Holiday travels

Published 2:08 pm Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Like many others, we traveled over Thanksgiving to spend the holiday with family.

We flew to Washington, D.C., where we joined our two sons and their families, one of which lives in Arlington, Va.

As has been our custom when in the D.C. area, we stayed at the Key Bridge Marriott, a very welcoming hotel we have frequented for over 12 years.

As one of our grandsons once told his mother, “I have a fancy Grambo and Grammy who live in a hotel.”

This year was no different. Or was it?

Upon checking in we discovered the lobby and restaurant areas had been extensively updated and we were pleased with what we saw, and we still felt very much at home.

On Tuesday evening, our first night there, we were very tired. We had risen very early to catch a morning flight out of Tallahassee, and following a late dinner with the family we chose to return to our home-away-from-home to retire at a reasonably early hour.

We were awakened from a deep sleep at 1:30 a.m. by an alarmingly loud “Whoop, Whoop” sound, followed by an announcement, “May I have your attention, please. A fire emergency has occurred in the building. Please exit the building immediately. Do not use the elevators. Use the stairs.”

We sprang from our bed and sleepily stumbled about attempting to find some warm clothing to cover up our pajamas. Meanwhile, the “Whoop, Whoop” and announcement sounded repeatedly.

With an increasing sense of urgency, we began gathering up items lying about the room to take with us.

What to choose?

My purse, of course.

Oh, yes, our cell phones. They were plugged in and charging. Grabbed the phones—left the chargers.

Doubled back for my wedding ring and watch. At the last minute thought to grab the manilla envelope that contained our E-ticket for the plane ride home and the paperwork for the rental car.

Making sure we had the room key and that my husband grabbed his money off the night stand, we headed out into the hallway where we were met by two other dazed and sleep-tousled couples looking for the stairway.

It was then it dawned on me. We were staying on the 12th floor. It was a long way down.

We have a penchant for rooms with a view, especially when the view is of the Potomac River and Georgetown across the way.

After three flights of stairs, I thought to ask my husband, “Did you grab the keys for the rental car?”

Enterprise probably wouldn’t like having their keys burn up or be lost.

After a frantic search of his pockets, he declared he had the keys.

Meanwhile we are descending endless half-flights of stairs at a time.

Finally, we made it down and exited to an alley where we saw a huge fire truck and other “street people” wandering about wearing confused expressions, in addition to overcoats over their PJ’s.

We all walked around to the front lobby and entered to find music playing, and one lone man on his lap-top computer, probably e-mailing the situation to his friends and family—or maybe even scooping my story to The Washington Post.

The night clerk advised the few stragglers that we were waiting for the engineer to give an all-clear and declare it was safe to return to our rooms.

He offered each of us a bottle of water as we waited.

Being an amateur observer of human behavior, I began to take sneak peeks to see what others were wearing or carrying. What had they valued enough to grab in a hurry?

Or to quote a familiar commercial, “What’s in your wallet?”

We received the all-clear and happily took the elevators back to our rooms and beds, where we hoped we would be able to resume our much needed sleep.

It made for a good story at the family breakfast table the next day.

This all happened before we learned of the tragic hostage situation, fires and shootings that occurred in India’s tourist hotels.

You never know what you will encounter when you travel these days. We had extra, unexpected blessings on Thanksgiving.