March 30, 2020

#160 The Attic and Closet Show 2

by Reply All

Background show artwork for Reply All

This week, we call people across the world.


PJ: From Gimlet, this is Reply All, I’m PJ Vogt.

This is the second episode that we Reply All are putting together while sheltered in place mostly in New York City. Um uh it continues to be strange and scary here. The new development this week is really just the sonstant sound of ambulances. Um but we’re hunkered down, we’re trying to figure out how to make a show for you.

So what we have for you today is a week of phone calls between us and you guys, our listeners. 

Um the way we did it this week is that producers on our show actually went through our voicemail box and our emails to find people who we really wanted to reach out to who we were curious about who had tried to get through to us before and hadn’t been able to, and Reply All producer Damiano Marchetti working from his apartment in Brooklyn dialed a bunch of those people, so we could talk to them.

And we ended up with a snapshot of what the world felt like this past week.


PJ: Yeah.  

ALEX: It's happening. 

PJ: Cool. 

ALEX: How was your weekend?

PJ: My weekend was fine. My weekend was fine. I don't know. What is a weekend anymore? It's like the same as a weekday except you don't work...

ALEX: It's very different because I don't work. I just go to Child Town. 

PJ: Child Town?

ALEX: Yeah, which is when I hang out with my children. 

PJ: Which is your favorite pastime? Which is why you're in hog heaven, right now. 

ALEX: Uhh...

PJ: Hog Heaven. 

ALEX: l really do love my kids a lot but they can—it's tough. Non-stop parenting is just tough, you know?

PJ: Are they more hyper active because there's nothing to do in the whole world?

ALEX: So it's really just like, there have been a couple of nice days. Harvey's is just like desperate—the other kids in the neighborhood are hanging out and he just wants to go out and hang out with them. 

PJ: There are parents who aren't doing social distancing?

ALEX: This weekend there was like a day where everyone in the neighborhood was like, "We can keep six feet apart.", but the kids totally started ignoring it. And Sarah, who's just very paranoid, reasonably, about spreading this disease was like, "Harvey, you need to come inside.", like I don't want to be—like we can't do it. And he lost his mind. And then there's a neighbor two doors down, who Harvey just likes just talking about poop and pee and farts and stuff with and—

PJ: The PJ to his Alex. 

ALEX: Yeah, basically. And he really wanted to see him and I was like, "He can only go as far as his driveway and you can only go as far as yours." And they kept trying to run toward each other. And I was like, "We just can't do it, bud. I'm sorry. I know this is really confusing. And I know it sucks really hard but..."

PJ: Oh god, that sucks. 

ALEX Damiano i think we’re ready whenever you are. 

DAMIANO: Okay. Here's your first call. 


JUSTINE: Hello? 

ALEX: Hi, who's this?

JUSTINE: Hi, this is Justine. 

ALEX: Justine?—

PJ: This is Alex and PJ. I don't know why Alex didn't say that on the call. 

ALEX: Oh yeah, this is Alex and PJ. 


ALEX: Sorry. 

PJ: Just like last week when he calls a stranger and says, "Hi, who's this?"...[laughing][unintelligible]

ALEX: Fuck you dude. Come on. 


PJ: Why am I calling you?

ALEX: Where are you Justine?

JUSTINE: I'm in Shanghai right now. 

PJ: Oh, shit. What's Shanghai like?

JUSTINE: Right now it's actually okay. It's getting better I'd say about like two months ago it was the worst of it. And that was pretty shitty to, to stay here. Yeah. 

ALEX: What was it like?

JUSTINE: So, it all happened actually really really fast. It was like overnight and everything was closed and we were all under self-quarantine. And the thing about China is a lot of people don't live where they come from. Like most people go to the big city—like they come to Shanghai, for example, to work. So when this thing struck and people were forced to stay home and not be with their families, that was a big hit on a lot of people's emotions actually. 

PJ: How did people cope?

JUSTINE: Not so well, actually. There’s a lot of resentment on the internet, well there were a lot of memes actually. 

PJ: What were the memes about?

