Black Label on the rocks

It is rather frustrating that the Business Class Lounge of Cathay Pacific in Vancouver does not stock Black Label. They have Jack Daniel and to be fair to them, half a bottle of a 15-year-old single malt. I was on my way back from Seattle and the earliest flight home was by way of Vancouver. There was a planned four-hour break anyway, but after clearing the transit desk which took more than half an hour – a totally unnecessary and time consuming process which would not add any value to either the passenger, the airline, the airport or the country – I found that the flight was delayed by four hours, which meant that I had to linger on as a transit passenger for eight hours at least.

The single malt was fine, but was not really a substantial replacement for my regular at the time. I attempted to surf the internet from the hospitality service, only to find that I needed passwords. I reached out for the company-issue equipment that my colleague had been carrying, only to find out that in a bid to lighten her carry-on luggage, she had left all the connecting wires with her main luggage. I started reading and soon I felt asleep. I woke up and did more reading, washed down some cold finger food with Jack Daniel and read the news of the day before.

By the time I sat myself down on my favourite aisle seat, it was like going off work after a long day and I promptly ordered my Black Label on the rocks. Two rows in front, just before the big screen, a young mother was negotiating with her newborn into a sort of crib. The baby was practicing some form of lung-expansion exercise and was clearly not very pleased with the help the helpful flight attendants were attempting to offer. Later I learnt that the baby was one month old and it was obviously its first experience to fly.

My mind drifted to the time Rosita and I flew with the two children on Economy Class when they were very small. The good news was that we paid only a fraction of the airfares for them, we always got to board ahead of others, and we often got the row of seats before the big screen. And the bad news was – well, where do I begin. I remember we carried a lot of equipment on board – nappies, food, candies, toys, books, clothes and so on. When the children were old enough to chew, we learnt that those long and colourful soft and chewy candies were very effective during landings and take-offs.

I must have dosed off thinking about our children. When I woke up, we had been flying for nearly an hour and the staff were preparing to serve dinner. There was a glass of drink on the side table with melted ice and condensation all over it. This must be my Black Label on the rocks which arrived during my sleep. I took a gulp. It was too weak and icy for my need. Presently, a sweet flight attendant appeared and asked me what I would like to drink. I was saved, I thought. I explained to her what happened and asked apologetically for my Black Label on the rocks, with emphasis that I need large pieces of ice rather than crushed ice. The drink arrived together with a lot of food. It looked good. Cathy Pacific had stocked up ice cubes on their planes after all. I had a large gulp. It was not Black Label. It was Jack Daniel.

It would be rather inconsiderate on my part if I had reached for the service button there and then. I waited until she came to collect my first dishes. When she asked me what I would like for my main course, I said Black Label on the rocks, with steak. And that was how I earned my first Black Label on the rocks from Cathy Pacific, after nearly ten hours as their guest.

It was obviously not my day and there must be lessons to be learnt from the experience, I thought. I looked at my TV screen. It was locked on the Discovery Channel. Some elephants were resting and drinking by their favourite watering holes. Other animals, big and small, strolled by, but they were never their concern. Elephants live a rather long life, provided that they reach beyond puberty and provided that they stay away from mankind. Ironically, their tusks which are highly valued by man and irreplaceable, have turned out to be their bane. And it was for these economically valuable commodities that their fellow members were poached and slaughtered. Their numbers have been decimated over the years and they have become endangered species. But species much bigger had gone into extinction apparently without man’s assistance. Dinosaurs had roamed the Earth for millions of years, only to be succeeded by the much smaller mammals. Man has certainly inherited Earth, but until man conquer himself and learn to live with himself and his fellow human beings in peace, there is little hope that he could be the caretaker of Earth longer than the dinosaurs had.

Sadly, news last week had been dominated by deaths and fighting in the Middle East, the efforts of other nations among rhetoric and threats notwithstanding. But there were uplifting moments during the small hours when I was adjusting to jet lags. Topping the list would be the erudite words of the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury who spoke of the strength, dignity and laughter of the Queen Mother. Laughter is certainly more than fun and music or a good joke. Laughter comes naturally, freely and from the heart. The more one produces, the more capacity one possesses and the more good and influence it would bring. May you live in laughter, enjoy laughter and share your laughter with more men and women, till the world is filled with laughter, with or without Black Label on the rocks!

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