Friday, May 11, 2012

The other "A" word

The “A” word that’s worse than “Atheism”

Recently, I participated in a competition called Ideas in the Attic for the second time.  This is a small business contest, and the prize includes $1000.00 in advertising among other stuff.  The contest is open to the public, and has very little publicity.  The site advertises that they will select 14 finalists.  Last year there were 9 finalists and 6 showed for the actual competition.  This year there were 6 finalists and 4 showed for the actual competition.  With odds like this, I think I have a shot.  The idea is to make a 3-mintue elevator speech to pitch your idea.  There are two prizes awarded:  the judges pick and the audience’s pick. 

I sent in my application to pitch the same idea I pitched last year: a social network for atheists.  This time I never got an email saying I’d been accepted or rejected into the competition.  So I emailed three times.  After getting no response, I started to worry.  The event was on May 8, a Tuesday.  The Friday before the event, I got a phone call.

The person explained that they had received my application, but they were not going to allow me to pitch the same idea I had pitched the previous year.  The deadline for submission was fast approaching, so I asked if I only had a few hours to come up with a new idea.  The representative said that it was more of a soft deadline, and if I could put a new spin on it, or some up with an alternative, I could have the weekend to figure it out.  I said that was fine, and jumped online to discuss new ideas with my friends.

The conversation began a little snarky.  In the original idea, I hadn’t asked for additional funding to start the project, so I figured a good new spin was to spend some money.  But on what?  Suggestions for all sorts of things came up, but I thought it should go to some charitable cause.  But many of my friends didn’t like the idea of competing with existing religious charities.  What does that leave us?  Then, I had an epiphany!

There is an organization called the Women’s Medical Fund.  I’d heard of it from the Freedom From Religion Foundation.  Dan Barker, co-president, likes to donate his royalties from his old religious works to this organization.  The Women’s Medical Fund helps low income women pay for abortions.  They do so with relatively small amounts.  On the website, I saw the largest amount was just over $200.00 and some were as small as $50.00.  I thought I had a gold mine!  I could ask for as little as $500.00 and help three or four people get abortions in the first year!  I sent in the new application at 11:00pm that night, only a few hours after the original deadline and way before the end of the weekend.  I even garnered new enthusiasm for my pitch!  People said that they would rather vote for this than for the social network.  I was pumped, but a little worried.  I only had three days to make a speech.  And I had to condense it into 3 minutes. 

I got an email on Monday.  It read:

"Hello Andrew,

We received your new submission over the weekend. After discussing it with our committee, we would like you to present your first idea for the social network at Ideas in the attic.  Let me know if you have any questions. I look forward to seeing you tomorrow.


Huh.  Interesting. 

At first I didn’t get it.  Then my wife, who is WAY better at picking up cues, explained that they were so flabbergasted at my second idea, that they decided to reverse their stance on repeating old ideas.
Look, I understood the first ruling.  I mean, who wants to hear the same loser ideas over and over again?  The “no do-overs” rule seemed reasonable to me.  I was happy to comply.  I actually hadn’t considered that my new idea would be so over-the-top controversial, that they’d allow me to do the first idea.  That really never crossed my mind.  It had now.

When I got to the event, I shook the hand of the guy who had both called and emailed me.  I tried to apologize for any misunderstanding.  I told him that it was never my intention to be snarky.  Well, that’s not completely true, I admitted, I did intend to ask for money, but that was as snarky as I wanted to be.  I told him it was never my intention to submit an idea so wild and outrageous that they’d allow me to pitch the original idea.  He looked at me and just said, “Okay.”

I don’t know if he didn’t care, or if he couldn’t imagine my second idea to have been born of anything but spite.  In any event, as I made my speech, I was sure to work in that I wanted to be able to contribute to the community in a way that I think the religious community has failed to endeavor.  I got really confused looks by the judges, and to avoid further controversy, simply alluded to the Women’s Medical Fund and suggested they google it.

I lost, by the way.  The judges picked a bed pan genie as the winner.  Basically, it’s a disposable plastic liner for bed pans.  The other ideas were discounts from car insurance companies if you submit to a drug test, and a kit that converts conventional cars to electric.  I’m not sure how that worked.  The event lacked a stage and a microphone, so I could not hear that guy.  I didn’t have enough buddies to get the popular vote either.  The bed pan genie won both.

It’s not the losing that bothers me.  It’s that I think they are trying to figure out what the heck they are going to do if they bring this event back for a third year.  They ought to know I plan to apply again, this time ONLY with the funding abortion idea.

It seems there is an “A” word that is more controversial than “Atheism,” and it is “Abortion.”