JUSTINE: What were the meme's about? Of how people just all of a sudden becoming chefs. Like they had make do. A cool thing was there was a lot of information being censored online, right? So it was like if you posted something that was "sensitive", it gets censored. So it gets taken down from the internet and you can't see it. So people started posting in their own ways. So there'd be like a morse code version of an article that was about a whistle-blower doctor. 

ALEX: Oh wow. 

JUSTINE: Or there would be like the [indistinguishable] version. And that would get taken down too. So people started making an emoji version of the same article. And that gets sent around and people would kind of hop in on that train and see what different versions they can make of it? 

PJ: How do you actually communicate an article about doctor shortages in emoji, in a way that's legible?

JUSTINE: So it'll be like, say there's a character that sounds kind of like it. 

PJ: Ohhh. 

JUSTINE: So there's a sound like heart, yeah. So they would replace it with a heart emoji and kind of figure it out. And then there's a—I think there was a key somewhere on the internet, so they would direct you to the key and you match with the key. So you can match the original version to the decoded version of it. And that's how you read it.

PJ: That's so smart. 


PJ: So it's not like, oh there's like three doctor emoji faces and then like a sad face. It's more like you're using emojis as a cypher. Like you're picking images that sort of sounds like words. 

JUSTINE: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Exactly. 

PJ: And then you circulate the key?

JUSTINE: Mm-hmm. 

ALEX: What is the sentiment like about the Chinese government, right now with all of this going on?

JUSTINE: I think what they're trying to do. Yeah, the government effort in containing the virus is very extreme. Yes. It's very China speed, like they built a hospital in 10 days. That's very commendable but it was very iron fist. So that to people was very—not helping in their emotions. It was only making them more lonely. But after this we see that okay it's being a bit more contained and that what's happening abroad, like that's really shitty. And especially what's happened to Chinese people abroad. That's just fucking terrible. 

PJ: Just like all the sort of racism and blame. It's happening in the US with Asian-Americans, you mean? 

JUSTINE: Yeah, and I have a lot of friends that went back to California or New York, back to where they're from because they were so scared of the virus but now they want to come back and they can't. And they also can't stay there because it's typically if they go out on the streets with a mask, they're afraid of getting attacked and now they're afraid of coming back. 

PJ: That's awful. I feel like it's a much worse version of something that a lot of people are experiencing, just like a lot of people are stuck in these weird middle places. Like it doesn't feel like—there's this natural human tendency to want to go home or to go somewhere safe and like those places just kind of don't exist right now for the most part. 

JUSTINE: Yeah, exactly. And the thing is, as China's emerging out of this, we're seeing that same thing happening in the rest of the world and we're kind of just like, "Guys, what are you doing? We've been through this! We tried to tell you what's going on."

PJ: Is that just the nightmare of it, is like, you watch something happen very bad in slow motion but then you have to watch it happen badly in slow motion everywhere else?

JUSTINE: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. And while it was happening in China, the world was kind of just carrying on. And that was even more of a blow. And that was quite— that made us feel quite lonely.They just didn't sense the severity of it. Like there was just no awareness. 


PJ: What is the sort of like —cause you're, I guess, where we're hoping to eventually get to, which is like infection rate is pretty much under control, life's not back to normal but some things are back to normal. What does mostly back to normal or somewhat back to normal look like?

JUSTINE: I think people are becoming more excited to get out. I mean, they're a lot of people running. I think that's a thing because being at home and people feel very inactive.

PJ: And when you go out, what's the biggest group of people you're allowed to go out in or that you choose to go out in? What's the most social thing you do at this point?

JUSTINE: I went for brunch like last weekend. But still, everyone that did it were kind of feeling a little sneaky about it, like you're supposed to be about a meter away from each other. Or you're supposed to sit—one table can only seat one person. 

ALEX: Oh my goodness. 

JUSTINE: So at this point a lot of people are just like, "Ehh. Fuck it. We're gonna do it anyway."

PJ: So did you do it anyway?

JUSTINE: Yeah. [laughs]

PJ: That was a very shameful pause. 


