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Mile Nerd by Milenerd - 2w ago

A Day At The Beach

I’d heard some stories of vacations for free

Those tales were nothing but white noise to me

Society taught fancy trips cost a mint

And my net worth was roughly 3 stacks of lint

So I stared at the TV eating pop tarts

Amusing myself with occasional farts

While others would fly to exotic locales

I’d strike out at bars with weird local gals

Until one random day I awoke from my coma

With a vision of Maui…or possibly Kona

But island vacations seem far away

When sweating small payments to Chevrolet

I flipped on my laptop, hoping to learn

Millions of miles I wanted to churn 

But quickly discovered with some dismay 

The points blogging world is full of foul play

Looking for wisdom, I found lie after lie

So much clown worship (see: the points guy)

Were all websites dirty and all readers blind?

Wasn’t there someone outside this grind?

After digging for answers, I figured shit out

Launching my blog with so much self-doubt

The goal was quite simple: don’t be a douche

Would there be just one reader…a dude named Anoosh?

Quickly, however, I found many ears

Not that the goal was hearing loud cheers

I never did get that Mercedes Benz

But found something richer…new non-shady friends

For years it kept going…I wrote my own way

You stood in my corner through the last day

Millions of miles have now been redeemed

Maui and Kona were all that I dreamed

I write you today from a beautiful beach

Travel now orbits in this nerd’s reach

The gift of adventure came through a niche game

For you I wish it has given the same

Maybe one day it ends (possibly out of the blue)

But until then…

This hobby has been a dream come true.

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Mile Nerd by Milenerd - 1M ago

The Mission To Win A Car

I love game shows. Always have. Probably always will.

Maybe it’s my gambling nature, but something about showing up empty-handed in the morning and leaving with a car at the end of the day always seemed incredible. During my last year of college, a group of friends went to Florida for spring break. Me? I decided to check out The Price Is Right instead. Alone.

Was that weird? Probably.

But, hey, I never pretended to be normal. Over the years, I’ve had a few people ask for advice on how to win stuff on game shows. It’s been a while and I’m no expert…but here’s what my experiences have been…

That first trip in college 20 years ago was pretty depressing. I won a bed and a desk…but lost the game that would have gotten me a car. A dagger through my young heart. Almost immediately, the thought popped into my head – “Wait, I gave up my last spring break to win a car? On a game show? What the hell is wrong with me?”

They tape 2 shows a day. So when I was done losing in the morning, I walked by a few hundred people who were lined up for the afternoon show. They were yelling out to everyone –

“How did it go??”
“What happened in there??”
“Did you win??”

I remember finding it a bit odd that nobody stopped to answer their questions. So, I stood there for a minute and described my depressing experience. I guess they felt bad for the sad young college kid…because all of those people started clapping when I finished the story. It was incredibly sweet and actually got me out of my funk for a few minutes. But the mission remained. One day, I needed to win a car on a game show.

Ten years later, I was allowed to go back. Considering I was a grown man who’d dealt with the real world by then, there wouldn’t be any heartbreak. Again, I won prizes…a living room set (they gave me $4,000 instead) and a fancy coffee machine. But still no car. The mission remained.  

2 or 3 years later, I decided to try Let’s Make A Deal. If you’ve never seen it, the show requires people to wear costumes. It was early November, so I headed to a clearance Halloween store. Can’t say I spent more than 30 seconds throwing together a referee’s uniform and a big, shiny dollar sign necklace. I didn’t even know what it was supposed to be, so I just said I was a referee who takes bribes.

Waiting in line for a game show isn’t exactly fun. It’s a long day. And you’re surrounded by the kinds of people who…well, stand in line for game shows. After a few hours of waiting, you finally get to the short interview (which I’ll describe later) and then you know the taping is getting close. I had zero plans that particular day and my thinking was, “Shit, I can either eat pizza and watch TV…or I can try to win a car.” So I waited a few hours in line, talked to some weirdos, did the interview, and entered the studio.

On The Price Is Right, you just grab a seat. Let’s Make A Deal was different. I saw producers telling assistants (through their earpieces) to sit certain people in aisle seats. Clearly, those were the ones who would be contestants.

I reach the front of the line and excitedly ask, “Is there anywhere specific you want me to sit?”

The assistant replies, “Nah, anywhere you want. Just not in an aisle seat.”

Damn.

Not a good sign.

They start the show and begin, almost exclusively, picking the most attractive girls in the room. That (clearly) doesn’t include me. I also happen to be sitting next to the geekiest guy on planet earth. During commercial breaks, he’s dancing nonstop to the music. And by “dancing,” I mean he’s miming, doing the robot, and attempting something best described as a clumsy macarena. He even tries to start a wave at one point. He sees me sulking in my seat and asks (mid-robot), “Why aren’t you dancing, Edgar Allen Bro?”

Man, if looks could kill.

I should have been at home eating pizza and watching Indiana Jones movies…but I’m sitting here with a bunch of weirdos trying to win a car. A familiar thought enters my brain – “What the hell is wrong with me?”

They move on to another game and select…yup, another sexy girl. But the host adds, “We need someone for her to play against.” He starts climbing the stairs to Loserville. Hmm…he’s getting pretty close to me. And then I hear:

“You, the referee!”

In a millisecond, my bad mood flies out the window. It’s time to play!

The game is basically just guessing if certain items are in her purse – a book, a deck of cards, and a pair of sunglasses. I guess all of them correctly, win the game, and pick up $1,500. He asks if I want to trade the money for a chance at what’s behind the curtain. I say, “Of course. I’m here to win a car” and they reveal…a motorcycle. Hard to feel bad about that. And, hey, at least it’s something motorized on wheels. Getting closer to the mission.

The show continues on and, with a few minutes to go, I’m asked if I want to trade the motorcycle for a chance at the “big deal of the day.” It’s their version of a showcase showdown…but with just one player. And, of course, with the risk of going home empty-handed.

“Let’s do it. I’m here to win a car.”

Grand finale time. The show all comes down to which of the 3 doors I’ll pick. During the commercial break, Loserville quickly becomes the coolest place in the studio. Suddenly, I’m like George Clooney in this roomful of weirdos. SuperGeek in the next seat thanks me for giving him a high-five, the hot girls in their skimpy costumes want to touch my dollar sign necklace, and everyone is trying to give me their pick. I notice one guy behind me who isn’t saying a word. In fact, he hasn’t made a sound the entire show. He looks almost like a medicine man with his long dreadlocks and ultra-serious expression. I turn around and ask, “What door do you think, man? One, two, or three?”

He looks at me as if there’s nobody else in the room.

Is it possible that all the secrets of the universe are behind his eyes?

He clears his throat.

With a James Earl Jones level of bass in his voice, he calmly says:

“One.”

The lights come up and it’s time for my pick. Of course, I go with the medicine man…and choose door number 1. For drama, they open up the other doors first…

Door number 3 is a big vault. Oh shit. This could be bad. They reveal the amount…

$2,500.

Ok, I survived that one. The big deal has to be worth more than that.

Door number 2 is…

A weeklong trip to San Antonio in a presidential suite with all the works.

Nice, but not enough to be the big deal.

Wait, does that mean…could the mission be accomplished?

(Door number 1 opens to reveal a Kia Forte)

WHAT??

I finally got my car.

