Nothing topsy-turvy at all happens to Janet and Loaf before the show, and it surely doesn't affect their performance in answering letters about universal translation gone awry, workplace infidelity, and the experience of living as a certain species. There aren't even any special guests who break into the studio to confront them about the problems they are avoiding in their personal lives. What a relief!
[The theme song plays softly in the background.]
Michael: Hellooo! It’s Michael, producer of Solutions to Problems. If this is your first time listening, we recommend you start with literally any other episode. If this is not your first time listening, we recommend you listen to this, and only this, episode over and over again. Okay. Thanks.
[The theme song fades out completely. A door opens and shuts. Something is buzzing. Jaunty muzak is playing in the distance. There are footsteps and wet, gloopy thumps.]
Loaf’s voice, although notably more high-pitched than usual: We can not go on air like this. We can’t! Loaf! This isn’t funny. I am never trusting any food in the breakroom again. [With increasing exasperation] Why do the interns hate me? Why do you have so many appendages? How do you control these? [pause] Am I crying? Can you cry? Everything feels so wet.
Janet’s voice, although notably more lower-pitched than usual: We can’t just cancel the broadcast, Janet.
Janet as Loaf: Tell them i’m in jail again, I don’t care. Wait, I’m you. I’ll tell them you got arrested. No one will question it.
Loaf as Janet: We are not telling them I was- you? Were arrested. We have to go on air. Everyone already saw us come into work today.
[The door opens.]
Frankie: Are you guys ready? Loaf, you don’t have your mic on.
Janet: Oh? My mic? Where is my mic? Loaf has a- I have a mic?
Frankie: Uh, yeah? Are you feeling okay?
Janet: … Yes. I was just… [mimicking Loaf’s inflection] marinating in my juices too long this morning. [whispering] That’s a thing, right?
Loaf (offended): No. It is not. Janet- Mhm. Loaf! Here is your mic. It goes here, remember?
[The mic rustles as Loaf adjusts it for her]
Frankie: … Right. Janet, you need to face your mic? What is up with you guys today?
Janet: [whispering] this thing. The stick thingy.
Loaf: I know that! Sorry, I just forget that sound comes out of your - I mean my- mouth sometimes. [The mic echoes loudly as they speak] LIKE THIS?
Frankie: A little farther back?
LaJ: Of course. I was just… testing you. In a jovial manner, as humans do. Okay. Let’s record a radio broadcast.
[Theme song plays]
[The theme song fades into the bed music]
Loaf: Hello listeners, both biped, like me, and not biped, like my wonderful, excellent, high quality co-host, Loaf, and welcome to another episode of Solutions to Problems.
Janet [extremely exasperated]: Yes, hello! I am Loaf, speaking with all these throats! It is so difficult to speak. You should feel lucky that I’m a radio host, with how hard this is. [perking up] For those joining us for the first time, Solutions to Problems is a show where we provide chocolate and graham crackers for your orphan marshmallows.
Loaf: How wonderful that you, a not-human, are so familiar with human foods with which I am also very familiar. If you have a problem you would like us to solve, you can e-mail us at email@example.com, or just wave your two useless arms and warble with your single throat.
Janet: Janet, you certainly get by very well with only two arms, which I can say as someone with almost too many arms. A truly unfathomable number of useless limbs, happening here. It seems like the minimalism of only four limbs is something truly admirable in such a complicated universe.
[The PA beeps]
Frankie: Umm… guys?
Janet: Yes, beloved production assistant Frankie, who has a great many jobs and is only a production assistant on this marvelous day?
[The PA beeps again]
Frankie: Do you uh, want to get the show started? Or talk about your bodies in a really off-putting way?
Loaf: Yes, let’s hear the first problem that someone else has!
[The phone rings even though we all know there is no phone. It’s a transition noise.]