JUSTINE: I have my mask on. I mean [laughing] yeah. 

PJ: Did it feel nice to be like in sort of a normal world again?

JUSTINE: Yeah. Yeah, it does. 

ALEX: Thanks so much for reaching out. 

JUSTINE: Yeah. Thank you. Stay safe and stay positive. And stay creative, you'll be making a lot of stuff. 

PJ: Alright.

JUSTINE: I wrote a lot. Yeah. 

PJ: Thank you, you too. 

PJ: Alex, are you going to work on your novel?

ALEX: What would I even write a novel about? What kind of experience do I have in my life that people could possibly want to hear?

PJ: Um, I feel like you would write something that was like a thinly-veiled Alex Goldman character.

ALEX: Yeah, seriously. And all sorts of horrible things that happened to me. Every time I try to imagine writing a short story I'm always like, "And then in the end, they end up in a mud puddle."

PJ: A mud puddle? That's the horrible thing that happens is a mud puddle?

ALEX: Usually they're like beaten up or have been electrocuted or something like that. 

PJ: But the final straw is always the mud puddle. 

ALEX: I mean that's just the last little—it's the little indignities that sting the worst. You know?

PJ: Do you write stuff in a journal?


PJ: Or do you just like think about the ideas in your head?

ALEX: I think about ideas in my head. I have like a mental leger of short story ideas. Not all of them containing mud puddles. 

PJ: Who would you say is the mud puddle person?

ALEX: A friend of mine—speaking of journals, a good friend of mine from Michigan sent me a message the other day that said—let me find it exactly cause it was very funny—it said, "Hey Alex, rough quarantine days but I did find an old journal where I wrote a brief note about a story you told. A subway co-worker who shit his pants while walking to work because he "wanted to see how it felt."

PJ: Wait, was that a thing that happened or a thing that you imagined happening?

ALEX: No, it was a thing that happened. 

PJ: The person just shat their pants to see what that experience would be like?

ALEX: And I completely forgot about it until a friend sent me a message to tell me that this happened. 

PJ: Wait, and then did the person then show up to work with like the fouled trousers?

ALEXL: I think that he must've—he must've have been wrong about them walking to work because I can't imagine a scenario—I remember the story but I can't imagine a scenario where someone showed up to work and was like, "Hey, I got to change my pants because I just crapped because I wanted to see how it felt."

PJ: Yeah, I feel like you would go home, you stand by the laundry machine—I kind of get it. LIke I kind of get it where you're just like, "Oh so much of my adult civilization programming is to stop myself from doing this one thing. I wonder what would happen if I did it?", but not on the way to work. 

The only thing that would make it worse like walking to work and then shitting your pants would be walking to work, shitting your pants, and then you slip and then you fall in a mud puddle.

ALEX: [laughing]

ALEX: Fuck you, that's such a good short story idea you just came up with. 

PJ: You can have it. 

ALEX: Thanks. 

DAMIANO: Okay, you guys ready?

ALEX: Yes. 

PJ: Ready as we'll ever be. 

DAMIANO: Okay. Let's do this one. 


[Alex laughing]

DAMIANO: Alex, try to be normal. 

ALEX: I'm trying.


PJ: Hello? Who's this?

SABRINA: Uh, Sabrina?

PJ: This is PJ and ALEX. 


PJ: Where are you?

SABRINA: Algeria.

PJ: Oh, woah. 

ALEX: Algeria. 

PJ: What's Algeria like, right now?

SABRINA: Strange. 

PJ: What kind of strange?

SABRINA: We're kind of in—yeah, because it has been a number of cases that have been growing. Things kind of got very worrying. 

ALEX: So what does that mean for you? Are you at home? Are you like sort of trapped there?

SABRINA: Yeah. Home, kind of in self-quarantine because the government hasn't really issued a full quarantine measure. So people have taken the initiative and decided to stay home. 

PJ: Really? People are just voluntarily doing it like absent a government of government order?

SABRINA: Yeah, because the thing here is that the health care system is just not very good and there's very little trust that we can handle this. 

