Human beings become violent when two things happen. One was an invention i.e. fire. The other was the development of speech… Are we operating our reptilian (primitive) brain? Are we progressing to civilized behaviour? We are certainly deluded and continually thwarting our own progress.
When UWA visited me at Cook County Hospital in 1964 and came up to my room, 1017 I think it was, at Karl Meyer Hall, I said to one of the wisest and sanest men, “Uncle I am my own worst enemy.” He was there to visit Pfaelzers, parents of Rita Hirsch, SWA’s close school friend. On the way to their posh Michigan Ave. apartment (condo? This word was not yet invented) Uncle W.A. and I walked past Hugh Hefner’s club… “Let’s go there, Omar…” “No, Uncle-ji! We will not ever go near that one.” Uncle W.A. didn’t say anything. I suppose I was still a raging bull, only 23-years young.
My marriage was still two years in my future! I read somewhere that the problem with life is that it comes at us far too fast. Then there is the Maya (illusion) of the present moment - and even this is subsumed – alas! so rapidly does it flow – time disappears as it were Hg (quick silver) through one’s fingers.
At the Pfaelzer’s we were welcomed as if we were long-lost family. Rita and her friend took UWA and I out for lunch. I was them earning only $100 per month – having chosen to work at the charity hospital CCH, which you might remember if you saw “The Fugitive” movie with Harrison Ford as the physician who is hounded all over the U.S.A. – as Jean Valjean was in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. Dr. Richard Speck’s son so many decades later declared that his father was indeed innocent.
After supper, when we retired to the guest bedroom at the Pfaelzer’s, I asked UWA, “Khaloo, which direction shall we offer our night prayers (Isha)”? UWA, erudite, as well as suave, quoted the original Quran in pure Arabic, “Where so ever you turn, you can behold the face of your sustainer…” So I asked UWA as my learned elder, to lead me in congregational prayer. “No two are gathered together in praise of life than I myself am their third companion.
You cannot have a friend greater than I. I love you more your mother ever could.
So, I fast forward – 45 years:
Asad Ali, another dear friend had these words written at his desk, “Time is a river…” The two good persons above named have departed this earthly life. I do miss them.
Today I am still an April fool. This morning I was rushing to the workshop to get my son’s Acura 1.6 EL 1997 serviced. Acura had failed to start up the day prior on March 30, 2010. My neighbour, Ken, had charged the battery last night but still the car refused to start. The automatic windows refused to scroll down. “Qaisra, please help push the car down the slope,” I said to my wife, who will be 63 years old in June.
Driving east on Gorham, late because I had a nice haircut by Qaisra after the lovely breakfast. Omar, seeing a bus stopped, blocking my path, I ignore, once again, the subliminal words of the blessed Nebi Karim. “Haste comes from Satan.”
I step on the gas pedal and the Acura leaps forward. I exult in the powerful surge of the V-tech engine carefully selected by my car-wise son, Tips. I’m crossing a solid line. Whey do they not place a dotted line here I think. The insistent present. I try to look for the large bus in my rearview mirror and see only empty road.
A blue-uniformed police officer with his radar gun is standing in my line of vision, pointing right, to the church of J.C. of Latter Day Saints. I slow down, knowing deep in my soul, that I have sinned, and this retribution, unlike the real promised one – is immediate and unavoidable.
“You were speeding and overtaking in a child safety zone.”
“No, don’t open your door. Just hand me your driver’s licence.”
I fumble in my arctic grey fox coat. “Here it is.”
“Stay in your car.”
I think about driving away. After an eternity of listening to Godwin George’s gift (another disappeared friend) of Sony transistor radio at 99.1 FM for awhile – I open the door, sidle down the Mormon Church driveway and approach the burly policeman’s car.
“Here is your fine. I’ve been lenient. You won’t lose any points but the penalty of $130 is the maximum possible short of losing points.”
I raise my right hand to thank him – he shrinks away – recoiling in practiced disdain – he is not bad at hiding his real feelings – perhaps he forgets that it doesn’t take an experienced old physician to read body language. “I don’t shake hands. My hand would get sore.”
He doesn’t convince me. Reminds me vividly of Donald Rumsfeld, the Bush era official, Secretary of Defence, who used to be cordial with Ayatollah Khomeini and even delivered a birthday cake to the Ayatollah during Ronald Reagan’s presidency in the 1980s. “I cannot understand why the Guantanamo prisoners complain about having to stand. I myself stand happily all day at my upright desk. I never feel tired or fatigued at all.”
The York Region police officer aka traffic cop hands me my $130 ticket and goes back to his radar gun facing west on Gorham St.
I try to restart my Acura. Nothing. I walk over to him, yet another unwanted walk.
“My car won’t start. Could you give me a jump…Sir?”
“We can’t do that.”
“Could you phone my wife?”
“Nope, but I can phone a garage.” I hand him a CAA card and he calls them.
I sit in the car and then open the door and stand in the bright sun warming my bald spot and hoping to make some Vitamin D. I soon get tired of the CBC radio station and walk restlessly to nearby Gorham St. awaiting the tow truck.
A green car approaches and I flag my saviour, my vintage 1966 beauty queen, my wife.
“Why are you stopped here?” she asks and I explain.
“Why did you turn the engine off?”
“Do you have jumper cables?” She opens her trunk. I find new, unused cables. Triumphantly I carry them toward the black 1997 Acura.
The police officer approaches. “Who is she and how did she know to come here? And why did you send for the garage?”
“She’s my wife and she was supposed to pick me up from the auto shop after I’d dropped it off for a tune-up.”
“Well why didn’t you cancel the tow truck? Oh, I see, you wanted to be sure the car started up…” He is speaking his thoughts, not bothering to censor them. It seems that I am, to him, just another (dumb) Asian, after all, not a Fulbright scholar.
The tow truck arrives, the driver has no idea that the original owner of the t0w truck company, Joe, was my patient and friend, for more than a decade. How he went through so many health crises. I can’t tell you his health history… We used to frequent the pool at the fitness club, which has been open for more than 30 years.
The truck driver backs up toward the Acura and I walk up to his window. I tell him I don’t need a tow after all. I just need a jump start. He looks at me, though not unkindly.
He is tall, a young muscular man with too many tattoos on his bare arms and cigarette breath. “I’ll check if your alternator is OK.”
He cleans the battery bolts but only after the car is jump started. It makes no logic or sense but I say nothing. Besides basic education in electricity (part of my physics training at G.C. Lahore in 1957) I’ve had least a dozen or more autos and tons of battery experience.
This tow truck driver is younger than our youngest son, Sultan, born in 1975. When I arrive at the workshop, the Acura conks out yet again. Sultan had been starting it regularly during the five weeks we were away in Pakistan… We returned on Sunday March 28, 2010 after a direct 14-hour Karachi to Toronto flight.
“I’ve told John everything. I’m still in my night clothes, so hurry,” Qaisra says to me.
John is the mechanic who tends to our Acura.
I go inside. “Is your name John?”
“Thank you, Kevin.”
Qaisra smiles, she did come into the auto repair shop.
“I’ll avoid Gorham now,” my better half concludes.