by Donna Solomon-Carter, Social Media and Project Specialist
My first Creating Change. My first of many things: first time traveling to the north, first time in frigid cold weather, first time in a MASSIVE hotel! Also the first time I got to travel with my wife. We are lucky that she has a job that affords her time off we can take together. We arrived a few days before the conference so we could sight-see and eat great Chicago food. First up? The coldest days Chicago has ever seen!
Since our outside adventures were postponed (and later canceled) by Mother Nature we spent a lot of time investigating the layout of the hotel and people watching. We saw the arrival and departure of families in town for a huge volley ball tournament. The constant in and out of flight crews from near and far. My favorite was the crew that dressed entirely in red. Even their suitcases matched.
By late Tuesday we started to see people who looked like us. And even lots more who didn’t. I was prepared for a wave of diversity I rarely have the opportunity to experience. We were sitting in the lounge by the fire attempting to defrost our toes and fingers when I overheard a hotel employee ask to see photo ID from a patron ordering a cocktail. The person said, “Better be prepared! You’re gonna see a LOT of that this week!”
Here we were in this HUGE property with more staff than I’ve seen anywhere preparing for over 3000 guests and events hosting an expected 5000 people at any one time. I couldn’t help but wonder what kind, if any, of training or information sharing happens for the staff. Does the Task Force assess the cultural competency of the properties they choose? Surely this particular Hilton is used to large crowds and conventions, right? Of ALL kinds, right?
So I asked wait staff, front desk staff, and the concierge desk and I was genuinely surprised by the answer: Yes. They have daily meetings to review the details for the day; how many check-ins are expected, what meetings are scheduled, if there are any large dining events planned. In addition the company does offer some kind of competency training. I was told a few great stories though. Like when the Cubs convention was held here and how enthusiastic that crowd was. And how very cool the hippies were last summer for the Grateful Dead Final Tour concerts at Soldier Field: “So peaceful and easy-going”. My favorite was the twinkle in her eye when she asked if I’d ever heard of a leather convention. It seems this property was full of very interestingly dressed folks here for a long, fun weekend. Said the sweet concierge person, “They are the NICEST people we ever have here!”
By Wednesday evening the main lobby and lounge were full of people from every corner of the country and even the world. Our communities convene annually for “the opportunity for thousands of committed people to develop and hone their skills, celebrate victories, build community, and to be inspired by visionaries of our LGBTQ movement and allied movements for justice and equality.” Mostly I was watching friends, old and new, hug, laugh, shriek with happiness, and generally just loving being together.