By Jamie McLeod and Amit Shilton
Journalism is a profession often characterized by men and women of uncommon courage going places and bringing back stories that are simply too dangerous, too bizarre, or too freaking much for the average person to attempt.
On the night of Saturday, November 17, two such men embarked on a savage journey up the river, into the heart of the beast: The Bay St. Hotel. In preparation, they brought a camera, digital recorder, notepad, several pens, two bottles of Coca-Cola, two Snickers bars, a bag of potato chips, and a large bag of chocolate covered coffee beans.
10:30 p.m.: The sign on the door said “Now Hairing.”
10:50 p.m.: After negotiating with the night manager, a room in the extreme corner of the top floor is settled upon for a price of $75 plus a $20 key deposit. Upon further dealing, it becomes apparent that the manager has no $5 bills. He is given an even hundred dollars in twenties, and the key deposit is upped to $25.
10:52 p.m.: Jamie walks in, immediately checks for bed bugs.
10:53 p.m.: Jamie- “Two words, ‘no bible’” After cursory examination of the room, Shilton and McLeod settle down and to watch Iron Chef on the 14-inch colour TV bolted to the wall.
11:55 p.m.: Watching “Don’t forget the lyrics” with Wayne Brady. A 450 lb woman is competing, and remembering the lyrics to “Staying Alive” by the Bee Gees. Jamie- “They’re just giving the money to the morbidly obese single mother.”
12:07 a.m.: From the window Amit notices you can see the glowing sign of the Delta Chelsea looming down on us, mocking and laughing.
12:09 a.m.: Watching football game, TV starts making sounds as if connecting to the Internet.
12:35 a.m.: Amit gets a text from a Thornhill friend: Josh Freedman, “U know it’s late at tims when they start blasting music from their country of origin … I feel like im in Bombay right now.”
Amit phones him. Josh- “The hot girl just left Tim Hortons, now what am I going to do?” Amit tells him we are deep in the bowels of the Bay St. hotel. Josh- “Did he [the night manager] think you guys were gay?” (That thought had already crossed the minds of McLeod and Shilton)
1:00 a.m.: BBC world on channel 37. Regarding cyclones in Bangladesh Shilton- “I really don’t care about this, at all.”
Shilton and McLeod get tired and are concerned about the possibility of falling asleep. The chocolate covered coffee beans — their main source of caffeine — are running low. They prepare to obtain more coffee beans from the all-night grocery store five blocks away.
1:06 a.m.: Jamie- “We have to leave something in the room.” Amit- “How about the Snickers bars?” Jamie- “OK.”
1:08 a.m.: Jamie- “I bet when we get down there he thinks we’re checking out because we’re done with the gay sex.”
1:08 a.m.: Jamie discovers that the room does not lock.
1:09 a.m.: Jamie notices that the phone is from the Delta Chelsea.
1:10 a.m.: Walking downstairs, we pass the night manager. He grins, as if to say, “I hope the gay sex was good.”
1:48 a.m.: Jamie discovers bed bugs. He begins tearing all the sheets from the bed.
1:55 a.m.: Jamie- “I’m not spending any more time in this room. It’s done.”
Shilton and McLeod proceeded to the front desk, intent on getting a refund. What follows are transcribed highlights of the recorded conversation between Shilton, McLeod, Haq Emi the night manager, and Susan Harbinson.
Amit- “You know that there are some rooms that do have problems Haq- I know that there are some problems…
Jamie- What other problems have you had?
Haq- This is insect, that’s, yeah.
Jamie- You’ve had other bedbug problems?
Haq- Yeah, yeah bedbug problems. But they’re doing every week. Every week they’re cleaning. They’re spraying. That’s why next month they’re renovating whole things yeah. They’re shutting down for next month.
Jamie- But in the meantime while there are bedbugs here…
Haq- Not all the rooms.
Jamie- Do you mind if we get your name?
Haq- Why shouldn’t I, it’s Emi, yeah just Emi.
Susan- Yeah if they can publish, if they can publish unreported, undocumented bullshit then he can certainly get your name because you took my name. You take his name for sure.
Haq- Look, I’m not…You can talk to my boss.
Susan- You’re right, you want a public policy, this is a public country with freedom of speech they can get your name just like you used mine. So please take his name …
(At this point, both people started shouting while Shilton and McLeod stood quietly in the middle)
Susan- What do you mean listen? Don’t. You have to give your name.
Haq- Shut down, shut down, I’m not speaking to you… (Haq and Susan continue their argument.)
Jamie- Can we have your name for the record?
Haq- Yeah, for the record I will say that, I will give it to you.
(Editor’s note: Legally speaking, Emi was under no obligation to give his name.)
Amit- When did you get that inspection?
Haq- Every month they’re coming in
Jamie- What’s the expiry date on that?
Haq- It’s 2007, august.
Jamie- August 2007? is the expiry date?
Amit- We’re in November.
The next morning, Shilton and McLeod returned, hoping to talk to the manager. They were informed by an old man who identified himself as “Kash” that the no refund policy was firm. In the course of reporting:
Jamie- If I was sleeping in that room, and we were attacked and robbed because the door didn’t lock, if we were…
Kash- You could call the police. Jamie- Would we get our money back?