Did that guy have a tail?

I spent the end of last week in San Antonio at the Texas Society of Architects annual conference. And although this was the first in-person conference in two years, everything – and I mean everything – felt pretty much the same. Continuing education sessions. Keynotes. Tours. Networking. Trade show. Just like always, with the exception that most of us were wearing masks and rooms were set up in a semi-social distancing configuration.

Plus we still looked the same. Between backpacks, black clothing, and sketch pads, anyone in town could play a very boring game of “spot the architect.” Of course the conference badges dangling around our necks was a dead giveaway, especially as you walked to dinner not realizing you were still wearing yours.

Just like normal.

However, you don’t always walk away from architecture conferences with the sense that you’ve done this all before.

I attended a Design for Aging conference sponsored by the American Institute of Architects around 10 years ago. This was at the height of the aging-in-place trend as Baby Boomers started retiring and more and more were opting to stay in their homes. Yet the conference was small enough that organizers were able to have the entire experience in a single hotel. What we didn’t know was that there was another group being hosted that weekend.

On day two, as we were heading into morning breakouts, you couldn’t help but notice the new group of conference attendees checking in. The ones with tails. And ears. And fur suits. Turns out that we would be sharing space with a Fur Con – a Furry Convention.

So yes, that guy did have a tail. But he wasn’t the only one. And what had started out as a staid and stuffy event became much more interesting just from a people-watching perspective. While we were in our sessions discussing accessible showers and how to create wider hallways, the Furries were in the other rooms discussing…

Okay, no one knew what was being discussed. I’m not sure anyone felt brave enough to wander over and find out. A part of me was pretty confident though that every architect Googled “furry” at least once. And a couple of Furries did make it into one of the keynote presentations.

Unfortunately, the best San Antonio could do on our second day was kick off the Big Texas Comicon, which meant crossing paths with a lot of cosplay characters, often with their parents in tow. Their expo did look much livelier than our trade show though. Perhaps we should have swapped some attendees and vendors, just to spice things up a bit.

But there’s no way I would have worn a tail.

Cover image: HuffPost | (Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images)