PJ: Hmm. 

SABRINA: So there were less than 100 cases a week ago. Now there are 300, just today in total. So that may seem like not a lot compared to other countries but if your healthcare system is already overwhelmed it's very worrying. 

PJ: What does it look like, the healthcare system before this? Like what do you mean that it's already overwhelmed and that it doesn't work well?

SABRINA: The thing here is that, you know in China they built a hospital in 10 days?

PJ: Yeah. 

ALEX: Yes. 

SABRINA: Yeah, the joke here is that we will build in 10 days cemeteries. 

ALEX: Ohh. 

SABRINA: That's how much trust people have in the healthcare system. And it's because the hospitals were already in a very dire state, understaffed. And even like in regular times, people don't go to hospitals. Middle class, they go to private practices. So you try to avoid the hospital, even when you get sick in regular times. 

ALEX: How are you feeling, right now?

SABRINA: Sometimes I get very worried. And other times, I am calm because I was prepared. From a coupe of weeks ago, I was already starting to prepare. 

PJ: What did that look like?

SABRINA: I bought some masks back then. So masks and hand sanitizer. Back then looked a little crazy to be fair to people, because it seemed so far away. There is a lot of Chinese business here. So at first, we were scared that we would have a lot of cases in Africa because of the Chinese business. But then we avoided that. And then it hit France and then when it hit France, we knew that it was inevitable because we have a lot of links with France and Spain, also Italy. 

PJ: And so is that where it ended up, sort of, coming in? Is it like through Europe?

SABRINA: Yes. Yeah, through France, a lot through France. 

ALEX: Are you alone? Are you with family? Like what's your situation, right now?

SABRINA: Yeah, I'm with family so I have that's the reason why I self quarantine very early on because I have my father and my mother. My mother is 63 and my father is 72. So they're kind of at risk. 

PJ: Do they understand the risk level?

SABRINA: It was very hard to convince, especially my father. I kind of had to—I don't know, not scare them but kind of explain to them that because of our situation in the country, we can't afford to end up in a hospital, basically. 

PJ: I've been trying to figure out why like older people in my life seem to be the ones who least likely to take this seriously, even though they're the most at risk. And I can't tell if it's like about where they get their news. Or sometimes, I think, it's like they just don't want to think of themselves as old and so they are refusing to, even if it puts them at risk. 

SABRINA: I think, for my father, I think he had his habits. It's very hard to change your habits, at some points, which I understand. 

PJ: What were his habits?

SABRINA: LIke in the morning, just to go out, have a coffee outside. We kind of have this, like a bit like Italy. You know? A lot of people here go outside, have coffee, play cards. They go to the market. Especially retired people. 

PJ: Yeah. Is he trying to find replacement habits that he can do in the house?

SABRINA: I'm trying to keep him busy. Like we bought him a bunch of crossword puzzles, but he's already finishing them. 


PJ: What else have you tried?

SABRINA: Now, yeah, so, I just printed a bunch of new crossword puzzles, just right now to give it to him and they aren't very hard—they should be hard to finish. And yeah, just playing some cards now at home. 

PJ: What are you guys playing?

SABRINA: The kind of games from like French culture. What’s it named? La Belote, I think that is one. 

PJ: La Belote?

SABRINA: Yes, it's a French card game, kind of like poker but a lot more boring. But everyday, he tries to find a reason to go outside. 


ALEX: Well, good luck keeping your dad inside. 

SABRINA: [laughing] Yeah, thank you. 

PJ: And good luck staying sane.

SABRINA: I'll be okay, I think. 

ALEX: Alright, take care. 

PJ: Alright. 

SABRINA: Okay, thank you. Bye. 

ALEX: Bye 

ALEX: My mom was telling me the other day—so my mom, since my parents have split up, my mom has moved to Florida. And she with like—she lives in a house with like three other people. She owns the house but she just like lets her friends stay there and they usually do housework and stuff to pay the rent. And she was like telling me the other day—yeah, they had some guy come over and roll a joint and blah-blah-blah. And they were all smoking pot in the backyard. And she was like telling it to me like it was a funny story. And I was like, "Mom, tell them not to invite people over. That's the whole point." Especially, not invite people over and pass around a thing that they all put in their mouths. 

