Time to ship out once again. Coincidentally enough, it has also been almost exactly one year since I left Gabon. I do not miss it. Not at all. But Congo was nice. I'll see everyone in seven or eight or nine or maybe ten weeks. Turkmenistan is a mysterious place after all.
For the first time ever, I am sitting in an airport lounge, the exclusive haven of frequent flyer club members. I was able to accumulate enough miles under United's MileagePlus program to earn Premier Gold status. It helps that every round trip to and from Turkmenistan is over 16K miles. It is perhaps a bit amusing that almost all those miles occurred on non-United flights but instead were flown with their Lufthansa, a Star Alliance partners. The Premier Gold status also grants me a secondary benefit of being a Star Alliance Gold member so I can take advantage of Lufthansa lounges in Frankfurt as well. It helps that United actually hubs in San Francisco so I might actually take advantage of whatever rewards are available. Amusingly enough, I was able to reach Gold Medallion status with Delta as a result of some carry-over miles from when I was in Hungary and travel I did while in Gabon (since Air France is a Delta partner on SkyTeam. There's even a Wikipedia entry on the different airline alliance programs. And yes, they all have silly names like Medallion and Premier and Elite and Dividend for the status levels in their programs. What makes it amusing is that I have yet to fly with Delta (or their partners) since reaching Gold Medallion status and since it is an annual thing, that privilege has now lapsed.
Back to the lounge, which you have no doubt pictured as the center of unbridled decadence and excess. Shockingly, there are no swimming pools of caviar or old ladies carrying around tiny dogs or even monocles. It's just a bunch of regular looking people though they are slightly better dressed than the average traveler. Of course, we no longer live in an era where people wear dresses and suits when they fly. The only times I have ever flown while wearing a suit have been purely strategic since I was going for short business trips and traveled with only a backpack so of course the suit had to be worn. It's amazing how far a different shirt will go towards making it look like you're not otherwise wearing the same clothes over and over.
The lounge is just a lounge. Some complimentary snacks and drinks are available. There are chairs and tables and desks. Most people are reading. It's just more comfortable than a normal terminal waiting area with comfier seats and more abundant power outlets. Arguably, the view is slightly worse though that's rather specific to the location. It is much quieter which is nice for the blogging but does also mean I get to do less of my favorite airport activity of people watching. Everyone here seems incredibly boring. There's none of the great human drama that can unfold when you are surrounded by the hubbub of people scurrying about trying to make their family vacation or business trip or whatever other reasons people travel. Sitting in this lounge, I will not be witness to that epic meltdown I once saw in Denver when a family missed their flight and the couple started arguing about whose fault it was. No excited youth sports team going to whatever (inter)national competition. No eager-eyed college-aged students or recent graduates trekking about. Instead, I'm surround by a bunch of staid middle-aged travel veterans and business travelers. It's like looking at my future self and realizing I'm incredibly boring. Wonderful.