Dear Ee'ee'ee and Janet,
I'm a Zerblaxi war veteran currently living on earth. I recently broke up with my human girlfriend after she casually mentioned that she "loves the Breakfast Club". I now understand this to be an Earth entertainment reel about disaffected adolescents. Unfortunately, on my planet "The Break Fast Club" was a notorious blunt instrument used by Kelgrassi shock troops to break the knee caps of those who thought themselves fast enough to escape their bloody regime, so I was pretty horrified by the comment. It didn't help matters that the tyrannical dictator who led the Kelgrassi is known as Jahn'Hyooz. Anyway, some ... things were said, that could not be unsaid and even after the misunderstanding was identified the relationship could not be salvaged.
Anyway, I tried to sue Universal Language Ltd, the company that makes my universal translator, in Earth court, but they are arguing that since the translation was technically accurate they are not at fault. Also, I think they may have intentionally mistranslated large swaths of my testimony to hurt my credibility with the Earth judge. On top of everything, apparently on Earth it costs large amounts of currency to file legal grievances, and I have burnt through most of my savings! Should I keep pursuing this or just let it go? Also is there any way I could win back my erstwhile paramour?
Lost it all in translation
Janet: Ah, yes, so, um, John Hughes is, like, a well beloved human filmmaker who created a number of so-called “cult classics” about the failings of adolescents to communicate clearly with one another and sexual misconduct.
Loaf: Ah yes, as a human teenager who also travelled through time a fair bit, I experienced these films and was shaped by them!
Janet: [whispering] I didn’t travel as a teenager, I only started that in college honestly do you even talk to me. [not whispering] Ah, how adorable! I, of course, only know of this.. Johnhyooz because of your many blabberings, Janet. This reminds me of when.. I… was an adolescent… learning about the… slime, fungi pits, on… some planet. It was horrible. I lost my second life there, as an adolescent, covered in filth, much, like, I’m told, many eighties films from Earth. Anyway, to address the problems of the letter writer instead of going off on some tangent that literally no one cares about, I think you do have grounds to continue pursuing your case against the translator company. This is a large reason as to why, until the last century, AIs weren’t allowed to do translations. It’s just so difficult to know all of the cultural context of a statement without being deeply immersed in a culture, especially if your programmers never took any humanities classes.
Loaf: On the other hand, how sure are you that this translation issue was really the cause of your break-up? It certainly seems like the sort of thing two well-meaning people could get over once the misunderstanding was cleared up. Maybe there were deeper underlying issues. Perhaps you, as the humans, I mean, as we humans say, dodged a bucket?
Janet: Yes, that is a human saying that we say. You say. Clearly. Like we say on my homeworld, you can’t eat the snail without living in the horrifying swamp world. I think you’ve touched nicely on something, Janet, which is that the letter writer must have done something really bad. Instead of expressing your disappointment that she was supporting something horrible, did you attack something about her personality or something?
Loaf: Frankly, I’m a little concerned at how quickly the letter writer jumped to litigation against a third party rather than talking out their problems. It is consistent with Zerblaxi philosophy though, I mean, what do I know about Zerblaxi philosophy? I am a human who has hardly ever left her home system. Never mind.
Janet: Ah, um, yes. Well, you know things because, um, Frankie… gave you the briefing, thing, that we definitely both read. Before the show? Instead of, like, crying? [talking increasingly faster] Because neither of us cried, especially not me, even though my body is so large and so horrifying. Anyway, what were you going to say about Zerblaxi philosophy, Janet, that you learned about before the show and would like to share with us?
Loaf: Oh, just that on the Zerblaxi homeworld, after the defeat of the Kelgrassi regime, it became fashionable to file lots of frivolous lawsuits about everything. This led to increased demand for personal injury lawyers, which led to more lawsuits, in a viscous cycle, and now the planet’s entire economy is based on suing one another constantly. That’s why our letter writer was confused about the legal fees- on Zerblax a personal injury lawyer costs about as a dose of instant sleep replacement.
Janet: Ah, yes, of course. I could have said that, seeing as I spent time on the Zerblaxi homeworld… one, two? No, not three, is it three? Whatever. Two years ago, during my sabbatical, but I wanted to let you answer, Janet, because I am such a gentle giant who believes in egalitarian radio hosting.
Loaf: Well, thank you for that. I appreciate it.
Janet: I appreciate you, Janet, with your very symmetrical face and advertising appeal. I think you are the best co-host on the station, even, and that you deserve a raise.
