Let's talk about the weather. Stifle your yawns please -- I know it's normally the territory of strange relatives trying to make conversation at boring family reunions, or the sort of thing you bring up in the elevator when the silence is just too disconcerting and you're wondering if everyone's thinking about how your fly was undone at the meeting this morning, but just bear with me.
If you watched CNN any time at all in the last year -- indeed, if you were around in Charleston when we had our light dusting of snow a few months ago -- you know something weird's been going on with the weather. Snowstorms in Southern California, ice storms in the Midwest, one day of T-shirt weather followed by one where only thermals would do -- the world's gone crazy when it comes to the usual question of rain or shine. Blame global warming, blame El Niño, blame Britney Spears, it doesn't matter: when you've got to dig out the ear muffs in the Holy City, something's wrong.
But what's the internet doing about it? Well, the internet's always doing something about something -- its purpose is, after all, to make things easier for us, see also: Netflix, online banking, and www.MyForeignBride.com. (That's actually a real website. Though I don't recommend you go there, especially if you want to keep your job. And your innocence.)
Well, this time, the internet's come up with Weatherbill.com, an ambitious new site that lets you bet on the weather, and is clear to differentiate itself from other sites like AllWeatherInsurance.com and WKFC.com that merely sell "weather insurance." WeatherBill, it insists, doesn't sell weather insurance, it sells "weather contracts" -- no need for agents or claims or proof that your tennis game was rained out. Based in San Francisco (of course) and founded by a former Google employee (of course), Weatherbill claims that when you buy a policy from them, you "get paid for bad weather."
It's aimed, obviously, at the seven million businesses in the U.S. whose bottom line is impacted by the weather every year -- movie theaters, golf courses, ski resorts, and so on -- but anyone can buy a weather contract to protect themselves. If Memorial Day weekend in Pawleys is ruined because of a sudden downpour that forces you to stay inside and play game after game of Scrabble, then cha-ching! You're in luck. You'll get paid for every day of rain. WeatherBill will automate your "settlement" and you'll get a check in the mail a few days later.
It's not that simple, obviously; a contract varies in price based on when you buy it, the area you buy it for, and the limits on temperature and rainfall that you set yourself. In other words, don't think you're going to get rich just by buying a contract for a weekend in coastal Florida right before a big hurricane's about to hit. You can't fool WeatherBill. They know about the hurricane too.
Best of all, for those who want to claim a squeaky-clean record, WeatherBill insists quite charmingly in its FAQ that "this is not gambling." If you buy a contract to cover a dirty weekend in Las Vegas, though, you and your conscience are presumably on your own.
Holly Burns swears she didn't notice that your fly was undone. Find her online at www.nothingbutbonfires.com