On looking respectable, whatever that means – a chess travel memory

In the summer of 1987 I took a Greyhound bus (“the long dog”) to play in the state championship. The two-day, six-player invitational was to be held in room 310, Davidson Hall, University of Louisville. The plan was for me to stay one night at a La Quinta hotel near campus and then hopefully bum a room at the home of a local player or organizer.

So there I stood in the registration lobby at the La Quinta, with the two ladies behind the desk nicely telling me that corporate policy said a 20-year-old can’t sign for a room.

No doubt this was a no-party rule designed to preserve the hotel from being destroyed by U of L students. But it put me in a spot. There were no cell phones, I had no “plan B”. So there I stood, clueless. I wasn’t the sort to bang on the desk and demand to see a manager.

As it turned out I had three things going for me: 1. I was polite. 2. I was carrying a backpack with a rolled-up chessboard sticking out of it. 3. And this turned out to be the secret weapon: I had a crew cut.

I may have looked like a dork, but it worked in my favor. I definitely did NOT look like a hard-core partier bent on destruction of property. So apparently one of the women sized me up and made a policy-breaking decision, but what’s interesting is how she expressed it. She exclaimed “You’re in the military, aren’t you son!”

I demurred, but they proceeded as if I had said yes. Afterwards I realized I had missed a social cue – they weren’t looking for an answer to the question. They just wanted to have a handy explanation in case they later had to justify why they rented me the room.

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2 thoughts on “On looking respectable, whatever that means – a chess travel memory

  1. Maybe hotel policies have changed since the 70s. I recall driving from the University of Vermont to play in the Central New England Open in Leominster. I got a room and shared it with 4 middle school and high aged kids. No wild parties or drinking, but lots of pillow fights. Those were the days.

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