This past weekend, Jetblue offered $4 intracity commuter flights during “Carmageddon” from Burbank to Long Beach. Slate writer Tom Vanderbuilt put forth that a cyclist could likely make the trip in a shorter period of time. A group of cyclists called the Wolfpack Hustle decided to take on the challenge, racing Jetblue flight #405.
The $7,000 “First” Tweet:
Upon hearing of the “flight vs. bike” race, Santa Monica Airlines Skateboards General Manager Anthony Converse was excited. Converse, a lifelong alternative transportation advocate, skateboarder, cyclist and supporter of The LA County Bicycle Coalition signed up for twitter. Without knowing what the race’s “rules of engagement” were, he pledged $100 for every minute that the cyclists beat the plane by in his very first tweet. Converse expected a 5-10 minute difference between “racers”, a monetary amount he was eager to give to draw attention to the Bike Coalition.
After seeing the tweet, a friend called Converse to ask “what was up” as Santa Monica Airlines had never “twittered” before. Converse confirmed the tweet was made by him on behalf of SMA in support of the The LA County Bicycle Coalition as they have “tirelessly done the legwork to benefit the entire community of Los Angles by promoting cycling and alternative transportation.”
The friend responded “the bikes left already and the plane doesn’t leave for 90 minutes or something. You are screwed.” Converse, a bit slack jawed, informed his friend he was at his doctor’s office and unaware of what was happening as he was unable to login to his hours old twitter account.
Over the next two hours, “flight vs. bike” trended on Twitter as Jetblue, The Wolfpack Hustle, flight passengers and fans from around the world sent out messages on the progress of the race. Converse received updates every ten minutes from his friend via phone calls, the last being his friend inquiring “have you ever been to South America? The bikes beat the plane by 70 minutes!”
While shocked, it was easy to do the math. 70 minutes meant Converse and Santa Monica Airlines had pledged $7,000.
While South America did seem like a good place to head for “avoidance”, Converse told his friend “that is just not who I am. It’s not what Santa Monica Airlines is. I may not have the cash but I am going to make this happen”.
As Santa Monica Airlines is a small company, the $7,000 would be too damaging of a hit to come from company coffers. Cash poor, Converse eyed his possessions and started thinking of where the closest pawn shop was. It was while taking his first box of valuables to the car for the trip to the pawn shop that Converse had an epiphany:
“I looked at my car and said ‘just sell THAT’. This whole event was about alternative transportation. My company has a van I use, so my car was redundant.”
His box of possessions placed back in his house, Converse sold his biodiesel car.
Tonight at 7PM at TANG’S Donut at 4341 West Sunset Blvd, Converse and Santa Monica Airlines will present The LA County Bicycle Coalition with a check for $7,000.
Asked to sum up his “first tweet” Twitter experience, Converse said “sometimes things happen magically that we don’t expect. Because of this event there is one less vehicle on the road in LA as mine is going out of the state and LA County Bicycle Coalition reaps the benefits. If everyone who hears about this donated $1 to their local alternative transportation advocacy group the world would be a better place.”
Impulsive? You bet. Then again … Santa Monica Airlines and Anthony Converse have just shown the “twitter-verse” that nobility is not yet gone in this internet world … call that the stuff honor is made of … FLY SMA.
(While Santa Monica Airlines is a supporter of Yo! Venice! and I get free decks, in the future I will be buying them to support this awesome company.)