In Through The Out Door
Hotel infiltration for fun, profit, and victory

Grace notes of fresh roses and floor wax drift along on blasts of air conditioning, mingling with the rusty smell of hot cement coming from the sidewalk outside. The lobby is jammed with noise, motion, and light: luggage racks clacking along marble floor, the chime of bells, people checking in, checking out, rushing around. None of them notice the slight young man wearing a charcoal suit and sunglasses.

See also...
... by Sandy Brundage
... in the Scope section
... from December 27, 1999

Glancing at the event schedule posted near the elevators, he merges with the stream of people until he nears a door marked "Emergency Exit -- Alarm Will Sound." For two minutes he examines the wiring. Then, slipping aside, he nudges the door open to silence and steps into the skeleton of the hotel, climbing the stairs to a hidden world of engine rooms and desolate attics.

The Waldorf-Astoria is an odd setting for war. The foot soldiers wear suits and pack bathing suits, operating under the banners of "The Jinx Project" and "Infiltration." Their weapons consist of an air of confidence backed by trigger-ready wits. Hotels like New York's Hilton and Toronto's Royal York are the battlefields. The soldiers pick their targets carefully, favoring the Hilton for its rooftop viewing and the Marriott Marquis for party crashing. Hotels also make prime training grounds, being safe, warm, and topped with saunas.

Two or three cocktails, a suit and sunglasses (or a tuxedo for black-tie events), and the raid is ready to begin. Mental toughness is just as important as tangible props. "Convince yourself," says one Infiltration member. "Know in your heart of hearts that you have every right to be there. One time I was on an elevator at a luxury hotel when some kids got on. I thought, 'these troublemaking kids have no right to be in this hotel. I bet they aren't even staying here.' So naturally if any staff member hinted that I might not be a guest, I would be outraged."

The agents of Jinx take a hotel raid seriously. "We don't do raids just to pass the time. We're busy people," explains LB Deyo. "Upper-class intelligence. Business and corporate intelligence. The people who stay in upper-echelon hotels are often the people we need to find out about." The people they need to find out about, or the Enemies of Jinx, are a scrap-heap of organizations including Freemasons, Mensa, Mother's Cafe, and the PTA.

Jinx ties the groups together by pointing out, "Whether their crimes are aesthetic, as with Birkenstock, political, as with the Khmer Rouge, or spiritual, as with the Scientologists, these subversives have worked for the corruption and the ruin of humanity and human culture!"

Infiltration, a "dis-organization" according to its members, has a much shorter list of enemies: boredom and "Do Not Enter" signs.

Don't cameras and guards secure a hotel from invasion? "People rely on the sheep mentality of the masses to keep their stuff safe," says Ultraviolet of Infiltration. Big Brother is often practically deaf and blind. Cameras go unwatched, or rotate frames too fast for the eye to see. It's a fifty-fifty shot that door alarms aren't connected.

But sometimes Big Brother scores. "I'm banned for life from the Waldorf," LB said. "Years ago I and my partner H.G. were pinched coming down from the roof, our suits soaked with rain. The top floor of the Waldorf, where ambassadors and kings sleep, has its own manned security desk." A mug shot pinned to the hotel's "Most Wanted" bulletin board testifies to the infamy of LB's passage.

For the Infiltration faction, the spoils of war are luxury, excitement, and conference leftovers -- everything from coffee and sandwiches to laptop computers and video cameras. No talented Infiltrator looks suspicious walking out of a hotel with a suitcase packed with bedding, notepaper, bathrobes, and clock radios.

Some pleasures must be stolen behind enemy lines. At Toronto's Royal York Hotel, suites like the Montebello Room offer a shower, comfy couch, and free shows of soft-core porn courtesy of the pay-per-view TV channels. Then there's the health club. The smooth infiltrator can request a fluffy towel from the attendant and enjoy a dip in the pool before roasting in the sauna. The excursion wraps up with a four-course dinner. Most luxury hotels have a restaurant that bills to the guest's room. Snatch a victim's name and room number from the exercise room sign-in book and the meal is on the house.

Project Jinx, on the other hand, relishes the surreal. One evening at the Hilton, while a pair of agents scouted a hallway, a butler beckoned with "Aquí, aquí!" They followed him into a duplex suite, with bay windows framed by a spiral staircase. Around the corner were 15 elegantly dressed guests, sipping cocktails between small talk. But the war leaves no room for social visits. The Jinx agents quietly nodded good evening and slipped out.

Back from the frontlines, both camps reflect on why they choose to fight the good fight. Ultraviolet believes "it's about finding holes, finding out what people want to hide and to what lengths they will go to hide it. It's about the humor in the complete lack of logic behind locking things up and down."

Humor is far from the mind of Jinx. "Wouldn't I," asks LB Deyo, "have rather been beside a warm fire with a beautiful woman and a bottle of cognac, or poring over Swift?" His question lingers, staining the air with visions of fluffy towels and sipping martinis with the New York elite. "The only moral act in war is to end it, and we know no acceptable way to end our secret war with the Enemies of Jinx than to win it."

Sandy Brundage has stalked adventure in North America, Europe, the Middle East, and odd corners of cyberspace.