Last week at this time, I was catfished by a hotel. I’m sure the room had been/is used for nefarious reasons, such as meeting up with “Da Connect” á la Franklin and Teddy in Snowfall or people married to other people with three kids apiece sneaking around during their lunch break for a quickie.
Thursday, April 21, 2022, was Day 1 of my Birthday trip to DC. While I had been flirting with the idea for about a week or so, I went all in and hopped online just a few short days before departure to make arrangements for my solo trip. Main criteria while searching for a hotel on Expedia was to be within close proximity of things on my To-Do List: National Museum of African American History & Culture, indie Black-owned bookstore, MLK Memorial, and a comedy club.
The DC hotel prices made me gag. I booked a hotel in Arlington, VA, which according to Expedia was mere minutes away.
I thought when the driver of my red(!) cab pulled into the parking lot of the hotel, he was making a U-turn because he had missed his turn. We looked like we were in a strip mall. A hotel with a parking lot in the front?
It didn’t bode well when I said I was there to check-in, and the man pulled a stack of cardboard cards for me to manually fill out my information. In 2022. The counter was too high for me to see if there were computers back there. He pointed me in the direction of the elevator, which I did not want to enter. I had stuffed my purple Samsonite carry-on to the gills and did not want to take the stairs lugging it and a backpack strapped to my back. The elevator was rickety and reeked of cigarettes. in 2022. The door opened in slow-mo.
No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. This can’t be right. Still hoping for the best, I pulled open the front door to be greeted by an interior that resembled a rundown check-cashing place. It was dimly lit, the chairs in the “lobby” had seen better days, and the whole place needed a fresh coat of paint.
The “hallways” were outdoors. If this were a warm and sunny state such as Florida or California, or even a Caribbean island, fine, but not in chilly Virginia. I made my way to Room 222, hopeful that the even numbers which matched my birthday and the current year were a good sign. My door was inches, ok maybe a foot or two, from the stair landing. I’d hear people ascending and descending all night.
After drawing the curtains so passers-by couldn’t easily peer into my room, I contacted the virtual customer service and then an actual customer service rep to voice my discomfort and unhappiness with my accommodations. A piece of the top lock was missing. When I called the front desk, who picked up on my second attempt after letting it ring forever the first time, he informed me it was because they had changed to deadbolts at the bottom. So why keep one-half of the lock still screwed in? There were two queen beds whose dark sheets looked threadbare and sketch. The bathroom sink was not in the bathroom. The toilet and the tub were. Judging by the low and high dents in the hollow bathroom door, it had been kicked and punched, presumably by the same assailant.
It was late afternoon. I’d only had a smoothie for breakfast and the Chik-Fil-A nuggets, I’d picked up at Union Station were getting cold. The desk had a visible film of dust, but I had no choice but to set my food on it. The room’s only redeeming item was the newish-looking LG 30″ or 35″ flatscreen. The office chair at the desk looked like someone from the hotel happened to be driving around on trash day and rescued it from the curb knowing Room 222 needed a chair. I laid a formerly white hotel towel down before sitting down, only because I was tired of standing while I ate and spoke on the phone, which had a chunk missing from the bottom.
Per usual, I had taken photos when I first entered the hotel room. It wasn’t a threat when I told customer service I had done so. Usually, it’s to share my temporary digs with family and to stunt on The ‘Gram. Not this time. The rep took me seriously when I said I did not feel safe. Within an hour or so, I received confirmation emails for being fully refunded for my non-refundable room AND received a $50 coupon from Expedia, which I used to book my next hotel.
My Lyft driver said, “ooh, fancy,” when I told him where I was going and asked why I had been at my previous hotel. He told me that it had been on the verge of being shut down several times. I usually prefer to ride in silence, but I loved every minute of my conversation with Emanuel whose parents were originally from New York, and whose car and girlfriend were both named Samantha. I suspect he was somewhere on the spectrum, which endeared him to me even more.
I upgraded to The Darcy in the heart of downtown D.C. It had a semi-circle driveway upfront–no parking lot in sight. Glass double doors, a short walk followed by glass sliding doors. The concierge (a young Black man and a young Black woman) welcomed me by complimenting my newly-dyed teal hair and tortoiseshell red glasses and wishing me a Happy Birthday when I told them the reason for my stay. Everything looked shiny and new, even if it wasn’t. Safety was ensured when I learned that the elevator could not be operated without a keycard. It was a painting of clasped hands surrounded by two red roses. I later learned it was a replica of the founder’s tattoo. I sure did keep it when I checked out on Sunday.
Before I made it to Room 338, I fell in love with the hallway. The walls were a rich dark blue. The narrow carpet looked like sunshine being reflected off the water in paintings. The piéce de résistance: all the room doors were yellow! My room was gorgeous. The view was aiight. Two queen beds again, but the white linen looked fresh out the package. Too bad my hair dye would stain it by the end of my stay. The green carpet pattern reminded me of leaves. The elongated octagonal full-length mirror was perfect for daily outfit selfies. The bathroom was immaculate (but I still wiped it and the room’s hard surfaces with my Lysol spray and Clorox wipes). Two of the three walls in the standup shower were white, but the accent wall, the wall reflected in the mirror (also perfect for selfies), had green, black, and white tiles. There were full-sized shampoo, conditioner, and body wash bottles with pumps in a holder screwed to the wall. The sliding glass shower door was smooth and whirred as it moved along the track. A larger-sized replica of the tattoo/room key hung framed above the toilet. The bathrobe embroidered with “The Darcy” over the right breast hanging in the closet wasn’t bunny soft and fluffy but ’twas comfy all the same.
After being held hostage by my sloooow charging phone (I later found my turbocharger while unpacking), I walked to the 24-hour Surfside Taco Stand. It was one of the few still-open and within walking distance restaurants. It also had lots of positive reviews, which I usually don’t pay much attention to. There was a crowd of people waiting to order when I arrived and it grew behind me.
Sure, I reached Surfside with no incident, but the supposed-to-be 9-minute return walk turned into an hour and a half. I have the unique skill of getting lost while using GPS. #DontBeJealous I could not figure out where to exit in the rotary (aka roundabout). I’d seem to be on track and then I’d check my phone to see the blue dot scurry across my screen as if I’d been running a marathon. Several times I pulled up the Lyft app to scoop me back to the hotel, but I refused to give up. $12 when I was within walking distance? D.C. sure seemed quiet for a Thursday night. Barely any other peds. I was on the verge of walking up to one of the many homeless tents and asking for directions. Oddly enough I wasn’t scared. This Bostonian-turned-Brooklynite is tougher than she knows.
My Negril order (Blackened mahi mahi, spicy slaw, avocado, chili ranch, corn tortillas with a side of yellow rice) was stone cold when I returned to the hotel. I sure did eat every last morsel before reveling in the hot water and strong water pressure of that gorgeous shower.
I enjoyed not sucky cable TV. I was surprised to see Netflix as an option but passed when I saw that I had to enter my own credentials. I watched E1 of The First Lady on Showtime. I love Ms. Viola. I repost her to my stories and feed on Instagram, and I will read her newly released memoir, but uh…those pursed lips as our Forever FLOTUS were distracting, as were her razor-thin eyebrows.
A little after midnight, the first birthday text buzzed on my phone. My goddaughter. I conked out before thanking her.
Read on for Day 2 of my Birthday weekend in DC.