but you don't speak Turkish too well.

SAL: My, my Turkish is like, I mean, it's average for people who live here, but it's not good enough to have like, even a basic conversation. 

PJ: Do you meet there who speak English?

SAL: No, not at–not at all. 

PJ: Never?

SAL: But like, I mean, no. People really don't speak English here. 

PJ: Since they don't speak English and your Turkish isn't great, do people not know that you're really smart?

SAL: (laughs) I, I, I kind of hid it from people. I didn't want people to know for some reason. Like people generally use like English especially just to like show off. And like–

PJ: Huh–

SAL: And, and so like I didn't want to be that guy. And so, you know, like, it wasn't until 11th grade that people knew that I spoke English. I like had a one-on-one with my English teacher. And we just faced off in terms of who knows like more vocab words. 

ALEX: (laughs)

PJ: That is so nerdy and so cool.

ALEX: Who won?

SAL: I did.

PJ & ALEX: (laugh)

ALEX: Good work.

PJ: Do you remember like the word that you won on?

SAL: Like, like I wasn't the one coming up with them. My friends like were asking me. Or like one of the words was like uvula or something. Like someone literally (ALEX: Yeah–) pointed at their uvula and I was like, "Oh, that's a uvula." And my teacher didn't know it.

PJ & ALEX: (laugh)

SAL: And so, that, that's one specific example I remember. And like that was the only time–I mean people at that point did, like, start actually like complimenting me on my existence. Before that, people like thought I was just useless basically. I don't know.

PJ: That's kind of nice a little bit.

SAL: Yeah, it got, yeah, like 11th grade was like, I peaked that year. Very much.

ALEX & PJ: (laugh)

PJ: Sal, Alex all day has been asking people–

ALEX: Come on, dude. 

PJ: It's really important to him to know this apparently for some reason–

ALEX: It's not important to me to know this–

SAL: No, go ahead, please. I want to know–

PJ: He said he wants to with pretty much everybody on earth whether they think they're a PJ or an Alex. And he thinks that's like a foundational thing.

ALEX: (laughs)

SAL: I'm more of an Alex.

PJ: Oh, no!

ALEX: Boom!

SAL: Sorry for him.

PJ: Oh, shit!

ALEX: Boom!

SAL: I mean he's 5'8". He's 5'8".

PJ: Sal, you just wrecked me. 

ALEX: Thank you, Sal. 

SAL: We're the same height.

PJ & ALEX: (laugh)

SAL: How tall are you, PJ?

PJ: Uh, I think I'm like 5'11"? 

SAL: Okay, I’m- I’m–

ALEX: Yeah, you're around six feet.

SAL: I can't.

PJ: I'll walk around on my knees!

SAL: God damn it. 

PJ: All right. Let–we're gonna try to figure out if we can help you, okay?

SAL: Yep. 

ALEX: Yeah–

SAL: Okay. Thank you so much, guys. 

PJ: Yeah.

SAL: I love you so much. I'm, I'm both an Alex and a PJ. I'm sorry–

ALEX: No, no, come on. You're an Alex.

PJ: You're an Alex. It's okay.

ALEX & SAL: (laugh)

PJ: Everyone has their own.

ALEX: Alright, take care.

SAL: Love you.

PJ: Love you, man. 

SAL: See you, man.

ALEX: Bye.


PJ: We recorded that conversation last Thursday. Since then, we found somebody in the McGill admission's department who's looking over Sal's transcripts and helping him navigate their system. McGill's student-run Syrian Student Association is also helping out. If you are one of our listeners and you work in college admissions in North America and you want to help out, just send us an email: 

Obviously the problem Sal's having is way, way broader than just him. There's tons of smart Syrian kids who've been displaced who want to go to college and it's very hard for them to get there. If you're interested in this, we found two organizations that seem to be working on it. There's one called Jusoor, J-U-S-O-O-R,  it's a group of Syrian expats who are trying to help kids find opportunities. The other one is the Institute of International Education, IIE. They have a program called PEER, where they try to find scholarships and opportunities and connect them with refugee students. Sal said he would keep us updated. So if there's more news with him, we'll let you know. 

And finally, just thank you to everyone who called or wrote in it was fun to ineptly solve your problems. Thanks!


Reply All is hosted by me PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman. We’re produced by Sruthi Pinnamaneni, Phia Bennin, Damiano Marchetti, Anna Foley, Jessica Yung, and Emmanuel Dzotsi. Our show’s edited by Tim Howard. We’re mixed by Rick Kwan and Kate Bilinski. Fact-checking by Michelle Harris. Our intern is Christina Ayele Djossa. Special thanks this week to Jackie Quinones. Our theme song is by the mysterious Breakmaster Cylinder. Our ad music is by Build Buildings. Matt Lieber is road trip weather. You can listen to our show wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks for listening, we’ll see you in two weeks.