And so starts a typical weekend at the Petersen casa. While I’m behind protective goggles with the weed wacker going full throttle, I hear in the distance, the doorbell ring. Minutes later I see my wife motioning for me to kill the weed wacker, she’s got something to say. “Hans is here to see you.” Hans, my erstwhile elderly retired professor of philosophy from Colorado College is now peeking out behind my wife. “Hope I’m not bothering you,” he says while waving papers in one hand. “No bother,” I reply. Well, it seems that Hans has returned with yet another frequent flyer program quandary that needs his neighbor’s attention. Hey, that’s what good neighbors are for.
Since moving into this neighborhood four years ago with my wife, we quickly became friends of everyone for blocks around our home. Yes, the word had spread that “that frequent flyer guy you see on TV,” had somehow made his way into the neighborhood to add a little “celebrity” excitement. And better it seems, as neighbor after neighbor beats a path to our door to comment on our ongoing landscaping and home remodel projects … and oh yes, ask for my comments on what they should do with their miles, points and on their next vacation in Ireland. It doesn’t matter where you live, an expert on something as valuable as frequent flyer miles makes for a good neighbor and so I turned my attention to Hans. Hans and Dorothy are up there in years and yet are as interested in miles as anyone 50 to 60 years their junior. I’ll never forget the first Hans visit three years ago. “Randy,” he exclaimed, “I just got this letter in the mail that United is going to expire my miles, can you help?” At home just as at work, there is nothing I like better than to help someone with their frequent flyer problems. Hans did have in hand a letter from United and it was easy to see that I needed a way to activate Hans’ account. His wife Dorothy was okay since she was deeply involved in the Safeway Grocery Miles program which they linked to her United account. For health and other reasons, Hans wasn’t that close to ever making 1K, so I helped him keep his miles active.
Since I needed to make it quick and easy, I elected to award my neighbor bonus miles for an “honorary” subscription to this magazine. And so 50 miles were depositied into his account, enough to qualify as activity and Hans was safe for another three years at the time. Hans was duly impressed. Impressed so much that two weeks later he was again at my door, asking how I could help him redeem some of his and Dorothy’s miles for airline tickets to fly the grandkids somewhere. The schedule wasn’t good for the trip so that time my assistance wasn’t put to task. But he remembered I had tried and that was why my weed wacker was now laid aside as I stood in front of Hans, in my yard, on a Saturday, when my Honey-Do list was growing by the hour.
Hans desperately needed my help this time. His daughter, her husband and the three children really needed to go from Colorado Springs to Chicago to visit the other grandparents. And they needed to go in just a few weeks, and they did not know how many miles they had among all their accounts and they never get statements any more from the airlines. “Okay, let me see what I can do.” The smile on Hans face was priceless and I knew I could now count on him to renew spraying the flowers with deer repellant on our shared border of a yard.
Okay, first things first. Hans does not have e-mail. So I quickly set up a Yahoo! account for him and one for Dorothy, which I can control. Don’t worry program managers, Hans will testify that he authorized this limited Power of Attorney. With new PINs in place, I could now peek into his accounts and found miles here and there. With some very clever alliance tricks, I was able to find five free awards in coach on the same flight for the family from Denver to Chicago … in August. Hans was elated, Dorothy was gushing about “her favorite neighbor” and of course, I’m glad that my prized flowers won’t end up hanging from the mouths of the deer that sleep in Hans’ back yard.
Of course this means that once the news spreads, I’m sure to hear the doorbell ring again next weekend …
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