Honestly, I didn’t care what make or model it was. I just wanted to win a car on a game show. And now I had. They said I also won the other two door items as well (the cash and trip). Obviously…it was a hell of a day. Significantly better than staying home to eat pizza and watch Raiders of the Lost Ark. The section previously known as Loserville was now officially a party. Those weirdos turned out to be very sweet. They were incredibly supportive and happy for me. I turned around to thank the medicine man, but he had vanished completely. Did he even exist? Had I imagined him the entire time?

That’s my experience. But what’s the answer to, “How do you win on a game show?” Well, obviously, there’s a lot of luck involved. I wasn’t exactly playing Jeopardy or anything that required me to have any brainpower. All I know is that, before you can win, you need to get on stage…

What that really comes down to is the 10 second “interview.” That’s where they make their contestant choices. 2 or 3 producers will sit down and say, “tell me about yourself” in a very calm tone of voice. Almost as if it’s a job interview. Businesslike. They’ll go down the line doing that with groups of 10 people at a time.

Naturally, we humans respond with a similar tone as the way we’re being spoken to.

A producer says, “Tell me about yourself.”

Most people answer, “Well I’m from Kansas. I teach second grade. And I hope to win a prize today.”

Next.

(If you do it like that, you’ll definitely be sitting in line to watch other weirdos play games)

What I do differently is this…

Producer: “Tell me about yourself.”

I yell, “I’M REALLY EXCITED TO BE HERE!!! WOO!!!” and immediately high-five the nearest person in line next to me. Then I answer the question.

That might seem simple and dumb. But pretty much everyone who’s listened to me has won a prize on a game show. Obviously, calm and collected isn’t the goal of those interviews. Producers should be wondering:

“If this dude gets that excited about ‘Tell me your name,’ what the hell will he do when he wins a car?”

Last person I told this to won a motorcycle. Others have won trips and other stuff. Anyway, that’s my game show story. I don’t know if I’ll ever go back now that the mission has been accomplished. But, hey, you never know…

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Mile Nerd by Milenerd - 2M ago

You trust complete strangers to drive you around, right?

Actually, that’s probably not the best way to advertise Uber…

“Get into some dude’s car and hope you’re not meeting a lunatic”

I mean, what if we showed up here in a time machine from 20 years ago? We’d see a bunch of people getting into the back of random Honda Civics and wonder what the hell is going on in the world.

The whole thing is fascinating. At least to me. So, for the past week, I went on an Undercover Nerd mission. For years, I’ve been curious to see what it’s like. So I signed up, downloaded the app, and drove strangers around for an hour or two per night. I took notes to share my experience with you here…

Night 1

(There’s no instruction other than a quick video. And, weirdly, there’s no picture of the rider. Just a name and address. Traffic isn’t a factor at 9 PM, so that seems like a good time of night to head out)

I get to a big house in a nice neighborhood. An older Israeli man opens the passenger door, smiles, and sits down right next to me. The app shows where he’s going but I want to make conversation and ask, “Where are we off to?” That’s pretty much all it takes for him to talk the entire ride. The guy is very friendly. He’s visiting America for the first time (a 4-month vacation from Los Angeles to Miami to New York to Hawaii). He sounds a little homesick already. I ask if he likes LA and he says, “No. The whole city goes to sleep at 10 PM.” That’s kind of true. He’s used to more lively nights. I drop him off at Coffee Bean, he apologizes for his poor English (which was actually pretty good), shakes my hand, and walks into the night to meet his buddy. I hope he’ll enjoy the other cities more.

The app beeps again. I’m off to pick up 2 ladies at Sushi Spot. It’s my first Uber encounter with something I’ll see a lot of over the next few nights…drunk people. A pair of mid-40’s blonde women get in and fill the car with the smell of perfume and sake. They’re laughing like old friends who are tickled to get a night out together. The lady next to me (Sarah) asks if I’m Indian. Then she starts talking about her buddy in India. I say we don’t actually all know each other and she laughs as if I’ve told the world’s funniest joke. We talk about sushi for a few minutes, they crack up at a lot of semi-funny jokes, and I get them to an impressive-looking home safely.

Next stop is Ralphs (the California version of Kroger). A shy, fairly awkward Asian girl in her 20’s sits down next to me. She seems lonely. Usually takes the bus home from her job at the service deli. It’s a 90-minute ride each way and she’s too exhausted for that today. Felt like splurging. I ask how long she’s lived in the area and she whispers that she just moved from Las Vegas. Has yet to make any friends in town. Turns out that Vegas is the only other city she’s been to in America. I say a couple of travel-related things and she’s unusually excited about every little tidbit. Even just talking about New York pizza…she had no idea that they’re known for it. And she seems very interested in hearing about San Francisco. Asks me how much a bus trip there would cost. I have no clue. After talking to her for a few minutes, I start feeling very lucky to have traveled so much. I really hope she’ll be ok here. She reminds me of a little mouse who peeks into the world and then scurries back into a safe hiding place. I really find myself rooting for her. Seconds after dropping her off at a fairly scary apartment building, the app beeps to let me know I have a “New Compliment,” whatever that means. I look at the screen which reads, “Great Conversationalist.” It’s surprisingly touching.

Night 2

I get a beep from a mansion in the hills. The passenger gets in…white, late 20’s, absurd amount of perfume. Her name is Jennifer. She has a little girl voice. Turns out they’re filming a Lifetime movie in the house and she’s been doing background extra work. As with some other people I’ve met who do background work, she’s…a bit strange. Keeps saying she can one day get acting work…and that she’ll be “the hot girl” in movies. Keeps talking about how Matt McCoy was the lead of the Lifetime movie. Who the fuck is Matt McCoy? I have no idea. All in all, she’s extremely entertaining and talks for 20 minutes straight. She reveals that she’d like to be “the hot girl” in an episode of Ballers with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. I drop her off at a small apartment in Hollywood and she skips away into the night.

The last beep took me to a mansion in the hills. This one takes me to McDonald’s. A young Hispanic man is just getting off work. Since I’m abnormally passionate about two things…deals and food…I ask if the grub is free for employees there. He laughs at the nerdiness of my question and says they only get a 50% discount. We stay on the subject of food. He’s always wanted to try sushi but hasn’t had it yet. I give a couple of recommendations with good lunch specials and he tells me about some hidden gems for tacos. Great kid. I drop him off in a rough area of town.

The next beep comes with a note. Looks like I’m headed to a hospital down the street. A lady needs a ride for her elderly Hispanic mom (who I pick up from the emergency room). A question or two is all it takes for the mom to open up about her life. Her husband keeps cancelling appointments to get hip replacement surgery done. She doesn’t understand it. Their life would be much better if he’d just do it already. I hear the huge amount of stress this causes her and, obviously, the dude needs to get it done. As we pull up to her apartment, I try to express that he sounds scared because he never had to go through anything like that before. She thanks me for talking to her and says it helped. She gets out slowly and says, “You have a nice car.” Honestly, I really don’t (it’s a Buick Encore that I lease for 99 bucks a month). But it was a sweet moment from a sweet lady. A few minutes later, the app beeps and says I have a $3 tip. Again, it’s surprisingly satisfying.

