Maybe there was a warrant out for the guy, me, who had chastised the Avis employee for trying to bill for a vehicle upgrade that had unequivocally been turned down (a chronic problem, I have learned, with Avis people, who then claim they didn't hear correctly or cop the plea of being a trainee). No, they weren't on to me, thankfully. Cleared by the dog, I proceeded to the lobby, where a small army of security was camped out.
"Something going on I should know about?" I asked the woman at the front desk.
"Oh, no, sir," she said. "But congratulations, with tonight's stay you're about to make Platinum."
This was very good distracting news, I had to admit. In all my years of staying in Marriott hotels, I had never reached the highest level of the rewards club, which, among other perks, guarantees you a reservation at any hotel even if it is sold out. How this particular benefit works -- some poor schlep in his underwear is pulled out in the middle of the night? -- I don't know and don't want to know. But I felt like a made Marriott man and forgot about the dog and the large security detail until Saturday morning, when the lobby seemed even more under lock down.
After breakfast, I rode the elevator up with one a more cooperative hotel staffer. "Someone important is here," he confided.
"A politician?" I asked.
"Yes," he said.
He laughed. "Not supposed to say but, OK, elected."
Back in my room, I quickly discerned that Joe Biden was campaigning Saturday in Colorado. So now I knew there was someone in the hotel with an ever higher status than me, Mr. Platinum. Normally I would have called my wife and shared this news, but it was the middle of the night in New Jersey and, right, we had no power, land line and cell service had been worse than spotty since Sandy. Not that I am complaining, knowing the horror of the Jersey Shore and on Staten Island, where I grew up and have many relatives and friends.
The storm was all anyone back east could talk about. At Newark Airport, the friendly shoe-shiner from East Orange told me that a tree had landed on his roof, opened a gaping hole and allowed a family of squirrels into his home -- which somehow still had power. How the guy was good-humored about this I'll never know but he said, "I expect to go home tonight and they'll be sitting on the couch, watching the Knicks."
I came to Denver for the weekend to work on a story, a trip I was supposed to make before the hurricane changed so many lives and may even have altered the course of the Presidential race. Other than checking the latest polls on the rare occasions I had access to a wireless signal and reading what I could in the New York Times -- yes, it arrived every day except the morning after the storm -- it was difficult to stay tuned to the election in the dark. But in Denver, I have been reminded of how big the country is, how one region's trauma can feel like something happening in a faraway land. Colorado being a swing state, every other television ad is for Obama or Romney. Here, it is all about the power to run the country, not to turn on the lights or kick-start the boiler.
I never did catch a glimpse of Biden, who left Saturday morning to stump for votes. At the front desk, another guest said he had also checked in Friday night and that he was worried about a terrorist threat. The woman at the front desk said, "Here? We're in the middle of nowhere."