Jackson Biko does not like his whiskey to be served with ice or his hotel phones to sound like doorbells or, for that matter, his hotel doorbells to sound like phones.
The hotel phone rang while I was toweling myself in the bathroom. It sounded strange. I padded out of the bathroom, then stood over the phone and waited for it to ring again. When it rang again, I realised it wasn’t the phone, it was the door. I tied the towel around my waist and answered the door. A short portly man stood there bearing a silver tray with a whisky. Room service.
“I didn’t ask for ice in my drink.” I told him testily. He looked down at the whisky that had about the whole of Iceland in it. Behind him an elevator door opened and out spilled three men – business types with laptop bags – who disappeared down the heavily carpeted corridor talking in Afrikaans. “I’m sorrey, see but the barman said you wanted ice.” He said without managing to sound apologetic at all. [The pronounce sir as see, in South African accent]
“There is no way I would have asked for ice,” I told him. I picked the check from the tray: Jack Daniels X2, 106 Rands. “This is the wrong order,” I said, handing back the bill. “I ordered Glenmorangie Original, double. No ice.” He looked at the drink as if this was all its fault. He seemed close to shouting at it. It wasn’t a fine moment to be a Jack Daniels on ice. I had an option of just drinking the damned whisky because, really, Jack Daniel’s isn’t a bad drink, but it wasn’t my drink. I’d not enjoy it as I would enjoy my drink. I’m a Glenmorangie man and I was about to turn 40 and I didn’t want to start my 40’s drinking drinks that I didn’t want. “Sorry, I think the barman mixed up the orders, I wanted Glenmorangie, Original” I said. He sighed, apologised and turned back.
I sat on the edge of my bed and felt bad. Spoilt. Entitled. Then I thought, wait a minute, why should I accept drinks I won’t enjoy drinking so as not to hurt other people’s feelings? Will I be turned away from the Pearly Gates because I turned away a drink that I didn’t order? While thinking about this the doorbell rang and I walked back to the door but when I opened it there was nobody standing there. I stuck my head out and looked down the hallways; empty. Just as I was thinking that maybe housekeeping sent a ghost to serve the fussy guest, the doorbell rung again and I realised it wasn’t a doorbell but the bloody phone! So I went and picked it up, it was housekeeping apologising for the mixup. So I asked her: “Do you think people who are fussy about their drinks will gain entrance to heaven?” to which she laughed and said, “I’m sorry, I don’t know, see”. Just then the phone rung and I stared at it , startled at that miracle because I was still holding the receiver in my hand and was beginning to suspect the whole room was spooked. Another ring and I realised that it was actually the door.
The short portly man was standing there. I signed and tipped him generously so as to bribe my way into the Kingdom. He seemed pleased, “Enjoy your drink, see.” I stood at the window with my drink in hand and stared out at the skyline of Sandton, Johannesburg, now lighting up as dusk crept in. It felt good to drink the drink I ordered and one that didn’t come with ice. I smelled it. I don’t know for how long I stood there with nothing but a towel tied around my waist, but darkness found me there and just when I was starting to feel cold the phone rung. Or maybe it was the door. I turned around and cocked my head, waiting for the second ring.