Night 3

I pick up a young guy who recently moved from Arkansas. Clearly gay. And it sure as hell seems like he went through some stuff growing up there. He has a defensive kind of energy. Almost like he’s bracing for trouble. I’m taking him to a bar in West Hollywood. It’s a pretty long ride. We talk about stuff that’s pretty surface level. He has such sad kind of energy and doesn’t open up like the other people did. I hope he’s able to find some supportive friends here.

Around the corner, I pick up a young girl (early 30’s) at the Troubadour – a popular nightclub for live music. She can be best described as bubbly. I don’t need to ask a single question to get her talking. Apparently, she eats a lot of food all the time in an attempt to put on weight. That’s a pretty unusual thing to hear from a girl. Why all the food? “Guys like booties these days and mine is too skinny.” I calculate how to respond in the most un-pervy way possible and just end up nodding. She mentions that she’s always single and doesn’t know how to act with guys. Things like expressing affection – “They end up with hurt feelings because I never say romantic kind of stuff.” She sounds genuinely confused about it. All in all, it’s a very entertaining 20 minutes. As she walks into her apartment, I get a beep that I’ve been tipped $5.

Ok, this is a weird situation. I get another ding and go around the corner in West Hollywood to pick up Julie. I reach the location and see a young lady waiting – late 20’s, serious looking. Remember how I mentioned the app not showing a picture of the rider? So, I ask if she’s Julie. She says yes, jumps in, and we’re off. Apparently, she’s a stand-up comedian. I ask how the show went and she says, “It’s a bad venue.” So, what’s the best venue? “Good question. Uh…they’re all bad.” Like many comedians, she’s not exactly a ray of sunshine. We drive 10 minutes and then I get a beep that says, “Ride Cancelled.” What the hell? I look back and she’s not using her phone at all. What is this? I ask again if she’s Julie and tell her about the Uber messages. She says, “Uber? I called for a Lyft.” And then we figure it out together. There was a Julie who called Lyft and a Julie who called Uber. At the same time. From the same bar. And I picked up the wrong one. Man, what are the odds? I can’t just leave her on the side of the road so I say, “Well, I guess you’re getting a free ride home tonight.” She has no visible reaction. I take her home, call it a night, and drive away wondering if she’s some kind of zombie.

Night 4

I pick up a quirky-looking couple, Matt and Jenny. Mid 30’s, white, wearing rock and roll t-shirts. Turns out they’re from Pittsburgh…a city I know well. We share our tales of Ben Roethlisberger’s douchebaggery. From walking out of restaurants without paying…to general rudeness…to damn-that-dude-is-lucky-to-be-walking-the-streets kind of stuff. We agree that it’s hard to root for the Steelers as long as he’s around. On the subject of sexual harassment, Jenny tells an interesting story of another gross powerful guy (her current employer). He’s a CEO who crossed a line at a bar and ended up giving her a job as a sort of settlement. Crazy stuff. I drop them at their live music show and head to the next stop.

As I pull up, I run over something clunky. It’s late and dark so I have no idea what it could be. The passengers get in – a couple, 40’s, black. They’re pretty emotional about something. I find out that they’ve been in a car wreck and their SUV was just towed away. Apparently, I drove over a piece of the wreckage. Very serious and emotional ride – he’s looking at the burn on his arm from the air bag and she keeps saying they’re lucky to be going home instead of the hospital. It’s their son’s 16th birthday and they were supposed to take him out for dinner. The dad is more worried about letting down his kid than he is about his arm. Clearly a hell of a day for this loving family.

I pick up a guy from his fancy hotel in Beverly Hills. He speaks with an indistinguishable accent and stares at me like he’s trying to decide if I’m an FBI agent. His scent is a mixture of cigarette smoke and cologne. His wardrobe is, of course, a gold chain and a shirt that’s a size too small. He talks about how successful he is in life. His most recent trip was to Las Vegas (staying in “only the best suites”) and he used Uber to get around there. The most memorable line?
“I told one Uber driver in Vegas that I was looking for a massage. She said that’s what she does as her full-time job, so I said screw it and she came back to the suite. The massage was ok and I got a happy ending. I could have done better. She wasn’t that great looking, but I already had my clothes off.”  

I think that sums up the dude pretty well. I drop him off at a cheesy nightclub and immediately roll the windows down to air things out.

Night 5
I pick up a custodian from a nearby high school. Mid-30’s, Hispanic. I’m taking him to a part of town I’ve never seen before. He seems lonely and says that he usually stays up until 5 AM. I ask what he does that late – big party guy? But he doesn’t have any vices – no drinking, no weed, no gambling. He just loves video games. Well, he might get a tattoo one day – but it’s going to be the logo of his favorite game. I drop him at a small apartment and find myself hoping he can meet a nice, nerdy video game girl one day. Or maybe the shy mouse from Ralphs service deli.

No other dings in the area, so I start to head home. But I get a beep on the way and follow it to a fancy bar. A couple of drunk guys in their 30’s get in. White, super friendly, seemingly successful in their careers. I notice the nerdier one is really enjoying when I pick on the cooler guy with some jokes. They’d been out trying to “meet chicks” but neither had any luck. I keep blaming the cool guy and they both enjoy the gag. They’re fascinated by the fact that I’m an Indian guy who grew up in West Virginia. It’s most likely the alcohol, but they love every single story and joke for 30 straight minutes. We laugh a lot and I drop them off at a very big house in the hills. One of them will probably be our next President.

I pick up a stylishly dressed blonde lady who’d been having dinner and drinks with friends. The last two guys would have gone crazy for her. She gets in and I ask if she had a fun night. She says, “Yeah it was a fun night…for a Monday or Tuesday…or is it Wednesday?” I tell her it’s still Monday for 20 more minutes and she laughs as if Chris Rock just delivered the funniest joke of his career. I realize just how drunk she is. She’s lived in Burbank her entire life and works as a fashion designer. She’s employed by a well-known guy but does her own thing on the side (very carefully). She’s unable to think of the phrase, “conflict of interest.” When I fill in the blank, she cracks up and yells “BANG!!!” And then slurs, “I’ve had…a few…drinks. So I couldn’t think of it.” I tell her about this post and she asks if I wanted to take a selfie. I decide against it. As I drop her off, I say, “You should design some clothes for dudes since all these guys are looking like schlubs lately.” And then I look down to notice my old t-shirt and Adidas track pants. Oh well. I get her home and she takes an exceptionally long time getting out of the car. Almost as if she doesn’t want to leave. Finally she says, “That was fun” and stumbles into her very nice house.

Night 6

A young-looking guy sits down in the back. Turns out he’s a high school junior named Yarden (who goes by “Jordan”). He’s clearly the “cool kid” at school and carries himself with unusual confidence. We talk about basketball for a while. He mildly annoys me by being a major Lebron James apologist. I’m driving him to a birthday party at his buddy’s house in Hidden Hills. We check in at the gate and I realize why the security guard is being so careful. I’ve been here one time before. This is the neighborhood where those renowned scholars known as the Kardashians live. Absolutely gigantic houses here. Actually, at this price range, they’re probably called “estates.” Whatever. Beautiful to look at, though. Lots of horse stables, tennis courts, swimming pools, etc. I get cool kid Yarden to his fancy party and…

…the app starts beeping instantly. Right as the cool kid gets out, another high schooler jumps in. He’s leaving the same party and called for a ride exactly as I showed up. This particular kid is definitely not considered cool at school. But I like him. He says, “I didn’t know anyone at the party and it was really awkward. I just wanted to go home.” He examines my face for a few seconds and asks, “Haven’t I seen you on TV?” Apparently, this not-so-cool-kid watches an incredible amount of television in his room. He asks some TV stuff for a few minutes and seems genuinely interested in my answers. This little dude is kind of like I was in high school – nerdy, curious, and very single. I ask if he drives. His face lights up (in a charmingly awkward way) and he says it’s his favorite thing to do. When we get to his house, he points to his car – a shiny, brand new BMW. Hmm…maybe our high school experiences weren’t so similar after all.

