Don’t worry, be happy. The elevator played it each and every time we reached the lobby floor of the AILA National Fall conference hotel. I consider it the theme song for this year’s conference. How apropos. Despite the fact that our conversations and panels were dominated by the fact that adjudications by USCIS, DOS and CBP have never been tougher, we banded together and taxed our brains to devise solutions to make things better. Truth be told, yes I am worried, but our unity, creative ideas, and resolve made me happy.
Our location played a part in this. In addition to the educational programs offered, every AILA conference that I have attended has something that stands out as particularly memorable.
For example, I vividly remember wading through flash floods in the middle of the day in New Orleans, whales interrupting a BOG meeting in Hawaii, elevators that never came in San Francisco, and sheer panic in the eyes of 2,500 immigration attorneys in Orlando when the visa numbers suddenly went current.
This year’s memory will definitely be the conference’s location – The Curtis Hotel. It is a themed retro hotel where the elevators speak, the bathroom stalls bear double entendres that can’t help but make you blush or laugh and, where every floor is themed.
I got off the elevator on my floor the first day after flying for hours and was a bit stunned to hear it say out loud “one hit wonders.” At first I thought I was being insulted. However, as I walked to my room I passed a mirror that said “I’m too sexy for my shirt” and along the corridor there were posters of the songs Disco Duck and Kung Foo Fighting.
There were also plexiglass boxes holding real Billy Beer with actual pull tabs and a herd of Pet Rocks. Too bad they didn’t have Klick Klacks. Anyone remember those? Solid acrylic hard balls held together by a string that you waved around to smash each other. Great fun till children bonked themselves in the head full speed and got seriously injured. If only I had been a plaintiff’s products liability attorney at the time.
Other floors in the hotel – chick flicks, horror movies, famous couples, and classic tv comedy just to name a few. Truth be told, I rode the elevators just to discover the secret of each floor. Ok, Eloise-like was I and it was more fun than the Plaza.
Even the gift area (you always have to check out the hotel shop) did not have the usual array of fake watches, scarves, and t-shirts. Instead, it had retro toys and candy. I had to buy the paper button dots. Sadly, they did not have those little waxy bottles with a thimble full of colored water. I used to love those.
Our panels and meetings were held in rooms entitled “Peek-a-Boo” and “Duck, Duck, Goose.” Absolutely fitting venues for discussing respectively FDNS site visits and L-1B kitchen sink RFEs.
When you got off the elevator on the conference room floor you heard children playing the swimming pool game Marco Polo. I couldn’t help but think: Lucky for him that he ended up in Asia since if he had landed here he clearly would not have been able to prove his intent to return home, that he wasn’t intending to “work” or that the new fangled pasta-ish thing he discovered and wanted to import would produce enough revenue within one year to be substantial.
While it all sounds terribly kitsch and over the top, it worked because the hotel doesn’t take itself seriously. Frankly, I think it fostered our productiveness since it offset the seriousness of our discussions and purpose. Laughter is truly the best medicine.
It was a great conference. In the face of adversity we were productive, received the best continuing education possible and even managed to giggle.