It is just shy of 2:30 in the afternoon on Saturday, and I am sitting on the floor of an airplane small enough that – sans wings – could fit into my living room. There is a parachute-bearing man named Rob strapped to my back.
Around me sit four other twenty-somethings, each with a parachute-equipped man affixed to their person. Together, we watch through the open hatch on the side of the plane as first the airport slips away, then trees, then clouds.
Suddenly, we are in unmitigated blue.
I’ve known these people for less than three weeks, but in just a few minutes I’ll be jumping out of a plane with them to Blame Drew’s Cancer.
I momentarily debate my sanity.
This story starts in my cubicle at work, of all places.
I had just exited a meeting about social media with Britt, a colleague, but not a direct co-worker. Back in my cube, we had a rapid-fire conversation.
“So,” Britt interrogated, “You blog, but you aren’t on Twitter?”
“I grabbed my username, but I’m not using it for anything.”
“I think you would like it.”
“But it’s just a never-ending Facebook status.”
“Try it. Try it for a week.”
“Britt, I don’t do anything halfway. If I try Twitter I’m going to insist on being the best at Twitter. That’s how I am.”
“Good.” She left me with a wink. “Try it.”
I’ve already unfolded the story of my Twitter addiction, as well as my visit to a meeting of the Social Media Club of Philadelphia. However, neither could prepare me for my next plunge.
It started innocently enough – I received via a Twitter acquaintance an invite to an event charmingly titled “Blame-a-Thon.” 24-hours of live blaming and live music on 9/9/9, all for charity? I didn’t really understand what it was about, but I love charity events, and I love live music.
I shot off a quick message to the organizer to see if he needed any help connecting with bands, and I got a prompt reply – that I should connect with the director of the event: Britt at BlameDrewsCancer.
Britt? Like, my work Britt? The same Britt?
Yes, yes, and yes.
Another rapid-fire conversation with Britt ensued. (As it turns out, all of our conversations are rapid-fire). The Blame-a-Thon was being thrown by BlameDrewsCancer. Had I seen that hash tag on Twitter? I had, but hadn’t completely understood it … dozens of people blaming things, both serious and ironic, on someone’s cancer? Seemed a little cheeky.
Britt said I ought to read up on BlameDrewsCancer, and invited me to tag along to her first meeting with the eponymous Drew to discuss the event.
I read up. Drew is a true digital native – a plugged-in, gagdet-wielding dude who hosted The Best Damn Tech Show. Period, blogs, twitters, and works at a tech startup. Just a month prior, his doctor diagnosed him with Stage 3 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
A lot of people would go to a negative, frightened place with this news – especially in the first month of their diagnosis. Not Drew. Drew decided that in order to beat cancer, he had to beat up on cancer. He had to make it the bad guy, the loser, the asshole. In his own words:
I’ve been blaming my cancer for everything. Lost keys, wallet, Phillies losing. Sixers picking a bad coach. Twitter going down and/or being slow.
Surely cancer can’t withstand that type of beatdown. But why do it alone? I wanted to welcome ANYONE to blame ANYTHING on MY cancer. … I have cancer, but cancer doesn’t have me
Less than 60 days later, close to 10,000 unique Twitter users had blamed something on Drew’s Cancer. That evening, I watched the number creep up on BlameDrewsCancer.com.
I was amazed by Drew’s story, and intrigued to hear about his upcoming Blame-a-Thon. I called Britt back and told her I was in for the meeting.
Little did I know what I was truly “in” for.