I am writing a musical. This is the opening scene to that musical. Enjoy!
Beggar: Hey, do you have a dollar or two? I really need to get something to eat.
Hacker: You know, I do, but I’m not gonna give it to you. Sorry, man.
Hacker: I do have some money, but I don’t want to give you any.
Beggar: Man, fuck you.
Hacker: You know, I get how you feel. It’d probably feel better if I told you I didn’t have any, right?
Beggar: That’s what people usually say.
Hacker: Yeah, people lie. It’s a tough world out there. (Beat) Mind if I sit?
(The Hacker sits down on the bench next to the Beggar)
Hacker: Here’s the deal. All resources are finite. There’s only so many dollars in the world, right? And even fewer in my pocket. Every dollar I give to you, I’m not using for anything else. And there are a ridiculously unfathomable number of possible things I could do with that dollar. So this one choice to do one thing is really a choice to not do an unfathomable number of other things. You following me?
Beggar: You’re saying you’d rather, what, buy yourself a candy bar?
Hacker: I’m not talking about any one thing. I’m talking about all of them. But let’s narrow it down. Say I’m looking to give the dollar away. Do some good, yeah? Well, why not give it to NASA, or to some villager in Uganda who has tuberculosis, or to a guy running for Congress who says he’ll get rid of homelessness if he gets elected? Why not give it to…I don’t know, anteater conservation, or moth welfare, or my mom, or that other homeless guy down the block? I can’t give the one dollar to all of those things at once. It’s just one dollar.
Beggar: So what are you going to do with it?
Hacker: That’s exactly it! I mean, who knows what I’m really going to do with the dollar? It’s all up to the whims of my future self, isn’t it? Is he the kind of guy who decides to give an extra dollar to research into neglected tropical diseases this month? Or is he the kind of guy to forget all this and go buy himself a candy bar? Statistically, I’m the candy bar guy, and who am I to argue with statistics? Do I really think I’m that special?
Beggar: So you might as well give it to me?
Hacker: Well, maybe, but hear me out—am I doing you a favor, giving you a dollar? What’s a homeless guy gonna spend an extra buck on? Drugs, right? So maybe not, then. But here’s the thing—who am I to say it’s a bad idea for you to get yourself some drugs? I don’t know you. I don’t know your life. Some people like drugs. So what? Who gave me the authority to decide if you should treat yourself to a little fentanyl? And I mean, if nobody gave money to drug addicts, you might all start dying from withdrawal, and then that’s on me, isn’t it?
Beggar: Hey, I’m not a drug addict, I swear. I just need something to eat.
Hacker: Maybe you do. And hey, I’m not judging. I’m just thinking out loud. The thing is, it is on me if you go into withdrawal, or go hungry today, but it’s also on me that that guy in Uganda is dying of tuberculosis. It’s all on me. I’m responsible for all of it. And it’s not just money. Every second I spend sitting here talking to you, I’m not spending on literally anything else. I could be working extra hours, making more money, so I could give to all of those things and still have a buck left to give to you. Time is money, money is time, resources are finite. It all comes back to that.
Beggar: So why are you still here?
Hacker. I don’t know, man. I got shit to say, I guess. I’m working through a lot of stuff right now, you know? I got this nine to five job, right, I’m making money, I give some of it away. So, good. That’s better than most people. Maybe I’m a good person, then. Or maybe everyone else is even shittier than me. Nobody does everything they could do. So we’re all going to hell, and why not have a good time in the meantime? Why not sit down and have a conversation with a stranger?
Beggar: You’re lonely.
Hacker: (laughs) Yeah, I sure am. You got that right.
Beggar: I’m lonely too. I got no one. I used to have a family—that’s what I spent my time and money on, for a while.
Hacker: Family! There’s a concept.
Beggar: You got kids?
Hacker: Nah. Who’d wanna have kids with me? I’m a big old nobody.
Beggar: I dunno, you seem like you got stuff going for you. Passion, maybe. You can do a lot with that.
Hacker: Passion. Do I? You think so?
Hacker: Wow. Hey, you know what else I got? Nothing to lose—that’s what they call risk tolerance. Passion and risk tolerance. Sounds like something to start with.
Beggar: What do you do?
Hacker: Ah, I work with computers. Tech guy.
Beggar: You could do something with that. Start a business, maybe.
Hacker: (laughs) Ooh, that’d be something. Me, running a business. Doing business guy things. “Hey, cancel that 9am standup, secretary lady. I’ve got to go snort some cocaine.”
Hacker: Hey, thank you. Seriously. You know what, here’s ten—no, twenty dollars. Go get yourself some food, or you know, beer or fentanyl or whatever makes you happy. I want you to be happy. I gotta run now, but hey, maybe I’ll see you around.
Beggar: Yeah, for sure. Thank you.