Democracy may be weak and feverish in Florida this week, but rest assured that capitalism is in fine health. As the weekend approaches in Tallahassee, legions of journalists have learned that they will lose their hotel rooms today due to the upcoming FloridaFlorida State football game, which has always trumped all else in this town. But, sensing a silver-dollar lining, local entrepreneurs have come to the hacks' rescue.
All over Florida's capital city, hotels, bars and press briefing rooms have become temporary real estate agencies. Signs, some scrawled in hasty penmanship, others typed and stacked in neat piles for the taking, promise shelter and home cooking. On a bulletin board near the secretary of state's office, in between the notice about an upcoming Promise Keepers meeting and "Shoot for a Cure 2000" at the Coon Bottom Gun Club, a sign offers a two-bedroom townhouse for $1,000.
Does Making Money Count as a Class Project?
Outside, next to a lonely smattering of protesters, Andrew St. John and Jamie Davis hold up a sign advertising their home: "Rooms 4 Rent. Free HBO. Indoor Plumbing." St. John and Davis, both students at Florida State University, figure they can sleep on the floor for a couple of nights if it means a cool $300 for them. St. John had decided to cut class to hawk the apartment, while Davis perhaps the bigger opportunist of the two claimed the rental scheme actually counts as a class project.
Tallahassee has about 5,000 hotel rooms, according to Charles Wright, president of the Tallahassee Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. All are booked this weekend, and many were paid for months in advance of the big game, Wright says.
Once locals heard of the shortage early in the week, Wright says, "We started getting spontaneous calls from residents who want to be part of history and show that Tallahassee is a very hospitable community." As word spread, that charitableness spread like a rash across town, leaving college kids and senior citizens giddy at the prospect of cashing in on the media machine.
Journalists Could be Headed for an RV Park
The Woodmen of the World are offering up their youth camping compound to whichever 140 reporters are looking to sleep in nostalgic bunk beds in the woods 25 miles outside of town. An RV resort still has open parking spots. And a local fraternity unfurled a banner offering up its house to stranded journalists. Nearby, another sign took the high road: "As a retired public school teacher, I would not even consider asking the $150 a night that Pi Kappa Pi has, but a reasonable amount would have to be considered." Many of these insta-brokers have yet to seal any deals. But they all have a story about a friend who rented her place for $1,000 "and she didn't even have a pool!"
Over the weekend, St. John and Davis do not expect to be anywhere near the goings-on in the state capital. Both will be at the game. Unless, Davis interjects, somebody is looking to buy a ticket.