PJ: Jeez. 

ALEX: That seems like a bad idea. 

PJ: Did she listen?

ALEX: I mean, she was like, "Well, I didn't do it.", and I was like, "Yeah, but you live with those people and you're almost 80 and you've been smoking for 60 years. So you might to just chill." 

PJ: Did you ever think that your life would be you yelling at your mom to stop smoking weed with her friends?

ALEX: My mom missed hippie-dom, like she's too old for it. She was born in 1941. So she was like almost in her late 20s when like "summer love", and all that stuff came around. So she was never a pot smoker, didn't do drugs, and then she retired and moved to Florida and met a bunch of weirdos of the dog park and now they all smoke weed together. 

PJ: When was the first time your mom ripped a doob?

ALEX: I don't know. I'm sure she did it when in the 60s, but like she started talking about smoking weed and people around her smoking weed and like staying up all night and listening to her friend, Smokey, play guitar all the time at like...

PJ: Her friend, Smokey, plays guitar?

ALEX: Yeah, like...

PJ: Your mom's living a significantly cooler life than you are. 

ALEX: Oh, my god. Yes, she is much cooler. 

PJ: That's really hard though. It's hard to ask people to be isolated. 

ALEX: Yeah, it's really hard. And like I don't blame her at all for wanting to have people over and like I mean, she does have like—I think there's like two or three people living with her, right now, and they're all good pals and stuff but any roommate situation, you're gonna start getting super annoyed with people after so long of not being able to avoid them. It's not a big house. 

PJ: Yeah. I keep oscillating whether I'm lucky to be alone, or not lucky to be alone. I think lucky to be alone, I think. 

ALEX: Yeah. I can't decide. I would really hate not having Sarah around. 

DAMIANO: I’m dialing the next one. 

PJ: Okay.

ALEX: Thank you, Damiano. 



JILL: Hey.

ALEX: Hi, who's this?

PJ: Hello?

JILL: Hi, it's Jill. 

ALEX: Hi Jill. 

PJ: This is Alex and PJ. 

PJ: Where are you?

JILL: I'm in Hong Kong. 

PJ: What's Hong Kong like, right now?

JILL: Umm, Hong Kong is—I mean, it's okay in some respects in that we're not like in a lock down. You can still go out and restaurants are open and everything, but it's gotten kind of crazy over the past week because early on, the government had heightened travel restrictions many times and so you couldn't come in if you were from China or if you were from South Korea and Italy and stuff. But now essentially, only Hong Kong residents can enter. And they've all been stringing back. Like, the people who left because they thought that Hong Kong wasn't safe and so they went to their—you know, expats went to their home in Europe or students who's schools have closed overseas. They're all coming back and they're bringing coronavirus with them. So like until a week or so ago we only had—

PJ: Oh, no.

ALEX: Oh, no.

JILL: Oh yeah, we only had like 155 cases, in which in less than 10 days it's more than doubled. It's like 360, or something. 

PJ: Oh, that's awful. 

JILL: So the government is making people who come in wear these electronic wrist bracelets and they have to—it's like a mandatory 14-day quarantine, but people are stupid. So people are cutting them off and—you know, it's just like really dumb people. So they're doing spot-checks or video-calls. And if you aren't home or if you break the quarantine, there's a fine, a 6-month jail term, but mainly they're just throwing these people into these government quarantine camps. So that's the problem, now. 

ALEX: You sound really mad. 

JILL: Well, I'm not mad. It's just like, come on people. You know? I mean, these expats. They were afraid to stay in Hong Kong when shit hit the fan. And so now they come back and it's like, "Suck it up. Sit in your teeny tiny apartment. Order delivery McDonald's and just just suck it up for 14 days. What are you doing?"

PJ: And how do the wristbands work? They're tracking wristbands?