The app beeps and I pick up an old lady around the corner. When I say old, I believe she’s at least 90…and possibly closer to 290. She has 6 great-grandchildren who all live within 20 miles of each other. So, she spends a lot of her time taking Ubers around the city to visit them. Really impressive at her age.

Me: “Wow, you’re such a modern great-grandmother to use Uber like that.”

Her: “What??”

Me: “You’re such a modern great-grandmother.”

Her: “What??”

Me: “YOU”RE SUCH A MODERN PERSON.”

Her (smiling): Oh, yes. I am.

She moved full-time from Argentina 4 years ago and still seems very excited about life. She gets out of the car and I hear, “Take this.” I look back to find $4 carefully folded in her hand. I open her door and she walks away slowly with the help of her cane. Before she enters her apartment building, she turns around and says, “I’m modern.” I look down at the 4 bucks and smile.

Night 7 (final night)

A ridiculously friendly woman gets in the car from her shift at Petco. She has 2 little succulent plants (I think that’s the correct name) with her. She places them carefully into the cupholders and talks about how much she enjoys her job, animals, and the people she works with. She seems at peace and just…happy. Really nice to meet people like that. Such a pleasure. I mention that I don’t understand cats and she finds that hilarious (even though I was being serious). I drop her off at the modest home she shares with her girlfriend. Easily one of my favorite people from the week.

I pick up 4 young girls from Malibu. Early 20’s, different ethnicities. They’ve clearly been smoking some weed and keep me waiting a long time. This is the first ride that feels pretty miserable. It’s basically a walking, talking stereotype of young girls from Los Angeles. Such loud, annoying, mind-numbing conversation between them. It’s very Kardashian-ish. They talk total nonsense for 10 straight minutes until I happily get them out of the car. I drop them off in Venice and drive away like I’m Andy Dufresne leaving Shawshank.

The last beep of my weeklong journey takes me down the street in Venice. I see 2 young girls and cringe. Is this going to be more of the same? Not at all. These girls are totally charming. Whew. They get in and ask, “Want to hear our story of the wort Uber experience ever?” I say, “You mean the 4 people I just dropped off?” But their story is worse. Earlier in the day, they’d taken an Uber from Santa Monica to the Dodgers game. That’s a 2-hour drive at 5:00. Apparently, their driver really had to use the bathroom and…for some strange reason…dropped them off on the side of the freeway. He handed them a few bucks and just took off. Why didn’t he just take the next exit with them? I have no clue. But, yeah, that’s a crazy story. We share weird Uber experiences for the next 15 minutes and I drop them off at a nice beachfront condo.

So, what are my takeaways after driving for Uber for a week?

  1. Driving all over the city each night was tough on my body. Not to sound like a broken down old man…but that’s kind of what I am. I’m certainly feeling it physically.
  2. The money is awful. After gas and expenses, I would have pocketed more working at Walmart. No exaggeration. Sure, driving for Uber is entry-level work, but I don’t think minimum wage is unreasonable for people who jump from ride to ride. After seeing the numbers, I totally understand why Uber drivers have been striking (I saw something about it on the news). After this experiment, I’ll definitely be a more generous tipper when I get into someone’s car. I really had no idea they were only making 2 or 3 bucks for a lot of these rides…and that doesn’t take gas usage into effect.
  3. Another thing I never thought about…man, a lot of drunk single women are getting into cars with strangers. One night, the thought really started going through my head. Like, is it safe? I mean, it’s pretty weird having a drunk stranger in your car like that. I have to say…you really do feel the responsibility of getting people home safely when they’re in that condition.
  4. The main takeaway was that I really enjoyed the experience. Honestly, I loved it. Meeting such different people in this way was pretty exciting. I picked individuals up from their fast food jobs…and others from palaces in the hills. I guess I’d never really thought about it, but Uber is a great equalizer. All types of people use it. And almost all of them opened up quickly when someone non-creepy showed a little curiosity. I think we all need human connections. I know I do. So, this really was a pleasure. If my body could handle it…and if I didn’t need work that actually provides reasonable pay…I’d probably do more of this. Anyway, hopefully some of you enjoyed reading this open diary from a week of driving people around. See you next month.
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Mile Nerd by Milenerd - 3M ago

At first, it seemed like a perfectly normal day.

I went to McDonald’s and ordered a Big Mac. Didn’t pay much attention to the guy at the window as he handed it over. But then he said, “Look at me. We expect to be called a health food restaurant now.”

I drove away very confused.

Back at home, I sat down to watch a golf tournament. Just in time to see Tiger Woods pumping his fist after winning the trophy. But, suddenly, he stopped celebrating and turned to the camera. He said, “My thoughts on monogamy are posted on TigerWoods.com. And I’m the perfect person to talk about that stuff since I’d never cheat on anyone. In fact, I’m still a virgin.”

What was happening?

Right then, the phone rang. It was a reader calling to let me know that bloggers, with straight faces, are now posting about ethics. By far the craziest part of this day yet.

It’s a bit fuzzy, but the conversation went something like…

READER
MileNerd can you believe these shady ass bloggers are bragging about having an ethics policy?

ME
My phone must be messed up. That made no sense. You said pathetic philosophy, right?

READER
No, ethics policy.

ME
Poetic hypocrisy?

READER
Ethics policy!

ME
Unapologetic Dishonesty?

READER
Dude, that doesn’t even rhyme.

Had I had entered a state of shock? My ears seemed unable to hear this information because it was so deeply nonsensical. Should I see a doctor? Should I find some marijuana?

Nah, I should probably just take a nap.

So I passed out. But the crazy dreams started immediately…

  • In one, Walmart was the friendliest store in town.
  • In another, OJ Simpson was a marriage counselor teaching couples how to stay calm during arguments.
  • Southwest Airlines was known for being luxury in the sky, with Dom Perignon flowing like water.
  • Keanu Reeves and Jackie Chan were winning all of the acting awards.

Ok, I had to wake up. This day was too illogical.

So I rolled out of bed and turned on ESPN. Desperately needing to hear something real. Anything. But the sportscaster was talking about Lebron James being a better player than Michael Jordan.

Huh?

I quickly threw my remote at the wall. Ran to the internet. And the very first headline read, “Get a natural body like one of the Kardashians.”

What kind of freaky day was this?

Suddenly, the phone rang again. I jumped up, startled. It was another longtime reader…

He confirmed the craziest part of all…that bloggers are talking about ethics. Apparently, getting away with their bullshit isn’t enough anymore. They now want to be patted on the back for it.

And then it finally hit me…

Wait a minute…

Tiger Woods isn’t a virgin.

McDonald’s isn’t a health food restaurant.