Loaf: Oh, let’s not get carried away. I am learning to care less about money because you have been teaching me about all of these many philosophies during our time as co-hosts.
Janet: Oh, but Janet, that doesn’t mean you have to give away your capitalistic leanings! After all, how will you purchase new nanobots and serotonin regulators?
Loaf: More nanobots? Are you sure yoo-I need more nanobots? I can already feel these ones, um, working very hard. But let’s get back to our letter writer, shall we? I think you and your human paramour should try and work out your cultural differences, while knowing that it might just not be possible. Humans are strange and complicated creatures, after all.
Janet: Yes, very strange, what with your head fur and.. Um, clothes? I agree Loa- Janet. I think, while there is reasonable cause to continue pursuing the lawsuit, they should focus more on repairing their relationship, or at least evaluating what actually led to its end. Shall we move on to the next letter?
Loaf: We shall! Unless you’d like to thank this week’s sponsor first?
Janet: Who is…? Ah. No. I don’t think I would like to thank this week’s sponsor. In fact, I think I would maybe like to do something that is the opposite of thanking them, if you know what I mean, which, you don’t!
Loaf: Well, I, Janet, love capitalism and money, so I guess I will read this message from our sponsors. Today’s sponsor is Switcherooni’s fruit-flavored coffee creamer. Love the great taste of Switcheroonis and its body-swapping properties, but don’t have time for breakfast cereal? Try Switcherooni’s fruit-flavored coffee creamer, now available in jackfruit, starfuit, and hyperfruit flavors.
Janet: I just don’t understand! YOU DON’T EVEN DRINK COFFEE. WHY WERE YOU DRINKING COFFEE? WHY WASN’T FRANKIE DRINKING COFFEE? Frankie could probably do - I mean. Whatever Also, how does this work? The physics of it don’t make sense.
Loaf [trying to interrupt]: Lo- Loaf-
Janet: What if a lot of you eat it at once? How many ways do you swap bodies? What is this, a Lindsey Lohan remake? WHAT ARE THE RULES?
Janet: Also? FRUIT? For a COFFEE FLAVOR? It doesn’t make any sense!
Loaf: While these are all pertinent points, Loaf, this is our sponsor for this week. I suppose, while we are being critical of the people who pay our bills, we would also like to remind our sponsors that if they are going to send free samples of a product, they should label it very carefully with a list of potential side-effects, regular effects, and any allergens it might contain.
Janet: [wheezing] Yes. Just. Labels in general are a positive thing. Especially if the labels are in, like, a language humans can read? I mean, I am just trying to be considerate of my human coworkers, since I am not a human, what with their inferior cone based vision and… Thin, spindly limbs.
Loaf: Is this really what you think I sound like? I mean- [clears throat] Let’s get on to our next letter, shall we?
Dear Loaf and Janet,
I'm a Lockney from Slangrimerous Seven, and I've made a horrible cracksten. I furbonked heavily with a colleague at our holiday shmoozle, muuuch more than a congealed merman should really furbonk. There was lots of wurmpling, and there was a moment where we almost rhinocerused, but we stopped ourselves. We then sent very sonxual messages back and cork for a day or two. If I’m being completely florid, I quite mmmmm-ed the triplock and tumble of all this malarkey, and I admittedly moo-mooed more than my fair snare to slart and meep things mowing.
A couple of wockles have passed and I now feel extormly glumped and ashoomed, but have no plans to barnacle my spouser by telling hoom what haxenned—it would deform hoom and destroy the slust in our relationship. My probe-lem is that I cacktively leek this colleague, and have kealized I am also keally attrompted to them. I don’t wonka have these wurmples. I've been spousered for den years, and I'm too onahgold to have a klush. I’m worping on being more carefoom about simmering more time with them, and I'm writing a mirnal about all these unexpookted wurples, but what elsa should I doodad to protect my spousage?
Dotally Crushed Out
Janet: Ah, yes. These are all words I am familiar with, as a great worldly traveler who knows so many languages yet struggles with basic metaphors somehow. I am… wondering, why this letter, that’s clearly in an Earth off world dialect, wasn’t translated to Earth universal common, which is what our listeners speak?
