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Friday, August 5, 2016

The Cutting Board - Happened in Spring 1987

Occasionally, but not often, my parents would attempt to pair me off with the child of a work colleague in an attempt to jump start a friendship. Occasionally, we’d hit it off, but most of the time, these pairings were somewhat contrived, as the only thing we had in common most of the time was our age, and the fact that our parents knew each other.

Sometime around February or March 1987, my father says that one of his colleagues has a son around my age that he thinks I would get along with named David, and asks I would like to spend an afternoon with him and if all goes well a possible sleepover. Dave lived on the Hong Kong Island in a place called the mid-levels. The mid-levels were a large concentration of apartment buildings just outside the Central Business District. It was where many of the ex-pats living on the Island stayed. If they were very rich, they could live in the residential area of the Peak, which was the mountainous area of the Island.

So it was decided that I would meet him on a Saturday morning. I bought my British stamp album with me as I had planned to go to my stamp dealer at Silvercoard Shopping Centre in Kowloon to buy some more 1960’s commemoratives, which was what I had been working on.  I waited at the entrance to the Star Ferry on the Island side for David to arrive. After a while, a tall, slender guy with dark, straight hair approached me and asked me if I was Chris. I indicated that I was and he introduced himself as David. We immediately hit it off and began talking about anything and everything. I explained that I wanted to go to get stamps and he seemed interested in the concept of collecting these little pieces of paper. He accompanied me there and then we spent a bit of time hanging around in Kowloon before he suggested that we head over to his place.

We headed over to his place on the Island, which was on the 19th floor and arrived shortly after lunch. I met his parents, both very nice people, Richard and Sue I believe their names were. Richard was David’s actual biological father, while Sue was his stepmother. Dad and Richard worked together in the Marketing department of what was then City Polytechnic of Hong Kong. After a nice lunch, we offered to help with the dishes and just before this Richard and Sue had asked me if I wanted to sleep over, to which I said “yes” very enthusiastically.

At this point, I need to digress and explain how many apartment kitchens in Hong Kong are laid out. Usually, you walk in and to your right, you will have the fridge, the gas stove and most of the cupboards, while to the left will be the sink and hot water heater. Hot water was usually provided by way of wall-mounted, flueless gas heaters, which required you to have a window open in order to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Consequently, the windows to the kitchen would usually be located on the same wall as the sink and usually at sink level. Most kitchens in Hong Kong did not have a lot of counter space. Instead, people would usually place a portable butcher block counter unit at the end of the kitchen and at the very end would usually be a doorway, which would either be the pantry or the Amah’s (nanny’s) quarters.  Kitchens did not have dishwashers, with everything usually being done by hand.

Dave’s parents kitchen was no different from this. On the drainboard sat a white wire dish rack, which was directly across from the open window. I elected to wash, while David elected to dry. I began to wash the dishes and place them in the rack. One of the items I had to wash was a solid walnut wooden cutting board that must have weighed at least 10 pounds. It was about 9 inches by 15 inches and 2 or three inches thick. It was massive. I washed it and placed it in the rack, and continued washing more dishes. David was grabbing the plates and not the cutting board, which was lying on the side of the dish rack closest to the window. After grabbing 2 or 3 plates and putting them away, he went to reach for the fourth plate.

All of the sudden the weight of the cutting board was greater than the counter weight of the dishes on the side closest to me. Before we could do or say anything the dishrack flipped backward from the weight of the cutting board toward the open window. The cutting board slid out from the dishrack and through the open window, falling 19 floors to the bottom of the building. The whole thing seemed to happen in slow motion as we both watched in amazement. We felt  powerless to stop it from happening. We could hear voices below and we were horrified! I leaned over and looked out the window, watching the cutting board fall toward a group of Filipino nannies that had gathered in the courtyard below. The cutting board reached the ground and smashed into a dozen pieces with a loud bang. From what I could see, nobody was hit, but I was just terrified to go down there and face the adults. Especially I knew we had just broken the law. I knew that we were going to get yelled at by a lot of adults at the very least. I muttered something about finishing my O-levels from jail, and proceeded downstairs with David to face the music.

But when we got down there, people were completely chill. We walked up to the group of nannies and adults and asked to speak with someone who was the lead adult if you will. A dark haired white man with a mustache stepped forward and we profusely apologized for what had just happened and asked if anyone was hurt. He had said no, that people had heard it fall and moved out of the way. He assured us that accidents happen and not to feel bad at all. I had to pinch myself to ensure that I wasn’t dreaming.

After that followed one of the best sleepovers in living memory. We played board games and I got to watch both of the Airplane movies for the first time. I laughed so hard during Airplane that at one point, while drinking an orange pop, mid-sip, I burst out laughing and sprayed pop everywhere. We all hung out in the living room and then eventually went to bed. I awoke to a really nice breakfast, made by Sue. Eventually I went on my way asking for David’s phone number, which I obtained.

Sadly though, I would never see David again. I cannot remember exactly why, but I think Richard and Sue left Hong Kong shortly afterward, taking David with them.

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