Pop Quiz #1

A woman waited in a subway terminal. She hadn't talked to anyone that day beyond a job interview and a curt exchange between herself and a barista.

A second woman approached her. She was missing teeth and she pulled up her pant leg to show multiple layers of jeans. She showed where her waistband was cinched with a rubber band. "I must weigh one hundred pounds," she said.

She said she needed to get to a shelter downtown (the downtown towers a splotch on the horizon); she said she didn't have enough for train fare so she was going to walk.

The first gave her two dollars. The woman asked, "Oh, will it hurt your family?" (a ridiculous question). Then she asked if the woman had any food -- anything, even gum. Nothing, not gum. She said she was so hungry she would eat a person -- she said she wouldn't normally eat a person. She wheedled until the first woman produced breath mints, warning her that they were strong.

She helped her open the tin, it had a weird catch on it, and the second woman suggested they both have one. They grabbed adjacent white wafers between thumb and forefinger.

The woman wheezed, "this is terrible!" She meant it, but she was laughing. "You must give these to people you are trying to get rid of." She said they tasted like Vick's vapo rub.

Then the first woman pulled out a five. The other refused it. "You sure?" "No!" And took it. She walked down to the street saying she was going to buy a hot dog -- two hot dogs. The first woman could taste, across the roof of her mouth, the remnant of the woman's smoky acrid smell.

Q. What if the second woman is lying?


  1. Then the first woman got scammed. But how could she know?

  2. Yeah, probably. 7 dollars to someone who doesn't need it is worse than 7 dollars to someone who does. My dad buying me dinner doesn't mean as much as my dad buying dinner for someone who is starving. The follow-up question to that is: should the first woman have been suspicious and withheld her money? To that question I would have to say no. It's better to give a liar 7 dollars than to withhold food from someone who is starving. Even if 4 out of 5 people asking for money are scammers, it's worth it to feed the one who needs it.

    Q. Does this answer obligate me to give money to everyone who asks?

  3. A. Maybe just seven dollars. And maybe just to those people that you have a good little time with when they ask you -- that is, if you happen to be the first person in the scenario and you also live somewhere new and don't have anyone to talk to.