Spy Games: Caught on Camera!

What George Orwell's 1984 could teach you about your next hotel stay

When I was in high school, required reading included George Orwell’s 1984. At the time (okay, it was a lot of years ago), 1984 seemed like a long way off and the ideas in the novel seemed more science fiction than prediction. Most of the book’s concepts have, in fact, borne out to be just that. But not all of them. The concept of Big Brother, unnerving and alarming from a high schooler’s perspective in the ’70s, seemed far-fetched. Well, maybe not. It seems the future is here.

My husband and I traveled to Boston a few weeks ago to pick up my daughter from college. We stayed at a nice hotel on Boston Common. After loading the car with boxes and boxes of dorm crap, the car was full to the gills. Next day, when we checked out of the hotel, the bellman had to do some rearranging to get our luggage into the packed car. I watched him as he pulled out some things, rearranged and put everything back into the car. We departed for the long drive back to Philadelphia. After unpacking all the freshman-year nonsense (a box full of plastic frat party cups? Really?) back at home, I noticed that my husband’s umbrella was missing. Hmm. What could have happened? I figured it was removed for the re-configuring at the hotel and never returned. I called the hotel.

The security department at the Four Seasons was courteous and assured me that, if the umbrella were located, they would let me know. Jamie, the security guy, took my number and promised a call as soon as they had investigated the incident. I waited. About an hour later, Jamie called back. “Ms. Capriotti, we have you and your family on camera exiting the elevator at the lobby, checking out and exiting the hotel. We have reviewed the film of our bellman. He removed a box marked “Dorm Crap” and replaced all items back into the vehicle. Nothing was left behind, so I’m sorry to say that we do not have your umbrella.” Jamie went on to describe our car, the tag number and what each of us was wearing in detail. Needless to say, I was completely creeped out. Had I pulled a wedgie out of my pants anywhere along that route? Picked my nose? Sung along to the Muzak?

I researched the subject and discovered that, depending on where you live, you are captured on camera, on average, between 300 and 500 times a day. On average? If you factor in Sasquatch and all of Alaska, those of us living in a metropolitan area are at the 500 end. Now most of these “captures” are closed-circuit video, the stuff no one looks at unless they’re investigating, say, a missing umbrella, so the creep factor goes down slightly.

As for said umbrella, I mused to the security guy that I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what happened to it, unless it somehow fell out of the car when we stopped at a rest stop along the way, maybe the one in New York.

“Maybe,” offered Jamie, “let me review the tape and I’ll get back to you.”