Archive for July 19th, 2010

As you know, my latest Layla goal is to learn how to get into and out of places I don’t belong. 

blue bear

Well, secretly penetrating a members-only national convention seems to be a requisite skill.  A character in a movie or on TV or in books sneaks past security to mingle with the dues-paying crowd in a convention center or swank hotel.  Once in, he or she must then meet with someone or steal something or whatever.

Luckily for me, Denver has the honking big Colorado Convention Center.  It draws a lot of national and even international groups, which mean I’ve got some handy opportunities to practice gate-crashing.   That’s why, on Sunday morning, I put on some business casual clothes and went down to see if I could get in and snoop among convention-goers. 

You know what I discovered?  It’s really easy.

There were two conferences meeting this weekend:  NASFAA (National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators) and a national Catholic youth group.

big brother smaller

Okay, neither one could get your pulse pumping with excitement, and neither one has any reason to employ beefed-up security.  But hey, this was merely a practice run so I had to work with what was on the calendar.  (The upcoming Unmanned Aircraft Systems conference sounds much more thriller-appropriate.)

A few obvious facts:  security cameras were everywhere so I avoided acting or looking fishy.  On the other hand, only a few guards were around and they appeared to be a) very bored and b) primarily concerned with assisting people.

You know how movies show people choosing their nametags off tables?  That doesn’t seem to happen at large conventions.   Instead there was a line of booths with  letters of the alphabet posted on signs, and people lined up at them according to the first letter of their last names.  Two clerks worked each booth, and the name tags were kept beneath the booths’ tables.  Obviously, my swiping a tag was out of the question. 

On the bright side, I didn’t seem to need a tag.  Some NAFAA people weren’t wearing one,  perhaps because their conference was just beginning.  But if a tag had been necessary I could have made my own.  Within minutes of walking around and looking at people, I had memorized how the name and other words were printed on the tags and where the logo was placed.  A Kinko’s/Fedex office was only a few blocks away.  I could’ve skipped over there, designed my fake name tag, gotten the logo from the organization’s website, and stuck my design in a standard plastic sheath.  It really would have been that easy.

name tag

I also could have attended the big opening presentation and fitted right in with everyone.  I know this because I walked into the large lecture hall where the techies were setting up their film and sound equipment, and convention goers were starting to gather.  People smiled at me liked I belonged. 

People also smiled at me at the Catholic youth group.  That conference, in contrast, was ending with a mass in another hall.  Being a lapsed Catholic, I knew what to do to blend in (what prayers to say, the cues to kneel, stand, or sit), but out of respect I only remained for a few minutes.  Although it appeared to be a welcoming group, I had still taken the precaution of picking up some free brochures at the booths outside the hall (on Catholic colleges and monasteries, etc.) and was carrying them about in a visible but casual manner.

All in all, my convention-crashing experience wasn’t a heart-racing experience, but it was kinda fun and I learned a few Layla tricks.  The thing is, I’m not at all accustomed to misleading people, however innocently, or pretending to be someone I’m not.  So maybe such minor forays, with steadily increasing intensity and challenges, will be good for me.  Like free acting classes in the theater of (fictional) life.