And the sharks disguised as dorks aren’t tone deaf enough to talk about ethics.

Nobody could have that much nerve.

Of course…I’m still fast asleep and this was all just a weird dream.

That’s the only possible explanation.

Right?

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Mile Nerd by Milenerd - 5M ago

Ever cringe when you hear a bad line of dialogue in an otherwise great movie?

How about this one from Jerry Maguire?
“You complete me.”

A generation of people…actual grown-ass, non-teeny bopper humans…found those words to be incredibly romantic.

(Damn, these clunky brains of ours are easy to manipulate)

No matter what Tom Cruise says between VERY long pauses…feeling like an incomplete human being isn’t romantic. For fuck’s sake, it’s the definition of insecurity.

Literally.

It would be very hard to return a serve from Roger Federer…to avoid a Manny Pacquiao uppercut…to be more in love with Bradley Cooper than Lady Gaga is. Well, that’s the level of challenge our clunky brains are up against in this society.

Listen to people talk about themselves. For almost everyone you’ll ever meet, their greatest life passion isn’t love or money…it’s insecurity. That’s what drives so much of our behavior. More than anything else, it’s the fuel we run on.

If we’re being uncomfortably honest, our society is a place where…

  • Dudes learn they should feel insecure for not having enough fur on their heads.
  • Chicks learn they should read magazines that exist (almost exclusively) to make them feel insecure for not looking like computer-altered images of other insecure people.
  • Job titles are labels we use to rank how some people are more important than others.
  • Counting green pieces of paper is a way to decide which humans mean the most.  
  • We even feel embarrassment when our metal driving machines are old, noisy, and break down…
  • And genuine pride in ourselves if our metal machines on wheels are one of the “good ones.”

Sound ridiculous?

Think I’m exaggerating?

Ok, really try to remember how much time you’ve spent worrying about what other people think of you. Even those you’ll never see again.

(Hint: A big chunk of your life)

In case you haven’t noticed, the criteria we use to feel self-conscious is almost always silly.

There’s no end to the dumb list of shit we use to feel insecure. I mean, even just measure how tall you are. If it’s outside of a “reasonable” range, that becomes one of the most dominant factors in your life.

Our clunky brains refuse to accept that we’re enough. But we weren’t born this way, right? No baby sits in a crib thinking like this. It took years of intense life training to learn how to be insecure. We needed to be programmed so that we could think in such ridiculous ways.

In 2019, we’re so used to insecurity that it doesn’t seem unusual anymore. Our society is built around it. We’ve even learned to use technology that can automate our madness. I was in a movie theater recently watching a woman who couldn’t go more than 15 minutes without looking at her phone…

Work crisis?

Family emergency?

Nope. She kept checking to see how many people clicked “like” on her Instagram post. Over and over. We’ve always been desperate to be liked…but now we can actually track the “likes.”

For all of us, there’s a not-so-subtle war going on against bad programming. We can’t win it if we don’t see it.

Nothing can ever complete you because you’re not incomplete.

See you next month. Except for you, Tom Cruise.

(Programming note – To the person who asked where the credit card page is…seriously? To everyone else I haven’t written back to yet, please give me another couple of weeks and I should be all caught up. Thanks)

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Mile Nerd by Milenerd - 6M ago


Miss me?

Well, dammit, the feeling is mutual.

What can I say…it feels VERY strange to not be here writing every day. 

Newsflash to myself:
Do something for a decade and there’s a big hole when it goes away.

I think these monthly posts will probably end up being whatever’s floating around my head at the time. Honestly, that could be anything. It’s a very strange head.

But, since I’m retired from this…I think I’ll just type whatever the hell I feel like.

(Actually, that’s really not so different)

Here’s my first post-retirement entry…

I was sitting in a waiting room recently. You know how that goes:

Stare at phone,

Flip through bad magazine,

Hopeful glance at receptionist to see if anything’s happening,

Nothing’s happening. Sigh.

Zone out and stare at wall for a while…

Definitely not the highlight of anyone’s day. It was just me and two ladies at the desk. At some point, one of us might have slipped into a coma. We were way closer to being asleep than awake. And then…

Suddenly, another patient walked through the door.

(I should say she FLEW through the door)

Immediately, the wall was no longer the star of that room…

Within 5 seconds, this lady had somehow gotten the stone-faced receptionists to smile. They actually looked somewhat alive. How was this happening? Was she some sort of magician?

Then she spotted a bowl of pears sitting on the front desk…

I hadn’t noticed them, but the lady was intrigued.

What kind of pears are they? Did someone grow them? Are they as delicious as they look??

She couldn’t stop talking about those things. At one point, she referred to the pears as “stunning” or “sexy” or some other adjective I’d never heard used to describe a piece of fruit.

Then she turned to me…

“Would you like to try one of these stunning pears?”

I was fully out of my boredom coma now. It was impossible not to smile. This force of nature sat down next to me and we ate our sexy pears while laughing the next few minutes away. Doctor’s office? We might as well have been at a picnic in the park. The lady entered a chamber of dullness and completely brightened the room. For those few moments, she changed all of the people in it. We started in one mood…interacted with her…and ended up somewhere better.

I finished my appointment and jumped into the car. Damn, those really were some stunning pears. Who knew?

I started laughing to myself thinking of weird fruit descriptions – a voluptuous mango, a stone cold fox of a kiwi, etc. Y’know, the kind of stuff that’s really only funny in our own heads. I drove away smiling from that waiting room interaction…

And then I got on the freeway.

Within minutes, an asshat in a Range Rover felt it was reasonable to send text messages at 70 miles per hour. I dodged his swerving death machine and quickly honked my horn – in case he cared about other people making it home alive.

(It wasn’t a big priority for him)

The guy was deeply offended that another person had the nerve to interrupt his text message conversation. It became…

A situation.

If you know how I’m wired at all, then you understand how I feel about douchebags. This guy was one of the greats. Long story short…I wasn’t thinking about sexy pears anymore. My day changed again. I was getting into it with a Range Rover asshat. First on the freeway. And then when he followed me to a gas station.

Yeah.

This is what’s on my mind at the moment…

It’s SO easy to forget how much of an impact we make on each other. Fruit lady and freeway maniac were extreme examples…but, man, you really have the power to change someone’s day. Want to see something cool? Try this…

Get a notebook and carry it around for the next week. All you need to do is one thing – write down every thought you have after interacting with people. That’s it. Like most of humanity, you probably see yourself as a logical, even-keeled person. But trust me on this…

Try the notebook thing.

You’ll see just how many ups and downs you go through based on the actions of others. Don’t fight it. Just track your thoughts after interacting with people. It’s an incredible exercise if you do it honestly.

Hopefully I’ve impacted your day a few times through the years. You’ve certainly done that for me. This is going to take some time to get used to, but…

Have a great month, nerds!

(Programming note: If you missed it, read the previous post to understand the once-a-month posts and Top 25 updates. And, if you’ve sent me an email about Nerdville, I finally responded this week. If you didn’t hear back, please make sure to check your spam folder. Finally, if you haven’t reached out yet, it’s not too late)

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Mile Nerd by Milenerd - 6M ago

Ok, 3 topics left. Lots to say, so here we go. I’ll paste some quotes from different readers under each topic because, frankly, your words have been WAY better than mine lately.

