It is no secret that the best conversations at larger events happen in the margins. Smaller conversations among more intimate groups naturally tend to be more interesting, more educational and more valuable than huge lectures. That’s not to say that the big sessions are bad; it is just a function of the way events like that run. This past weekend at FTU outside DC was no exception to that rule (even though I do think my presentation was pretty good). I had a great time talking with old friends in the halls and at the bar and also in meeting new friends throughout the weekend. There were three specific women I met, however, who completely blew my mind.
I was sitting in the lobby bar around 7:30 on Saturday evening, chatting with a couple guys when the three women sat down at the other end of the couch area we were in. One was holding a sign from the event they had been at earlier in the afternoon. It turns out that they were in town celebrating their 55th high school reunion and the sign was a photo of one of them from that year. Upon realizing this I insisted that she let me take a photo of her with the older photo; she obliged. And then we got to chatting. They figured out that we were talking about miles and travel and such and they were curious about the details. I’m never one to shy away from the opportunity to tell a story so we started chatting.
Explaining to someone the crazy which is mileage running, credit card churning and flying to Perth just for dinner is often an awkward situation. Most folks either don’t get it or just don’t want to. And that’s fine, but it does mean that story-time can be a bit awkward. Fortunately, being that awkward guy rarely stops me. I had only barely begun to start explaining when one of the three piped up that she was a 3MMer with American, mostly from commuting to Argentina and back for many years. Another shared that she had been a flight attendant for Pan Am at one point and still travels a ton, though she was also frustrated by challenges in redeeming her SkyMiles. The third was sitting on a pile of US Airways points and was worried about the merger and what that might mean.
It turns out they were mileage junkies, just like us.
Hearing them talk about their CC habits – Chase Sapphire Preferred for travel/dining charges and AmEx Platinum for the lounge access – was awesome. They were certainly not the most advanced users in the room, but they were also far from beginners. I invited them to join us in the morning for the Sunday sessions and one actually did. She was engaged, asking questions and truly interested in learning more about this crazy hobby we all share.
So next time someone suggests that there is a specific stereotype which makes up the frequent flyer community I’d suggest opening your eyes a bit wider. Turns out that just about anyone can be in on the game and have a lot of fun doing it. These three certainly were.
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