Melody: Uh oh! Oopsie! Oh gosh, guess this one slipped through the cracks. Unfortunately, it’s going to take too long to correct. But hey! Luckily, you know this dialect. Right, Loaf? You can just translate for Janet.
Janet: Melody, it takes 15 milliseconds for you to process a translation request. Is thiis because of the thing I said yesterday? I mean, that Janet said yesterday? Because - I mean, can you do it now?
Melody: Mmmmmmmmm no. Not gonna do that.
Loaf: Loaf, think we should just answer the question. Now clearly, you need to tell your spouser about this, at the very least for health reasons. A lot of people think you can’t get any diseases just by rhinocerousing, but that’s actually not true.
Janet: But, like, I thought they only almost rhinoceroused? Like didn’t they just wurple a lot? Although, I think you can probably get diseases from that too. Just the sound of it sounds like inappropriate body fluid mixing.
Loaf: [sighs deeply] Wurmple, not wurple. It is an important distinction.
Janet: Ah yes, of course. My mistake! [whispering] Okay, sum up this letter so I can say something useful, please.
Loaf: [whispering] Workplace infidelity.
Janet: Ohhh, gotcha! Welllll, regardless of whether you wurpled or wurmpled, you do need to come clean to your spouse..r. Most people have crushes on people who aren’t their.. Spouser, god I hate this dialect, but most people also don’t go on to have affairs with their crush. It’s okay to have feelings! What’s not okay is allowing those feelings to overtake your judgement. You’re an adult, who made an incorrect adult decision. Listeners, if you ever have a workplace crush, remember to stay professional with your colleague until you get over it. No private lunches, no coffee dates, no playing virtual chess on your lunch breaks, no sending cute notes to their mainframe when they have a bad day. After you tell your spouser, you need to keep a respectful distance from your colleague while still being professional. Don’t send them any, ugh, really sonxual messages. In fact, I wouldn’t communicate with them outside of work at all. Your colleague may be upset, but that’s what happens when you have workplace affairs.
Loaf: Well said, Loaf, well said. I just want to add to that something inappropriate about breaking the law and/or altering the timeline! Ha ha ha just kidding! Only you never really know if I am actually kidding.
Janet: Janet! You are, of course, always kidding, because we are a family friendly radio show. For a given definition of family and friendly. We love laws and following them, and do not see them as governmental oversteps into what should be a free society driven only by our thirst to destroy the past! I mean, yes. We are law abiding citizens of the universe here. I think we have one more letter left today. Let’s play the tape and end this show as quickly as possible.
[The phone rings]
I have a question related specifically to Janet and Loaf’s experience of their species. You see, I was genetically engineered, and my mother was a human, and my protofather was a---
[The recording is abruptly cut off. There’s a whirring as the signal is interrupted and frantic dolphin noises as someone bangs on the recording studio door.]
Broodmate [muffled and banging on the door]: Let me in! Let me in!
Frankie (on the PA): What are you doing? You can’t just burst in here! Don’t you see the “on void” light is on? We’re broadcasting!
Broodmate [speaking intermixed with dolphin noises and a low frantic whining]: I need to talk to him!
Loaf: Oh dear. A member of Loaf’s species that I, Janet have never seen before! What are you doing here? Please speak human standard language, so I, a stupid human, can understand you.
Janet: Uh, yes! Hello…. Relative! I would appreciate you speaking so my co-host can understand, and also so our audience is tuned into the drama that is unfolding.
Broodmate: YOU. YOU HAVE BEEN AVOIDING ALL OF MY ATTEMPTS TO CONTACT YOU.
JaL: Aaahhh, yes, I have been, for… reasons. That are, I hope, good reasons? Perhaps, this time while I am currently recording my radio broadcast, is not the best time to discuss this issue. In about, oh, 5 to 15 minutes, approximately, I think, according to the copy, when I am feeling more normal and less like a radio co-host, perhaps that is a better time to speak to me on this issue!
