It has been 18 years since Nick Burchill was banned from the Empress Hotel. As a means of begging for forgiveness, Burchill wrote to the establishment and recounted the exact events that led to his lifetime ban – and it is a hilarious tale.
Back in 2001, Burchill was a proud member of the Canadian Naval Reserve. He had also become the employee of a respectable company that invited him to a customer conference at the hotel in Victoria, British Columbia.
Upon mentioning to his Navy buddies that he would be traveling west, they asked him if he could bring them some “Brother’s Pepperoni” from Halifax, which is considered to be a local delicacy.
Burchill wrote: “Because this was the Navy we were talking about, I brought enough for a ship. In a hurry, I had completely filled a suitcase with pepperoni for my friends. Some of it was wrapped in plastic, some in brown paper. I took whatever Brothers would sell me.
Unfortunately, the airline misplaced the suitcase and it was not returned to Burchill until the next day at the hotel.
“I knew that the pepperoni would still be ‘good’. It had only been at room temperature for a short time. It would, however, be quite some time before I could turn it over to my friends,” says Burchill. “Just to be safe, I decided that I should keep it cool.
“My room was a nice, big, front-facing room on the fourth floor. It was well appointed, but it did not have a refrigerator. It was April, the air was chilly. An easy way to keep all of this food cool would be just to keep it next to an open window. I lifted one of the sashes and spread the packages of pepperoni out on the table and window sill. Then, I went for a walk… for about 4 or 5 hours.”
By the time Burchill returned to his room, he walked in on a gruesome scene: over 40 seagulls had flown in through the window and started eating the pepperoni.
“In case you were wondering, Brothers’ Pepperoni does NASTY things to a seagull’s digestive system,” says Burchill. “As you would expect, the room was covered in seagull crap. What I did not realize until then was that seagulls also drool. Especially when they eat pepperoni.
“I’m sure you have an image in your head. Now remember that I have just walked into the room and startled all of these birds. They immediately started flying around and crashing into things as they desperately tried to leave the room through the small opening by which they had entered.
“Less composed seagulls are attempting to leave through the other CLOSED windows. The result was a tornado of seagull excrement, feathers, pepperoni chunks and fairly large birds whipping around the room. The lamps were falling. The curtains were trashed. The coffee tray was just disgusting.
“I waded through the birds and opened the remaining windows. Most of the gulls left immediately. One tried to re-enter the room to grab another piece of pepperoni and in my agitated state, I took off one of my shoes and threw it at him.
“Both the gull and the shoe went out the window.”
As Burchill attempted to assess the damage, he noticed that there was one hulking seagull that was still in the room – and it refused to leave.
The Navy man chased the bird around the room to no avail. He finally used a towel to trap the bird and throw it out the window.
“I had forgotten that seagulls cannot fly when they are wrapped in a towel,” says Burchill. “This is all happening fairly quickly and this is mid-afternoon. The Empress hosts a very famous and very popular ‘High Tea’. I suspect this is where the large group of tourists was heading when they were struck by first my shoe, then a bound-up seagull (the seagull was unharmed, by the way).”
With the room in shambles, Burchill remembered that he was still invited to attend a fancy dinner with his new company at any minute. He then retrieved his shoe from a stretch of mud in the garden and brought it back to his destroyed room.
“I went into the washroom and rinsed the mud off of my shoe. It cleaned-up nicely, but now I had one wet, dark shoe, and one dry, light colored shoe.
“In retrospect, I should have just wet the dry shoe. Instead, I chose to dry the wet shoe using the little hairdryer. It was actually doing quite well. I had the hairdryer jammed in there and the shoe was drying quite nicely. Then, the phone rang.”
As Burchill went to go answer the phone, the power suddenly turned off. He returned to the bathroom to find that the hairdryer had vibrated free of the shoe and fallen into the wet sink.
“I don’t know how much of the hotel’s power I knocked-out, but at that point I decided I needed help,” says Burchill. “I called the front desk and asked for someone to come help me clean-up a mess. I can still remember the look on the lady’s face when she opened the door. I had absolutely no idea what to tell her, so I just said ‘I’m sorry’ and I went to dinner. When I came back, my things had been moved to a much smaller room.”
Burchill’s company later received a letter that he had been given a lifetime ban from the Empress Hotel.
In his open letter to the hotel, Burchill writes: “I have matured and I admit responsibility for my actions. I come to you, hat-in-hand to apologize for the damage I had indirectly come to cause and to ask you to reconsider my lifetime ban from the property.
“I hope that you will see fit to either grant me a pardon, or consider my 18 year away from The Empress as ‘time served’.”
Burchill published a copy of the letter on Facebook last week. The next day, he wrote an update for the post saying: “After reviewing my application for a pardon with the Empress staff; Ryan, the manager has notified me verbally that I will once again be welcome as a guest. I bet it was the pound of Brothers Pepperoni that I gave them as a peace offering that did the trick.”
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Reprint (Photo by Nick Burchill)