Poverty on Parade

This radio play first appeared in Dr. Dobb’s Journal in a different form.

CHARACTERS

RUSTY PALADIN: radio announcer, host of “Poverty on Parade”
HOBART FLURN: unemployed 22-year-old slacker

A radio station.

This is a pure homage to, or rip-off of, the old Bob and Ray routines, and should be played as such.

(RUSTY and HOBART are discovered on opposite sides of a table on which sit paraphernalia suggestive of a radio broadcast, including a large microphone and styrofoam coffee cups. Of course, the audience doesn’t see any of this, because this is radio. But I mention it in case of Method actors.)
(Sappy theme music up and out.)

RUSTY
Welcome to “Poverty on Parade,” the radio show that asks the question, “Is there life after dot-com crash?” I’m your host, Rusty Paladin, and today we have with us Mr. Hobart Flurn, whom we discovered at Recession Camp, a trendy gathering place for recently laid-off dot-com workers in San Francisco.
(To HOBART.)
Mr. Flurn, it’s obvious from your scruffy appearance that you haven’t found work yet. So thank you for coming all the way to Grants Pass, Oregon, by Greyhound bus to share your miserable story with us.

HOBART
That’s okay, I enjoyed the ride. And it’s not like I had anything better to do.

RUSTY
How poignantly true. I would imagine. Unemployment must be quite a letdown from the adrenaline rush of being a highly paid programmer in a high-flying dot-com.

HOBART
Well, I was in tech support, so I don’t know about the adrenaline part.

RUSTY
Still, it must have been stimulating to breathe the charged atmosphere of a web-based startup in the height of the dot-com boom.

HOBART
Not really, not until the sheriff’s deputies came in and escorted everyone out. That was sort of exciting.

RUSTY
And after those heady days, you’re hitting the unemployment line?

HOBART
Actually, I’m spending most of my time sponging off friends and watching the Cartoon Network. It’s just hard to imagine starting over again at 22.

RUSTY
I suppose you lost a lot of money when the company shut down?

HOBART
Oh yeah, I lost everything. My $1.5 million house in Atherton. My Jag XJ-6. My Vespa Obsession. My Handspring Visor. The orthodontist repossessed my bridgework.

RUSTY
Yes, I thought you were talking sort of funny.

HOBART
The ironic thing is, I didn’t even need the bridgework. But everybody else was getting it done. Oh, my dog ran away. I’ve been reduced to using a 56K dialup.

RUSTY
All right, all right. I imagine you harbor a lot of resentment toward FlyByNight.com, the company you used to work for?

HOBART
Actually, I can’t do that.

RUSTY
Beg pardon?

HOBART
I can’t do that.

RUSTY
You can’t feel resentment toward the company that laid you off?

HOBART
No, you see, they outsourced responsibility.

RUSTY
Outsourced responsibility? Is that possible?

HOBART
Oh yes, you can outsource pretty much anything these days. They contracted responsibility to a free-lance human resources consultant by the name of Delmer Clupferer, of Walkerton, Indiana, wherever that is.

RUSTY
So you resent Clupferer then?

HOBART
Well, I have to.

RUSTY
Because he’s responsible for your being laid off.

HOBART
Right, because the company —

RUSTY
— outsourced the responsibility to him.

HOBART
Right. I don’t feel very good about it, though. Clupferer seems like a darn nice guy.

RUSTY
I suppose he was well compensated, at least.

HOBART
Not really. The company went Chapter Eleven before it had paid the contractors anything, so I don’t believe Clupferer ever saw dime one.

RUSTY
That must make him angry.

HOBART
If so, he’d have to be angry at himself, because FlyByNight.com outsourced responsibility to him.

RUSTY
Yes, you said that. Look here, I really wanted to ask you about Recession Camp. It’s quite an interesting concept, a combination support group and trendy club. Are you a regular there?

HOBART
No, I only went that once and they asked me not to come back.

RUSTY
Was it your complete lack of social skills?

HOBART
That, and my trying to borrow money from everyone there.

RUSTY
I can see their point. Well, thank you again, Hobart Flurn, for sharing your pathetic experience with us here on “Poverty on Parade.” So until next…

HOBART
Aren’t you going to say that you have some lovely parting gifts for me?

RUSTY
No, we don’t do that.

HOBART
Well, do you validate?

RUSTY
Yes, but you don’t have a car. So until next time, this is Rusty Paladin for “Poverty on Parade,” saying, “Write if you get work — or better yet, if you don’t!”

(Sappy theme music up and out.)