JILL: You know I've only seen a picture of it. I haven't seen it in person, which is good because that would mean that person shouldn't be out and about. It has a QR code on it. So I'm not sure exactly how it works but yeah, I mean, it identifies you as you're supposed to be in your quarantine period. And I heard that they're gonna—this may be a rumor. But I heard they're gonna set up a hotline so you can narc on people, who are not respecting the quarantine. 


PJ: That's amazing: 

ALEX: Oh, man. 

ALEX: Would you call that number if you saw someone that was not following it?

JILL: I think I would walk right up to them. You know?

ALEX: Mm, yeah. 

JILL: I mean, yeah. I think I'd just walk right up to them. I mean there's a lot of—like everybody here wears masks. I know that's different than the US.

ALEX: Right. 

JILL: But I mean people here wear masks even in like non-Covid times. Like you have a like if you have a slight cough or a cold, like you just wear a mask or you stay home because people are just freaked out after SARS. So then, when you see people walking around, it's like, "Who do you think you are? Come on, everybody's wearing masks. And it's almost always foreigners. And there's graffiti here saying, "Hey Gweilo, are you too poor to buy a mask?” Again, it's just like respect where you're living. It's not that hard.

PJ: Is Gweilo a foreigner?

JIll: Yeah. 

ALEX: Can I ask a somewhat unrelated question? Which is like, I mean, that I know that Hong Kong was in the fall at least and through the winter, facing this really intense protest movement. I mean, what has become of it?

JILL: Yeah 

ALEX: Is it just totally dissipated?

JILL: Um, you know, it's not like before. You don't have a million people on the road but you still see news articles about police harassment, police harassing people unnecessarily. I mean, people here are not in love with the government. You know? That's for sure, but there aren't the big protests that there were before so it's not in the news as much. Plus, there's just other things in the news but it'll come back. 

ALEX: You think?

JILL: Oh yeah. Yeah. It will come back. 


ALEX: Well, thank you so much for calling. We really appreciate it. 

PJ: We really appreciate it. 

JILL: Sure. 

ALEX: Bye. 

PJ: Take care. 

JILL: Bye.

PJ: After the break, we take some more of your calls.



GINA: Hello?

ALEX: Hi, this is Alex and PJ. 

PJ: Hi this is PJ and Alex. Who's this?

GINA: Hi, this is Gina. 

ALEX: Where are you Gina?

GINA: I am trapped in my apartment for the fifth week running in Milan. 

PJ: Fifth week! 

ALEX: Oh my goodness. 

GINA: Yeah.

PJ: How's week five?

GINA: Yeah, full five weeks now. I mean, at this point, it's like the first week you're just going absolutely stir-crazy. And then now, I'm just kind of like, well this is my life now. 

ALEX: What are the circumstances under which you go outside at this point. 

GINA: I mean, honestly, to go on "now" illegal walks in the evening because we're not even allowed to jog anymore. It's gotten—they're setting out the military. They're taking this extremely seriously. 

ALEX: Oh my goodness. Hey, have you known people who have been infected?

GINA: No one directly yet. I know that some people, kind of related to my office were. Sadly, I hear my roommate, a friend of hers did die of the virus, yesterday. 

ALEX: Oh, no. 

GINA: Yeah. And it was just tragic, but she contracted it in the hospital. The tragedy of it, you can't even stand. But I mean there is just you know numbness to the whole thing. It's strange because, normally if someone dies, there is the—I don't know—the ceremony that goes into it that allows you realize this is real, as horrible as it is. But it's so strange when it's just like you get a message on WhatsApp that, "Oh, your neighbor has died."

ALEX: Yeah. 

PJ: Right, you can't have funerals. You can't meet. You can't observe it in any way meaningful way. 

GINA: No. No, even family members aren't allowed to go to the hospital. I think the state is going to be cremating all of the bodies...

ALEX: Aww, that's so sad. 

GINA: It's this bizarrely insulated world, you know?

ALEX: Is it just you by yourself? Are you with someone else?

GINA: I mean, I have a roommate here. Thank god, but pretty much she's the only person I see. My partner lives on the other side of the city and we can't even see each other. 