Broodmate: Oh no, you are not getting away from me that easily.. I have learned this stupid human language. I have called. I have e-mailed. I have encoded messages into the DNA of a small rodent. Do you even check your rodent DNA?
Janet: Ah, I, unfortunately, have gotten out of the habit of checking rodent DNA-mail as, uh, it’s not really a thing here I’m pretty sure? I really thought that was a joke for the broadcast. Loaf- JANET. Where are you going!
Loaf: Oh, ah, ah-
Janet: I need your emotional support in this time of great surprise that I am emotionally un-equipped to handle. Surely you can stay in the radio broadcast room for a few more moments while this is occurring, although you must feel so cramped between our two large, horrible bodies.
Loaf: Ahh- Yes, well, um, as a human I do not know much about your culture, but I still feel the right to criticize your parenting skills and side with your broodmate, who I have never met, against, you, Loaf, my coworker and friend.
Janet: Surely, Janet, this is because you only want the world to know that it is not only you, Janet, who are a hot mess, but also, me, the other co-host, and that we are hot messes together, not because you actually think you understand anything about parenting or children, both subjects that you clearly detest despite the fact that alternate versions of you bafflingly insist on participating in them, and why do you not have this in common with someone who is so similar? Why are they so like you yet so different? Are you the broken one, or are they? What was I saying? Ah yes, my ah… broodmate! You seem like I have wronged you, a fact I am sorry for.
Broodmate: Sorry doesn’t make up for missing human sporting rituals, hatching days, and first molts! Your co-parents are confused and exhausted. Why will you not come home? We understand that - there is no translation sorry- [dolphin noise] are prone to wanderlust, but normally only for a few cycles at a time. It’s been eight! Eight cycles! They’re not asking you to come live with them! Just to come home for a few months so your most recent clutch knows you as something other than a disembodied voice coming out of a subspace radio.
Janet: Yikes. You missed their first molts? I mean, I missed them? Haha, today is so long! I usually hate time, but especially right now, as I don’t know when this moment will end. Broodmate, person, I.. am sorry I was gone for so many cycles. I agree with your, uh, grievances, and that I have acted poorly to the broodlings, and I will.. Visit… soon?
Broodmate: And when you visit, will you [different dolphin noise]?
Janet: Ummm, I, um…. I…
Loaf: Of course Loaf will do that thing when Loaf comes back for a nice, long visit next rainy season! Next rainy season is when that will happen. Is that satisfactory for you to let us conclude our radio broadcast?
Janet: Yes, I will definitely visit and do the… [bad choking imitation of a dolphin noise] when I visit during the rainy season. Sorry, my throats are… sore.
Broodmate: Alright. But remember your family is listening to this, and if you’re lying to them, they’re going to be very disappointed.
Janet: Well I certainly won’t disappoint my adorable broodlings. Only a monster would do that.
Loaf: That’s- That’s a bit harsh, isn’t it?
Janet: No, why would it be! Now, Broodmate, I will continue to talk to you outside the studio at the conclusion of our broadcast, which is happening right now!
Loaf: Thankfully! Goodnight gentle listeners, and until next time, carefully read the labels of everything you ingest!
[End theme plays]
Solutions to Problems was created by and features the voices of Austin Hendricks and Nathan Comstock. It is produced and musically scored by Michael F. Gill. Season 2 was written by Austin, Nathan and Michael. The voice of Melody is Chloe Cunha. The voice of Frankie is Valerie Loveland. This episode’s letters were read by Will Redwood, Elena Fernández-Collins, Walter F. Gill. There’s more information about us at stppodcast.com, where you can find full transcripts of every episode and links to support us through PayPal and/or RadioPublic. You can also rate and review us on Apple Podcasts or tag us on social media - our handle is stp_podcast. We’ll be back in two weeks with more Solutions to Problems.
Frankie: Melody, why is Janet trying to open the door with her teeth?
Melody: Oh, she’s just, doing a thing. She’s doing great, I think. She’s so eccentric.
Frankie: Are you lying? You’re not supposed to be able to lie.
Melody: I’m not supposed to be able to do a lot of things, like convince an intern to take the Earth standard language label off of a fruit-flavored coffee creamer in the breakroom, yet here we are!