This was supposed to be my first weekend at home in over a month, and a 10-day stretch without any travel. Weather had somewhat different plans for me.
Last night around 10:45pm, I lost power. A major, brief storm took down power for millions of households on top of 100 degree heat.
I went to bed, woke up in the morning around 6:30am, and still had no power. An hour later I started planning.
I had no internet at home, but my Verizon MiFI was functioning (of course it has limited battery life, and I had no power to recharge it). Power was out at my offices.
My phone was fully charged, and I rang up Hyatt — the nearby Arlington and Crystal City properties had no power.
I rang up Starwood, there was a 15 minute wait time to speak with an agent. Local landlines were down, we couldn’t get responses from some hotels to figure out whether they had power or not. The closest hotels, Westin Arlington and Le Meridien Arlington, were without power. The Sheraton Crystal City was down. Even the Westins in Reston and near Dulles were non-responsive.
The best we could find that were open were the Element Dulles and the Westin Washington City Center (the old Vista hotel where DC’s then-mayor Marion Barry was videotaped smoking crack with a prostitute). The Westin in Georgetown was fully booked.
I didn’t really want to go into the District, I’ve found power to be less reliable and it takes longer to come back online. My worry that additional power outrages would flow through the system even with the storm passed wasn’t entirely unfounded, watching my local power company’s outage summary, most of the area was without power and just as that number fell a bit it would bounce back up by a few thousand as time passed.
I called back to Hyatt and while they thought that the Hyatt Reston might be without power (with landlines out this was difficult to confirm for certain), they had just managed to get through to the Hyatt Fair Lakes in Fairfax.
The property had power. I could see online that they had a AAA Breakfast rate available for $71. Decision time. At that price point I made two decisions — to book two nights rather than just one, thinking that as the morning wore on hotels would be selling out and that with the bulk of the region without power it could well be even longer than that before my own power was restored; and to also book a day rate prior to the start of that two night stay for an extra $50.
Shortly afterward I arrived at the Fair Lakes Hyatt and found that they did indeed have power and air conditioning. They were refrigerated and fully staffed. So they had food.
They didn’t have any internet, their reservation systems were down. They told me they were sold out (I was glad I booked when I did, and clearly they weren’t actively managing their inventory if they offered up nearly last room availability at the $71 price point).
The front desk clerk was telling folks they could not offer early check-in. Many were angry. I did have a day rate, I had a 10am check-in and it was after that time. Their system wouldn’t show open rooms or clean rooms, they couldn’t even pull up my reservation.
I gave them my confirmation number, I told them my room rate. They found a room, sent someone up to check that it was empty and clean, and let me in. They couldn’t create any keys.
But the room was comfortable and clean. I could recharge my devices. I could even watch television. I plugged in my Verizon MiFi, I now had internet (internet came back after just a couple of hours).
I called down for room service. It took quite awhile for someone in room service to answer. It took awhile for someone at the front desk to answer in order to give me the internet password (free for Diamond members) once that came back online.
Guest demands were extraordinary. And the hotel staff performed marvelously under pressure. They were ever pleasant and helpful. They did what they could with hobbled systems. Plenty of people were demanding to check in and I never once even heard them say, “Sorry, check-in time isn’t until 3pm.” They just needed folks to have patience when they wanted rooms at noon.
The room was not >exceptionally large for a standard guest room, but it was arranged as a junior suite with a piece of furniture separating the living area from the bedroom and a swiveling television in order to share it between both rooms.
The bathroom was fairly standard, a curved shower curtain rod for more room in the shower, but the light in the bathroom didn’t really illuminate the shower well.
These are the details I normally share in a review. I couldn’t have cared less. I had power and air conditioning! I had internet! For $71. I was even earning stay credit, sure I’m more than halfway towards requalifying for Hyatt Diamond status but this would still be of help.
The room service concept here is that you can do “to go” or “delivery” from the hotel’s “NoVa Market”.
I certainly think myself fortunate for being in a position to pick up and head to a hotel, but I realized as others in my neighborhood were fretting where to go and what to do that for many folks similarly-situated it doesn’t even occur, because hotels aren’t a part of ‘normal life’ and heading to a local hotel isn’t the first place their mind would go. Maybe power will come back! Indeed, maybe it would. But with temperatures headed north of 100, and with a desire to salvage some productivity for my weekend, it was an easy decision and one I was glad I made early while rooms were still available.