I like visiting hotels. I’m an architecture buff, of sorts, and Orlando, Florida, has some rather nice ones. When I was a Disney Cast Member in my 20s I would sometimes visit one of the hotels just to see what they were like. It was fun, but on a couple of occasions I was escorted out of the hotel by the security team.
Anyone care to guess why?
I wasn’t making a nuisance of myself. If anything, I was quieter than most of the guests because I was there to look, not talk. So how would an otherwise-well-behaved 22-year-old get bounced out of a hotel? In short, I didn’t look like I fit in.
My off-duty clothing was often shorts, worn-out boat shoes, and a t-shirt–and not always a particularly well-kept one, either. That, and I just looked like I was loitering, which in fact I was. I obviously wasn’t spending money and I was just poking around looking at things. Maybe I looked like a criminal casing out the joint. Eventually I learned a few things just through osmosis:
- I needed to upgrade my wardrobe. Once I moved up to golf shirts and khaki shorts, I was halfway toward looking respectable.
- I sped up my walking pace. Why? Because it looked more like I had a reason to be there.
- I started speaking with the staff rather than acting like I was really not supposed to be there.
And I won’t lie to you: I still wander around hotels and other places that look interesting just because I like walking around attractive places. Yep–that’s me: the 46-year-old loiterer. But really the thing that has allowed me to wander around some hotels, convention centers, etc., is simply that my hair started growing grey. Combine the above behaviors with the beard, and I get fewer questioning looks and more “Sirs” wherever I visit. I’m a born tourist, I’ll take whatever breaks I can get.
Here’s the thing: while I use these little tricks to allow myself to play tourist, they also work when I’m attending a conference or public event: consider it a form of acting. If I act like I belong there, people will start to believe it. The trick is learning to blend in with the crowd.