Because I didn't go to law school like my parents hoped, even a trip back to my hometown is now too rich for my family's blood. (Thanks, Obama!)
So I made a joke on Facebook that I'd need a Kickstarter campaign just to afford the $2,000 ($1,200 plane fare for my wife, daughter and me, plus a couple of hotel nights and a rental car). And then it dawned on me: Why not? My family and childhood friends always complain that they never get to see our adorable four-year-old daughter. Why can't I just make the onus on them to pay?
A 2008 police study reported that panhandlers outside an Oregon Wal-Mart make up to $300 a day (the weekly pay of those who worked inside). Obviously, asking people for money works. So what stops most of us from doing it?
Your answer probably involves some variation on the word “dignity.” However, I recently spent entire days slathered in sex lube and riding a public bus in a naked suit. So, no, dignity isn't as much of a barrier for me.
Alas, Kickstarter rejected my application. It requires its goals to be creative, tangible projects and not just charity fundraising. (I guess it changed its rules since it helped fund a guy's $45,000 potato salad.) But GoFundMe prohibits only sex, drugs, weapons, terrorism, hate speech, animal abuse, investment scams and, I poop you not, “sorcery.”
So I signed up and performed the required bank-account link to a money-transfer service called WePay. (GoFundMe charges a flat commission of 5 percent, on top of which WePay skims 2.9 percent plus 30 cents of every donation.)
Next, I attached the beggiest photo of our daughter I could find. Donors were offered a personal visit with her for $100. For $150, I offered to wait outside in the rental car. For $25, a phone call would be placed while we're in New York featuring small-talk and a BS excuse about why we can't stop by.
Immediately, Facebook ire erupted against me.
“What's wrong with you?” one friend asked. “Why don't you just make a sign and stand on an exit ramp?”
“I've had three spine surgeries in a year,” another informed me. “My jobs all let me go due to my injuries. I'm in so much debt, I can't see the light at the end of the tunnel. The state wonât give me food stamps to eat and I never ask for help, and people have the balls to ask the world of Facebook for help to fund their bullshit?”
One real-life friend–who may not be anymore–emailed me that our college housemate has a rare disease and needs an operation he was hoping to use GoFundMe for. “Now you're mocking it,” he wrote. “Neal is so pissed at you right now.”
But the donations also started rolling in, which made the hate go down easier.
“I'm donating because a) your daughter is adorable and b) this is maybe the most ballsy and hilarious funding request I have ever seen,” wrote Ian, a former co-worker who donated $10. My buddy Brian, who plays guitar for the band Kix, kicked in $100. (And he isn't even visit-qualified since he lives in L.A.! )
My campaign even sparked its own mystery. One $100 donation arrived with a note written entirely in Yiddish. According to Google Translate, it read: “Go knock your head in the wall, big shot.” The donor–who signed his or herself Narishkeit (or “foolishness”)–remains unknown, although I suspect it could be my father (who speaks fluent Yiddish) or perhaps the Old Testament God Himself. (I hear He has more money than even Bill Gates.)
GoFundMe allows you to keep all contributions even if your goal isn't met. So, when the money train stopped after a month, I withdrew the full $333 ($303.71 after fees). Hey, at least that will cover the rental car. And whatever was left of my dignity.
Excuse me, but I'm late for standing in front of Wal-Mart.