And I know we had some practice because we had been kind of—our relationship had been distance before when I was still in the US and he's Italian. We watch movies together on Netflix party. We try to make it as predictable and as regular as humanly possible. And we set dates and we have a specific time and we'll eat dinner together at this time, whatever it may be. 

ALEX: That sounds really hard. 

PJ: Yeah. 

GINA: Yeah. it is. It is. Especially cuz my family, 6000 miles away. So he's kind of—he's what I have here, at the end of the day. 

ALEX: Well, I hope that you really — I hope you're done with this soon. 

GINA: God, I hope so too. I hope so, too. I'm sure they'll be parties in the street when it's over. 

PJ: Parties will be really good. 

ALEX: Yeah, that's what I keep thinking about. I think it's gonna—so in 2012, when Hurricane Sandy happened, the lights in lower Manhattan went out and we still had to go into work because we were working at WNYC, at that time. We still had to make a show and the radio still kept going. 

GINA: Right. 

ALEX: And I remember I was walking home, it was like the 5th of 6th day, I remember I was walking home and the lights came back on. It sounded like someone had hit a homerun at a baseball game, like the entire city just erupted in cheers. It was like really emotional. I was tearing up because everybody was so happy because again it was just like this moment that felt so—it just made you feel so incredibly vulnerable and it just gave you this idea that like, oh all of this incredible infrastructure was built was all for naught because one single weather event can flood the Holland Tunnel and and destroy the subways, kill people, and make the entire city go dark. 

GINA: Yeah. 

ALEX: And just like having the power back on was like—it was overwhelming. 

GINA: Yeah, I can imagine. I can imagine. 

ALEX: Well, I hope you get that experience soon. Thanks so much for calling, Gina. 

GINA: Yeah, of course. Anytime. Bye. 

[end call tone]

[silent pause]

PJ: How you doing?

ALEX: Well, now that I've told that story, I'm feeling very sad. I just want everything to be normal again, which is a very stupid and stupid thing to say because it just like, duh, so does everybody. And normal wasn’t—

PJ: I don’t think you have to, I don't know, have one of those contrarian takes....

ALEX: I don't know, normal wasn't that great. I complained about everything when everything was fine, too. 

PJ: Well, you'll complain—I mean, I feel like that's your constant. Like whether it's like a zombie apocalypse and you're the last person, or whether you're in a specific version of heaven but like they don't have the kind of lobster you wish they did. I think complaining is just how you just register facts in the world. 

ALEX: Mm-hmm. Yeah. 

PJ: I don't think you need to feel guilty about past or future complaining. 



ALEX: Hi, who's this?

PJ: Hello?

ALEX: Hey Alex, this is Alex and PJ. 

PJ: HI, this is PJ and Alex. 

THOBIAS: I'm calling from Sweden. A small town on the west coast. 

PJ: What are things like over there?

THOBIAS: Right now, it's kind of normal. Schools are closed. We're having education from home and all that but most of my friends don't really care. Yeah, well they have a few parties during the week and all of that.

PJ: Did you go to the parties?

THOBIAS: No, I've been mostly staying at home. Partly due to the fact that I live in an apartment that's owned by an 88 year-old and we share the hallway a few common areas in the house. So I kind of feel like it's extra important that I keep healthy. 

PJ: Why are people having parties during the week? Like setting aside whether like social distancing—why are people have parties during the week?

THOBIAS: I mean it's just my friends, I think. Because we're in the special program, high school program. So we don't live at home and our program is kind of known for partying a lot since we don't have any parents. 

PJ: I didn't realize you were in high school. What's the program? 

THOBIAS: It's a marine biology program. 

PJ: Wait, the marine biology program is notorious as the party program? [laughing]

THOBIAS: [laughing] Yeah, yeah, well because we don't live with our parents so we can do what we feel like. 

PJ: And the kids in the programs, kids who love marine biology? Or kids who saw a loophole through which they could not live with their parents and party?

