In the past two years, I’ve logged thousands of miles volunteering with a San Francisco-based nonprofit organization. Crisscrossing the country while trying to maximize my time on the ground has taught me one thing: I recover poorly from overnight flights.
So, as I prepared to leave Seattle earlier this year on a red-eye to the East Coast, it was with vague dread that I contemplated my options for getting back to Washington. I wondered whether I should take Amtrak instead of waiting three and a half hours for my connecting flight from Philadelphia. But then a friend told me about a nirvana for business travelers at the Philadelphia airport, a place where I could lie down in a quiet room and rest until a wake-up knock alerted me that it was time to get ready for my flight.
Arriving at 6:20 a.m., I studied the concourse map but couldn’t figure out which business sounded like a place where I could get some shut-eye. At the information counter, I asked about renting a sleeping room by the hour. The attendant was briefly stumped but then handed me a brochure for Minute Suites. These private suites, which can also be found in the Atlanta airport and are scheduled for Dallas/Fort Worth, are equipped with a workstation with a keyboard and an office chair, an HDTV that doubles as a computer monitor, an alarm clock and a daybed with a blanket and pillows. The handout promised “an ideal place to wait in the airport terminal,” costing $32 for the first hour. I wouldn’t even have to leave the secure zone.
My flight to Washington was at 9:52 a.m. At 6:45, I arrived at Minute Suites and groggily asked for 90 minutes in a room. The clerk had just finished processing my credit card when I realized that I could probably use a full two hours of downtime. “Just pay the extra when you leave,” she said. You pay $8 for every 15-minute increment after the first hour, with discounts for stays of four hours or more.
I was directed to a room with a dark, heavy sliding door; it reminded me of a sleeping compartment on a train. I cranked up the ambient-noise generator, which I initially mistook for a thermostat, turned off the lights and prepared for some z’s in the pitch-dark. Over the white noise in the room, I heard delivery vehicles and muffled voices — probably airport workers on the other side of the wall. Despite the distractions and a sleep surface that reminded me more of a park bench than a Heavenly Bed, I soon nodded off.
When I awoke, the clock display read 9:25. I’d overslept by a half-hour! There was no time for Minute Suites’s hot towel service. I gathered my things and darted to the counter. A different woman was on duty. She apologized for the lack of a wake-up knock and told me that I didn’t have to pay for the extra time in the room.
I dashed through the terminal, arriving breathless at my gate. Of course, my flight was delayed.
Truong is a multiplatform editor for The Washington Post and the president of the Asian American Journalists Association.