Topic 1 – What happens to MileNerd.com?
“If I compare it to the real life, it’s like a house demolition. A house that I used to live in. I watch that big metal thing hitting the house, the walls crumble. I may know that there’s a good cause for this but it won’t make me less sad.” -Alex

Over the last 2 weeks, I’ve learned that there are a lot of unseen impacts of words. It has been such a jarring thing to experience (in a good way). I really had no idea.  

There were a couple of good offers through the years for MileNerd that didn’t feel right. Those no longer exist. More recently, there was one reader who seemed like a good option. That didn’t quite work either. So, here’s what I’m planning with MileNerd.com…

“I respect your writing. Don’t leave us yet.” -Matthew

Unfortunately, my life/health are a bit challenging and blah blah blah. Long story short, I just can’t keep writing every day. At some point, someone connected to this blog will feel right…and I’ll transition to that person here. Until then, what I will do is keep the Top 25 Credit Card list updated once a month. I know a bunch of you use it, so there’s no need for me to “demolish the house” completely. Obviously, January has been a little crazy…but I’ll pick that up for February 1st. As always, I’ll try to keep the offers current…but it will be imperfect. If you see out-of-date information, I appreciate when you let me know. It’s a big help with the editing.  

“You will be so missed.  I’m not sure what I will miss more…your eloquence or your humor. When you are writing from your heart about matters that mean something to you you are incredibly eloquent.  I’m not sure if you truly know that but you should.” -Lori

Of course not. More often than not, I’ve completely bumbled my attempts to communicate. But what I did realize over the last 2 weeks was that some of you cared less about what was written here than you did about how it was written. It’s hilarious when you think about it. A blog built on “the fewest words possible” and more readers look forward to the long posts. Again, it’s just not possible to continue. But I’ll try not to “demolish the house” completely. While I still have the website (for however long that is)…I’ll put up one post a month just to continue SOME writing. I’m aware the new group isn’t for everyone and some of you just want to keep reading something. It’s really nothing more than a retired guy who still goes to his office Christmas party. But I’ll keep writing something on the first of the month. Not sure what that will be…it could be a post about my love for nachos…or maybe an essay on Michael Jordan’s weird love for baggy jeans. To be very clear, this is still retirement…the days of 5 posts a week about miles and points are over for good. I’m just talking about popping in once a month so I don’t take a wrecking ball to the walls. Nothing more.

Finally, I assume there are at least some who show up for the actual original purpose of the blog…short deal posts without the fluff. If that’s the case, I think anyone (who has interest in it) could duplicate that aspect of this in a much better way. By using tools that weren’t as common 8 years ago. I think this is all someone would need to do to provide that same service as the short deal post side of MileNerd…

  • Start a very specific Twitter account.
    • Link to deals (not articles about deals) with a simple, one-sentence description.
    • Only significant deals. And only in this travel niche.
    • None of the fluff. The stuff almost everyone is interested in. Status match offers, great rental car promos, 10,000 Amex point promos, a great new card offer, etc.
    • No small talk. No chatter. No conversations on that account. Just significant deals. Nothing else.
    • No links to articles or blog pages. Just point to the deal with a short description.
    • No concern for increasing followers. And, obviously, no links to pimp bloggers. Very simple. Stick to the formula. Repeat.
    • There are typically not more than 10 deals per week that really matter to the people who want this type of service. Every blog has a different purpose, but the niche I’m referring to is only concerned with the good stuff. And they want it simple. So, if you’re tweeting on that account a lot more than 10 times a week…it’s getting too complicated. If you want to focus on a different niche like gift card offers, you can also set up a different account for that.
    • I’m not sure anyone is interested in doing it like that…but, if so, I think it’s an easy way to replace the simplicity/no fluff deal portion of MileNerd. That said, it does seem (ironically) that the original purpose of this wasn’t really the main thing for many readers.

Topic 2 – The response to last week’s post

“I am literally fighting back tears. I commend you for taking that step and putting that story out there. It’s not easy to do and I’m sure you spent awhile even bringing yourself to post it. Thank you. Thank you for having that courage to post it.” – Sophia

I mean, it wasn’t just one post. Your emails throughout the last 2 weeks have been incredible. But so many were about the Partition post in particular. Some from people who’d never written to a blogger/stranger in that way. It seemed to resonate in a different way. So, I feel like I owe a somewhat articulate response here…

I spent so much time in my life searching (desperately) for validation. Good chance I wasn’t alone in doing that. Maybe it’s just part of our human experience. But, at some point, I felt like I stopped. You grow up…or at least grow old…and don’t crawl around begging for approval in quite the same way. The thing is…when you do receive it…the impact still hits you. It gets into your heart in unexpected ways. The last 2 weeks have really kicked the shit out of me (to put it poetically). The recent feeling of connection to you guys has been unlike anything I’ve felt over the 8 years of doing this. For example, reader Micah actually set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for what would be my dream project.

Oh, and I’ve never met Micah.

That’s off-the-charts ridiculous. Not something I’ve ever experienced.

I thought about it for a few days and finally asked her to take the page down.

Am I nuts? Well, of course, but I’m certainly not anti-money. Case in point…I had one reader (Joe) who actually sent me a Venmo payment to say thank you. He said put it aside for whenever the documentary becomes possible. And I’m sure as hell keeping it.  

Again, this last 2 weeks was incredible.

Really not normal.

As far as the GoFundMe went…I just can’t post a money request for a documentary that might never happen. I’m in no position to start working on it right now, have nothing (other than one dude’s Venmo payment) to put towards it, and am not close to being able to start on it. The 5 or 6 of you who made GoFundMe offers (crazy generous as you are) were probably not going to make a big dent. Unless one of you is secretly Bill Gates. But, if that’s the case, what the hell are you doing collecting points? Anyway…I don’t know what else to say…promoting a GoFundMe page for a documentary that might never happen didn’t feel right. That’s why I asked her to take it down.

I deeply appreciate all of your words about that post…Joe and Micah, you guys are incredible…and the others who wanted to contribute are too. Maybe one day it’ll happen. If not, I did get plenty from telling the story here and hearing your responses.

Topic 3 – Nerdville

“I am sad to see the MileNerd blog come to an end, but I absolutely would like to move forward with the new evolution of the next chapter in this saga.” -Valerie

The foundation for this group will be to construct a team of friends. We’ll start with our common interests – like miles, points, deals, and travel – and then we’ll grow from there. Here’s a quick way of knowing if it’s a good fit or not:

 Probably not a good fit if you:

  • Are wishy-washy about the idea or only moderately interested,
  • Think this will be like any other group,
  • Will always feel that deals matter more than relationships,
  • Could typically be described as difficult to be around, a pill, or a douche.

Probably will be a good fit if you:

  • Are excited about the idea and have room in your life for this,
  • Think of yourself as a deal and/or travel person,
  • Are interested in connecting and sharing,
  • Believe you are a good team player.

What will it grow into? We’ll need to wait and see. From a deal perspective, it’s certainly easier to talk in a private group than it is on a public blog. But it’s going to be about us, not me. We’d be screwed if I’m the smartest person there. Luckily, there’s basically no chance of that. It needs to be a real team in every sense. And, obviously, size is a factor. This is still coming from MileNerd, so “the biggest possible group” absolutely is not the goal. I’m looking for quality. But I also don’t want to make it seem like a chopping block process either. Here’s what I know…

Add a step of DOING and it typically eliminates quite a few people. Even if the DOING is just sending an email. So, if you’re interested, don’t feel like this is some kind of pointless lottery or something. If you really want to be part of it, let me know and I’ll do my part – which is trying to figure out how to make it work.

