Thursday, April 8, 1999

F2F Fools

by Laura Meluch

My mother's cousin took me out to lunch the other day. "So let me get this straight," she said. "You're flying clear across the country, alone, to a city you've never been to, and you're going to see people you've met on the (gasp) Internet?!"

Well, yeah, that's exactly what I had in mind. I tried to explain to her that I have been conversing with these people on The Motley Fool message boards for nearly a year, and although they live in other parts of the country, my friendships with them are as real as if they lived here in Ann Arbor. I am just as delighted to see a message from one of my Fool friends as I am to get a call from one of my local friends. It was unthinkable not to take some time out of a planned trip to meet these Fools in person.

So off I went to Los Angeles, where I met the people attached to the screen names I have become so fond of. They were every bit as pleasant in person as they are on the boards, and we had a marvelous time. We gabbed about everything from finances to love to which brand of beer appeared in Manet's paintings. The feeling for me was as if I had been out to dinner with these people many times, not as if I had just met them. The whole experience was really wonderful.

But you don't have to take a special trip to meet Fools in person. There are probably some in your own backyard! We have now held two Ann Arbor get-togethers, and are planning another for May. It's wonderful to meet with people who are like-minded, but who have diverse backgrounds and ideas. Not to mention the pleasure of sharing a few laughs and stock ideas!

It's easy to nurture friendships made on the Fool message boards without ever meeting anyone in person. But if you have even the slightest inclination, I urge you to find some Fools in your area and round them up for a meal or a gathering. It's not hard to do, and the rewards are immense. To get started, try announcing the idea on the boards you frequent, or post on the Folly in "Your State" board. If a little town like Ann Arbor has Fools, I just know there'll be some in your area, too. Just pick a date and a place, and the let the magic begin.

The Motley Fool certainly has enriched my life in quantifiable ways, through the 13 Steps and all the other information available here. But for me, the real rewards are those which can't be tallied up in any spreadsheet. The serious discussions, the jokes, the diverse views of life, and the genuine warmth of friendships made here have made me a far richer person than any ten-bagger stock could possibly hope to do.

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