Although this post is about our arrival in New York for Legaltech, it is not really about Legaltech. What you hope for after a long flight is a hushed hotel lobby and a friendly receptionist welcoming you to the rooms you booked months ago…..
As we draw up outside our hotel in Manhattan it is evident that something is going on. Crowds of mainly young people line the steps and gather on each side of the lobby, held back only by a single rope. A few relaxed-looking NYPD officers stand around. There are a some large men, nearly as broad as they are tall, wearing those curly earpieces which signify Security. There is a lot of excitement, but it is well-mannered, restrained excitement.
There are four of us – me, my sons Charlie and William, and Charlie’s wife Kat. As we struggle by with our enormous quantities of luggage, I overhear something. “The Grannies”. How sweet, I think, all these kids assembled for their grannies.
“Grammys”, said one of my more switched-on companions. “It’s the Grammys tomorrow”.
The Grammys, I later find, is some kind of award for achievement in the music industry. Some of its contenders are apparently visiting in this hotel and the crowds are there to meet them. Not their grannies. And not us.
As we fight our way down the lobby, I take a wrong turn. Beside me, behind the rope, are young people with a kind of pleading, yearning look in their eyes, holding out books or pieces of paper and pens. Very gratifying, I think, and more than I deserve. I realise then that they are muttering “Jamie, Jamie” and I look round. Just behind me is one of those people whom you know instinctively to be someone of significance, immaculately turned out in what Americans call a “tuxedo”. He acknowledges the crowd without giving any autographs. I feel somewhat in the way, as one might feel when caught between a pack of hyenas and an antelope.
I push my way across to the other side of the lobby. “How did you get on with Jamie Foxx?” asks Kat. I knew vaguely of Jamie Foxx as an actor (from reading about his film Django Unchained) but knew no more. Wikipedia says he is an “actor, singer, songwriter, producer, and comedian”, which seems an extravagant amount of talent for one man; no wonder the crowds come out for him. The degree of access seems very high, and the visible security ridiculously low for such a star in a country where people shoot you on a whim.
At reception we meet a problem. We have booked two rooms and a suite, but the hotel claimed to know only of three rooms and there is no suite available (lest it sounds rather grand that we go around booking suites in Manhattan, our purpose there was to film video interviews in front of green screens and that takes a lot of space; the suite is taken by my youngest son Will who turns it into a studio).
…turns into this:
The receptionist isn’t interested in our protests, indeed is interested in nothing but gawping at Jamie Foxx. “You’ll have to ring your travel agent” she says in a bored tone.
“But it’s 3.00am over there”, I said. The receptionist couldn’t care less, and resumes staring at Jamie Foxx.
We push our luggage to the elevators. As the door closes, a woman says “You’ve dropped a bag”. She was right, but by then we were committed to the 28th floor.
I go straight down again, but there is no sign of the bag among the milling crowd of devoted fans and hard-faced security men. It has in it some of our lighting equipment and my smart shoes. I assume that the bag has been taken off by security and is probably even now being subjected to a controlled explosion – that is what I would have done if I found an unclaimed bag in a crowd like that. After a few minutes I find it in the hands of a security man.
We look again at the booking confirmation. It has an emergency out-of-hours UK phone number. I ring it and it is answered immediately. An efficient-sounding man says he will get on to the hotel. The agent is DialAFlight and I cannot recommend them highly enough. We had our suite by the morning, along with a refund for the night without it.
Later, I go down to reception again. Another obvious star is being escorted into the hotel. Someone from his retinue says something to him, and he snarls in reply. I overhear his name and look him up. The public image is one of happy smiles; no snarling there.
The “tuxedo” and accompanying bow-tie fascinates me. No Englishman (no-one I know anyway – it may be different when the Association of Motor Traders has its annual bash in a “ballroom” off the M42) would want his bow-tie to look that immaculate, lest someone assumes that it is clipped on.
I caution you against referring to “smart shoes” at a tech conference. To me, that means Oxfords from Church’s. Techie people assume it means that they are packed with electronic wizardry, which brings scope for misunderstanding.