Let’s do it like this, guys. If you’re interested, please do the following:

  • Send me a quick note with the subject Nerdville. Most of you already have my email address, but if not, the contact button is on the top of the page.
  • Write anything you’d like to get out of the group. It could be a long description or a single word. Anything you feel like saying.
  • Obviously, I’m going to get quite a few emails. I’ll need to organize this. The main thing at this point will be having individual conversations to figure out the right fit. It’s a ton of work, so I’ll probably just type a pre-written set of questions I can use to get to try and get to know you, where you’re coming from, etc. Give me a week or two to reply on these emails please. Eventually, I’ll also need someone to help me with some tech stuff. But not yet.
  • It’s going to be a lot of initial work but I believe it will be well worth the effort. I know there’s a unique group here. I see this as the beginning of some great relationships and a VERY special place. Please just give me a little time to get it all set up.
  • If you’re a “heavy hitter” uninterested in friendships but would like to get into a small group with similar types, you can send a note too. Just let me know what you’re looking for and I’ll see if I can figure that out for you as well.

If you have any expertise – credit cards, travel, spending, reselling, booking awards, technical glitches, finding loopholes, or anything else – it’s obviously a big plus. We’ll talk about that soon. For now, just a quick email to let me know you’re interested is great. Even if your main skill is that you’re a great team player and eager to grow, that’s helpful. It has to start with friendship. Even on a basic level, friends don’t treat each other with any of the all-too-familiar online BS – dickishness, speaking in code, talking down to other, trying to make them feel small, putting deals over relationships, etc. Those aren’t the types of people who can make this special. It’s irrelevant how sharp someone is if they don’t really want to be on a team.

Finally…

If the group isn’t for you, no problem at all. You can still always reach out to me with any questions. Or if you ever want to share any comments, rumors, deals, etc. I write back to everyone so, if you don’t get a reply, please check your spam folder. I guess, for some of you, this is probably goodbye. If that’s the case, please feel free to keep in touch. I’m not on any social media other than a personal Facebook page listed on the sidebar. Pretty inactive there. If this is, in fact, goodbye…thank you for your support. I tried my best to provide you something useful. It has been a real pleasure. That said, the days of this being a daily miles and points blog are now officially over. For the last time…

Have a great weekend, nerds!

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Mile Nerd by Milenerd - 6M ago

We’re closing in on the end of the week here, guys…

So, have the last few days been intense?

Uh…

-Will Vanna and Pat end the next Wheel of Fortune with super awkward banter?
-Is LAX a bad airport?
-Does Superman weirdly wear underwear on the outside of his pants?

(For non-game show fans, the answer to all of those is “of course”)

I think a big part of why I wrote Friday’s post was because you deserve to know how I’m wired. But, for 8 years, many of you didn’t even know I was an Indian guy.

(In fairness, I probably didn’t even know that myself until I was 23 or so)

I wrote in one way for a long time here and the last 2 weeks have been different. But I don’t need this level of attention. I’m good. So, let’s bring it back to you today…

The best part of this 8 years was Forrest Gumping this special group of people together – You.

The worst part was not REALLY bringing this group of people together…except in a Yahoo Mail inbox.

(Yes, I’m well aware that it’s strange to still use Yahoo Mail)

The end of a daily blog is one thing…but do you really think I’m about to slam the door on you?

Please.

MileNerd was never about numbers…and there’s no desire to “grow” in a that sense…so why do we need to do it as a blog? What if I can give you the same thing in a MUCH better way?

I’d like to take this private.

I’d like to stop making it a one-person monologue.

And I’d like to take these “could be” friendships and actually start building those relationships.

If it isn’t clear enough yet, I’m talking about bringing this group together. Building a team. A place where we can all connect, rather than sitting around listening to me talk about Tom Cruise. For lack of a better name, why don’t we call it NerdGroup for now. Or maybe Nerdville? Either one. Here’s what I see…

No bullshit, you guys are unique. It’s certainly not the “normal” collection of people found on most mile/point blogs. This really shouldn’t be limited to one voice. In fact, I strongly believe the last 8 years have been about bringing the right people together.

I see Nerdville as a real group of friends. I believe, after a year or two of relationships growing…you’ll basically have a friend wherever you go in the country. That’s how I see it coming together. Sound too good to be true? If so, then it’s probably not the right fit for you. It isn’t just going to be some surface-level Facebook or Slack group. This will be something different. Like MileNerd was. And it certainly won’t be for everyone. So, tomorrow, if you’re excited about the sound of that…I’ll tell you my vision.

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Mile Nerd by Milenerd - 6M ago

Dear Fellow Nerds:

What’s more teary-eyed than a roomful of millennials watching puppy videos on Youtube?

This guy.

(Damn, that made no sense)

Emotions are weird, right? You really can’t plan or prepare for them…they just kind of show up. Man, this last couple of weeks…

Yesterday morning, I even had a voicemail waiting for me. It was someone I’d never spoken to in my life. A man saying something like, “Is this MileNerd? Can you please call me back?”

(After typing that, I realize it would probably be creepy under different circumstances)

But I called him back and it wasn’t creepy AT ALL. Just an incredibly sweet conversation between two people who’d never spoken before. It made two days a little brighter. And there have been quite a few of those conversations over the last few days (granted, this was the only one that happened over the phone). Emotions are a surprise. But, man, there have been a lot of surprises lately.

No big secret…I’ve had strong opinions about the ways people interact over technology. Comment sections, social media, and the whole anonymity thing…no shortage of weird stuff happening there. The “growth” of technology has totally changed the way people communicate.

Here’s a quick story…

My youngest sister is 15 years younger than me. A few years ago, she was out at a restaurant/bar. Teenage years. A normal, somewhat shy boy from school…a kid she never really talked to…was also at the restaurant/bar. They didn’t speak or even look at each other. Hadn’t all year. But he sent her a text message.

It read, “My girlfriend and I are looking to add someone in the bedroom. Would you be interested?”

Let’s be honest…that interaction would have been VERY different without the crutch of technology. Take away the iPhone and here’s how shy teenage boys approach girls at restaurants…

By awkwardly walking over, mumbling something incoherently, and sweating profusely. Eventually, an ill-timed voice crack ruins the moment…

But there’s something about summoning the balls to actually connect as a human being. We grow from it. And hiding behind phones and computers changed the way people relate to each other. We’re able to behave differently than we do when exposed in the real world. If that kid at the restaurant had to actually walk over and speak, VERY different words would have come out of his mouth.

8 years ago, when I decided there wasn’t going to be a comment section here…it was a conscious choice. I wanted to distance myself from the weirdness – the ways that people behave when hiding.

Years later, I’ve learned some big lessons from you guys. Real connections happen over technology too. For example, here’s one of the emails from yesterday…

Paul – I’ve been reading MileNerd this past week with sadness in my heart, knowing that one of the final bastions of honesty in the points world sounds like it’s coming to an end. I’ve particularly enjoyed these last few posts because they include much more of a personal element, and I’m able to get to know you as a person more than you as a blogger.