THOBIAS: Well, it's kind of mixed. Some people are really into marine biology and some...yeah. But now, our principal, for like the marine biology program, recommending that we go home to our parents. So I don't really know what to do because I'd like to stay here but I'm not sure if I should or not. 

ALEX: Are you living by yourself?

THOBIAS: Yeah, I'm living by myself. Now, I'm relieved to be living by myself. So I know I'll just  go crazy on my parents. 

ALEX: Yeah, I hear you but also you're gonna be by yourself for who knows how long. I mean, if this is just starting there? I mean, it could be weeks. Are you comfortable to being confined to your house for weeks without anybody else?

THOBIAS: Well, that's what I trying to figure out. 

PJ: Somehow you've really activated Alex's dad mode, where I feel like he's telling...

ALEX: No, I'm not telling him one way or another. I'm just asking. 

PJ: You're just laying out but it's his responsibility and you wouldn't be mad, just disappointed. 

ALEX: Fuck you. 

[Thobias laughs]

ALEX: Have you been doing like voice chats and stuff with friends?

THOBIAS: I've been gaming a lot with my brother's girlfriend. 

PJ: What are you playing?

THOBIAS: Minecraft. 

PJ: Ohh, cool. 

THOBIAS: They're actually neighbors with my parents. So if I would go home, I could—I'd be able to visit them too. But, yeah. 

PJ: The other argument for going back, honestly, is if you stay where you are, your parents are going to be very worried and they're not gonna keep that worry to themselves. 


PJ: You're gonna hear from them a lot. 

ALEX: If I could just play devil's advocate here for a moment. Yes, you're gonna hear from them a lot but when you're at your house you don't have the option of not taking their call or just saying, "I'm fine. I gotta go.", like you're trapped. 

PJ: As somebody who—I think you'll hear from the less if you're in the same place as them. Like I'm staying in New York. I'm an adult man, who arguably can take care of himself. My mom has been very worried —

ALEX: [laughing] Very arguably. 

PJ: I've been eating a lot of morning steak. But my mom's been worried and she wants me back in Philadelphia. I don't think that's the right thing to do. But like I feel responsible for her worry and I talk to her on the phone a lot. It wouldn't feel right to blow her off. It might—if you end up on the fence and you're not sure what to do. I would think about going back just for their sake about also you don't have to deal with the amount of phone calls that you're gonna have to deal with. 


PJ: Because it's a lot of phone calls. 

THOBIAS: I mean, another thing for going back is, well, the fact that I have my brother as a neighbor. I can always escape, just walk away from my parents, if I really need to. 

ALEX: Well, PJ convinced me. I feel like you should probably go home. It'll make you feel better about your landlord. You'll be closer to people you know. You can always run away to your brother's house if your parents are being annoying. 


PJ: Yeah. And get away from the partying marine biologists. They sound like they're bad. 

ALEX: Yeah, get away from those crazy people. 

ALEX: That's so much for calling. Good luck. 


PJ: Yeah, stay safe. 

THOBIAS: Yeah, thanks. 

PJ: That’s our show for this week. Thank you for listening. If you wanna keep abreast with stuff we’re off the podcast, stuff we’re doing live. Last week, we did some of this live, some people listened while we did it, we also did a Friday night game night which we’re calling Angels & Demons which bears a strong resemblance to a party game you may have played before called Werewolf or Mafia. Um we don’t know what we’re gonna do next, but if you want more info it is at One more thing you should check out, our colleagues at Gimlet Science Vs have been doing great coronavirus coverage, just sorting our fact from fiction. If you’re looking for more info, that’s a great place to check out.

That’s our show.


Reply All is hosted by me, PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman. This show is produced by Sruthi Pinnamaneni, Phia Bennin, Damiano Marchetti, Anna Foley, Jessica Yung and Emmanuel Dzotsi. Our executive producer is Tim Howard. We’re mixed by Rick Kwan. Fact checking by Michelle Harris. Our intern is Lisa Wang. 

Our theme song is by the Mysterious Breakmaster Cylinder. Matt Lieber is rediscovering an extremely dormant appreciation for cooking. You can listen to our show on Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks for listening.