Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Mr. McGinty goes to Washington (cut short edition)

As some of you may remember, I was fortunate enough to be selected to receive a scholarship to attend the annual Sojourners Convention. The convention was to open on June 26 and run through this Wednesday. It had compiled an impressive collection of speakers - ranging from Sen. Barack Obama to Sen. Rick Santorum to DNC Chairman Howard Dean to Sen. Sam Brownback to Sen. Hillary Clinton.

I was pretty fired up.

So, what happened?

Well, how about some of the worst flooding in the Washington, D.C. area in years.

After arriving Sunday night and spending much of the evening in my hotel room watching Flash Flood Warnings scroll across the bottom of every channel, I awoke Monday morning to discover the Metro was shut down for the day, several government buildings were closed, taxi service was sporadic and bus service was limited (and backed up due to the closing of the Metro, with lines stretching three blocks long).

So my options to reach the site of the convention - located across the city from my hotel - were limited and non-existent. With five to six inches of additional rain possible over the next 24 hours, I made the educated decision - as did half of the convention's attendees apparently - to get the heck out of town.

What followed was an epic ordeal at Ronald Reagan International Airport, where everyone and their uncle is literally fleeing the city. After switching my flight from Wednesday to Monday at 1:45 p.m., I arrive at 10:30 a.m. and join the line for check-in. At noon, I'm finally off to the screening process. And I was fortunate compared to some folks. A lot of people in line ultimately missed their flights because of the wait, while one poor soul behind me had spent the past 20 hours at the airport because he had several flights cancelled due to weather.

We board the plane around 2:10 p.m. (though, I must say, the folks at Reagan International Airport had oddly put at Gate 3A the plane for Greensboro, N.C., while at Gate 3B was my plane for Greenville, S.C. ... safe to say, with a muddled intercom system, this led to much confusion). Twice we taxi over to takeoff, and twice weather shuts us down. We don't get up into the air until 4 p.m. and are forced to fly a different corridor due to the storms along the East Coast.

I don't get to Greenville until a little after 5 p.m. and back home until after 6:30 p.m. (upon which I made a quick journey to Cali-N-Titos to pick up dinner considering I hadn't had an actual meal in about 48 hours).

But if I told you just about the ordeal at the airport and the severe flooding, I'd be selling you considerably short. Because, originally, it wasn't the flooding which prompted me to consider leaving early. No ... that distinction belongs solely to the Hotel Harrington (as an aside, The Wife said I should have known what I was getting into simply by visiting the web site).

To say the Hotel Harrington is a 'modest' hotel is as grand of an understatement as saying that the character of Lewis Skolnick was a tad dorky. The lobby is the size of, well, say the coat closet in your house ... if your coat closet was staffed by a fairly agitated man of some unknown foreign nationality. The elevator lights (you know, the ones that denote the floors as you ride them) are hand-drawn, while the elevator itself is roughly as large as a shoe box.

My room was located in the far corner of the sixth floor and wasn't much bigger.

For my next trick, I will attempt a magical escape of this room.

It's also a tad warm in the room, and a little research reveals I have no control over the air conditioning. It's a central unit ... for the entire hotel. What I do have, however, is a large, bent metal pole protruding from the ceiling and oddly affixed (loosely) to the wall. Scribbled in pencil next to the affixed portion of the pole is the word 'On' with a crude arrow pointing up underneath it.


This is a bit disconcerting, but I figure I can live with that.

The following morning, I learn that because I checked in a day ahead of the rest of the group from the convention, I am being forced to check out and then re-check in at 4 p.m. I can't really comprehend this, and I don't think the guy at the front desk can comprehend me. We around and around on this, and I finally relent and head up to shower.

I'm also notified there's been some overbooking done at the hotel, so I can't necessarily be assured of getting a room. So I'm now very concerned ...

Back at the room, I turn on the hot water so I can shave and, remembering it took a while to get going from the night earlier, I give it a few minutes. Well, a few minutes later ... the water is still ice cold. Turns out the hot water, for the entire hotel is out ... for an undetermined amount of time ('Could be days ... could be hours ... who knows?')

At this point, I begin to look for a new hotel ... only to find them either booked up or running for roughly $225 a night. So now, I'm seriously considering leaving ... though the lure of the convention itself is singlehandedly keeping me in my unsavory accommodations.

However, the updates on the severe weather coupled with the non-guarantee that I'd, you know, have a room when I returned seal the deal. So thanks, but no thanks ... I'm going home.

And that's that. A promising trip cut short, but, hey, everything works out for a reason I suppose.

Is there a lesson involved? Perhaps listen to your wife's advice when it comes to a hotel, though I kinda like the whole 'not-visiting-a-city-during-a-flooding-episode' one I picked up.


Blogger Amber said...

But Jmac, the Harrington was the first hotel in Washington DC to have air conditioning!

10:58 AM  
Blogger I'm a Realist said...

So the unofficial Democratic National Convention was cancelled? Without the upper class coming up with ideas to make the middle class feel bad about the lower class? What a shame.

I kid. I'm sure you were really looking forward to this, and I share in your disappointment that you were unable to attend.

Lesson to be learned: When nature rains on your parade (er, convention), flee nature.

11:48 AM  
Blogger Russell said...

Dude, you're lucky you weren't murdered in the shower. That is crazy. The picture reminds me of the hotel rooms Bly and I looked at while booking our room in Stockholm, Sweden. They were super-tiny and 200 bucks a night. It's such a business town that people stay for one night near the train station, so most hotels cater to short stay, non-vacation customers. Expensive and tiny. We finally found a suite for the same price and it rocked.

Anyway, sorry your trip didn't work out. That sucks. And I'm glad you didn't get murdered.

5:20 PM  

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