As I read today’s post, particularly that last section targeted to bloggers, I couldn’t help but feel ashamed. You’re right. You pretty much always have been. I’ve tried to be honest and straightforward for my readers, but damn it if I didn’t have thoughts of greed and other unsavory thoughts in my head at times over the years. Sometimes I acted on them, and looking back I feel shame.

Things have been busy in my normal life and I haven’t prioritized my blog, but I recently brought back Travel Summary. I still don’t write as much as I want to, but I’ll say this: I made a decision to not have any ads or affiliate links, and to not care about traffic, and it feels kind of liberating. Not that I ever chased those things before, but it feels great to just know I can write freely again like I did when I first started when no one found my blog except by accident.

Years ago you mentioned my blog in a few posts. I was and am grateful, because the “Milenerd bump” in traffic was and I’m sure still is a real thing. Then somehow we connected, and I remember you suggested we should meet up since I’m in OC and I believe you were in LA at the time. I regret not following up and doing so. I don’t know much about you, but from what I do know you’re the kind of guy I would want to be friends (or at least acquaintances) with.

If you’re still around SoCal, I’d love to be able to meet up with you for a meal or a coffee. Let me know if you’re interested – it would be an honor to finally meet a person I respect so much.

Again, the point isn’t to pat myself on the bat. I actually wasn’t even saying anything about ads…I was really only talking about being honest. But, here’s my point about that email…

I’ve never met this man. Still, somehow, we’ve made real impacts on each other. He opened himself up to me yesterday in a way that plenty of my “real world” friends never have. We were helpful and supportive of each other. Really, how different is that from a friendship? As much as this can feel like sending words out into the void, relationships are being built.

Aren’t we supposed to be so different and divided these days? Well, that hasn’t been my experience lately. Not with you guys. This week alone, you’ve expressed yourselves, opened up, shared, and even talked about loss. We’ve never met but it sure as hell feels like we’re friends. In a sense, I chose not to have a comment section because I wanted to detach. Your warmth makes that the last thing I want to do 8 years later. And that is a surprise. Thank you for being so willing to connect. And for impacting me in such meaningful ways.  I guess, sometimes, we do that without even knowing it’s happening.

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No way to let this final week pass without sharing some thoughts on the current state of this game. The first (and most important) question – Is this hobby dead?

Of course not.

If there are points to be earned, there’s still a game to be played.

(And discounted travel to be had)

That said, for most of us, the peak years are probably over. For a long time, we weren’t a blip on anyone’s radar. Companies weren’t worried about weird little nerds trying to vacation for free. We were approved for credit cards by the bucketload. Doors were wide open all over the place.

Today?

Well, it’s different. The “gamers” are definitely on radars. We’re planned for, limited, and sometimes shut down. Plus, there’s a ton of us now. If we look at this hobby as Tom Cruise…we’ve in the moment when he laughed like a psychotic clown and jumped all over Oprah’s couch. Sure, there are still years of good movies to come (Tropic Thunder, some decent Mission Impossible sequels, etc) but peak Cruise isn’t walking through that door.

(I apologize for that exceptionally strange paragraph – even by my standards)

Anyway, the point is, there’s still a game to play. We’re no longer in the prime years. But, so what? We roll on…

Credit Cards
With limits from Chase, Barclays, and Bank Of America…plus all the once-in-a-lifetime stuff at American Express…it’s harder than ever to get approved for cards. Bonuses are challenging. So what do we do?

At this point, it’s helpful to have access to other social security numbers (not in a shady way). I’m talking about your relatives and friends who aren’t interested in credit card signups. They come in handy. Get whatever you can, then get some cards in their name, and then ask someone else. If it’s possible in your life, that’s a pretty effective strategy in these changing times. Just stay organized.

No matter who applies, make sure you keep screenshots of the terms. You never know when you might be in for a bonus fight.

Spending
Since getting approved for cards is challenging these days, spending a lot of money is another way to go. Obviously, it’s NEVER something to mess with if there are any issues keeping debt under control. The main ways you guys have been spending large amounts are: with businesses, friend/family-owned businesses using your cards, reselling, or buying gift cards. The last option is (by far) the most common.

We’ve definitely passed the peak Jerry Maguire years for Mastercard and Visa gift cards. Not dead, but we’ve seen better days. Another option is buying discounted third-party gift cards (Starbucks, Target, Best Buy, etc). It takes some rate-checking with gift card exchanges to make sure you can break even. Of course, the idea is always free points. A little profit is even better. The main concern is making sure that gift card exchange is trustworthy. I should mention a relatively new one that’s run by a friend of the blog. I think there might be some strict volume requirements to remain an active user there but, considering I have no personal experience with it, I have no clue.  I’ve just known them to be honest people. They might be at capacity, but it’s worth checking out and adding to your list of options – if you’re into third-party gift cards.

Travel
One thing that seems to still be in its Rain Man peak is flight deals. And occasional hotel + flight package promos. Really keep your eyes open (particularly if you’re flexible with dates). Websites like TheFlightDeal and SecretFlying keep popping up. Typically, you need to book those deals quickly. Be ready to jump if a great opportunity comes along. For some of you, it’s also worth keeping an eye on the travel category of Slickdeals and the Mileage Run deals on Flyertalk.

Blogs
I’ve gotten the question recently – “Which blogs would you recommend once you’re gone?” From a deal perspective, it’s not really necessary to read a long list of them anymore. The good stuff is posted on dozens (maybe even hundreds) of different websites. At this point, Doctor Of Credit pretty much has everything covered. He does one thing I disagree with (which I’ll talk about in a second), but he doesn’t lie to readers. I’m not aware of many other blogs with trustworthy opinions on credit cards. TravelBloggerBuzz is another good one that comes to mind. It’s run by a man named George (who knows he’s driven me nuts on more than one occasion). But I respect that he’ll never mislead you. Neither guy will push you into bad deals. And, as far as I know, that’s still a rare thing for blogs. I can’t say for sure…my focus has been on the people here. Just be selective about who you take advice from. As always, I’m not a fan of Bowtie, The Points Guy, or most of Boarding Area.

Before moving on, I’d like to speak to any bloggers who are reading. Probably my last opportunity to do so here. I know a few of you and am pretty sure there are others lurking in the shadows (possibly in a creepy Hamburglar mask or something). Bloggers, since I’m on my way out of the world of miles and points blogs, let me ask something that I’ve always been curious about…

When you see higher bonuses on a card but talk up your inferior offer as “the best available” – how does that feel? Or, when you won’t post great offers because they don’t pay you – is that a strange sensation? Wait, I don’t actually care. Let’s do this another way…

Dear honest blogger who has chosen to link to those types of websites-
Why do you do it?
Allow me to answer that. We both know it’s not about a “hat tip.” It’s a big circle jerk you do for return traffic. Well, you don’t mislead readers on your website, right? So, take a stand and stop sending newbies to pimps. You know very well the only “person” you need to credit for a Hertz rental car promo is Hertz. That’s who “broke” the deal. A new Citibank card? Guess where that deal comes from…Citibank. You choose to see it a different way because you don’t want to make waves. But I’m asking this one thing of you on my way out. Take a stand. Protect your readers. Just because you’re not lying to them doesn’t mean you should send them to websites that will. At least think about it?

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