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Being Official

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When in doubt, look in charge.

“The key,” I said, “is to walk confidently ahead, moving deliberately, and generally looking like you own the place.”

A business associate and I were entering the hotel. About a half-hour earlier I had assured him that this was the home of the restaurant. A bit of road construction and some missing signage conspired with some heavy traffic to foil our timely arrival. Normally this would not be such a problem but we had in fact been invited to the dinner at the revolving restaurant on the top floor of the building after having delivered an important talk to an important audience. We took the invitation to mean that we knocked it out of the proverbial park. We didn't want to look too casual about the invitation that our hosts were certainly under no obligation to extend.

Once inside my associate asked if I knew where we were going. As I dispensed my wisdom about a successful arrival, I marched boldly forward, as if I knew where we were headed. Hotel staff greeted us pleasantly and all before us seemed to part, leaving a clear path to an elevator. Voilà! Smoove as budduh. Look at me! I'm in charge! I know where I'm going!

Conveniently, the elevator has buttons for the directions of up and down, and just above the “up” button is another marked “R,” as in “restaurant.” I thus pressed the button, which helped to maintain the illusion that I had any idea where I was going.

That got me thinking about other times that I have had to get around but in areas that are meant to be more security-conscious.

Security people know that acting like you belong is a great way to get around, so they devise little checkpoints to make sure. You can't just pretend to belong, you have to bear certain accoutrements, often in the form of a badge or a uniform.

In such circumstances, it is not the content of the credential that matters. The appearance of any official-looking credential combined with the presence needed to get around is often sufficient for achieving the desired end.

I often wonder how many people never notice anything out of place. I wonder how many are in fact paying attention but just don't care enough to say or to do anything. I wonder how many people are paying attention and care enough if only they were in a situation with an actual threat at hand.

In any case I never cease to be amazed at how easily one can get around just by projecting the right image. In my line of work I find that I am often given various types of credentials to allow me access to secured areas. I am rarely able to resist the temptation to see just how official all of this official-looking stuff has to be. In many cases, the answer turns out to be “not much.” Just make it look good from a distance. Almost no one will look to see what your badge actually says.

Meanwhile, back at the Radisson Hotel Cincinnati Riverfront, my associate and I arrived fashionably late. We were received warmly. It was a good evening. Even without a fake ID.

Created by cmcurtin
Last modified 2011-11-07 02:26 AM
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