DRIVING LESSONS (PART III)—IT WAS BOUND TO HAPPEN
“Son of a bitch! How dare you pass me!!” shouted Henry. He gassed the car.
We shot from a comfortable 40 to 70 miles per hour. Unfortunately, before Henry
could teach the stupid teenager one or two lessons in fast driving, the boy turned
right on the Main Street oblivious of the brewing rage and competition in his
“Coward! Come, why are you running away from the battlefield like a mouse?” Henry
challenged as if throwing his lance at a fleeing enemy. His face had become red.
He was clutching at the steering wheel, sitting at the edge of his seat. I thought
if there were really a race Henry’s Civic Honda would be no match to the sports
car of the teenager. But I kept quiet. This will infuriate Henry all the more.
Suddenly it turned amber at the Fraser. Henry speeded to jump the light, but
the car in front of him hesitated and then decided that it was better to stop.
He stopped right in the middle of the pedestrian crosswalk. Henry spat an obscenity
and slammed on the brakes. The car in front wanted to reverse to clear the pedestrian
walkway but Henry rolled down the glass and gave him a finger. The driver gave
him two fingers! Henry got down from the car and approached the driver. Just
then the light turned green and the driver sped away, leaving Henry stranded outside
his car. Before Henry could come back and move, other cars behind us started
blowing horns and showing finger to Henry.
By now Henry was raging mad. He lit another cigarette. “Damn these lights.
I always get red light when I am in a hurry.” Sure enough we got another red
light at the next crossing. To go faster and possibly avoid the next red light
he changed to the left lane. Suddenly, a red car, driven by an oriental talking
on the cell phone, overtook him dangerously from the right and came to the left
lane in front of us. The light had turned red. Henry stopped. It changed to
the green and the red car gave left turn signal and kept standing. It was too
late for Henry to change lane.
“These Orientals! They cannot even see where they are going. Didn’t he know
before hand that he had to turn left? He could have turned even when it just
turned red. Or, is he being given directions on the cell phone?”
It turned red again. The red car couldn’t turn left as there was heavy on coming
traffic, which didn’t stop even at amber. Henry was insanely mad by now. He
tried to change lane, created a near accident scenario and somehow managed to
change and go ahead when it turned green again.
It was uncommonly hot. He started perspiring. He kept on fuming and fussing
all the way. Against God (why it was sunny and beautiful that everybody was on
the roads); against the Government (why they don’t make the roads wider, why they
don’t expand sky train service); against all others on the road (why old men and
women drive so slowly, why the teenagers who drive so recklessly are not caught
by the police, why…why….) I could see plainly that the blood vessels on Henry’s
temple had become swollen and they were palpitating visibly. Within the half an
hour driving he had already consumed five cigarettes!
Henry was my colleague at the office. He was, in fact, our accountant. He was
forty-five, married and father of two beautiful daughters. He was fond of eating
and drinking. He smoked two packets of cigarettes daily, drank beer like water,
and substituted it with coffee in the office. He liked fast food and red meat.
He was fond of sports and spent his entire evenings at home watching football
and hockey on the TV.
Henry and I had joined the Universal Imports and Exports together. It was a
long long time ago. Nearly twenty-five years. Henry was a lean and thin youth
then. He was a tennis player. Those were the good old days! We worked hard,
played tennis, and frequented bars and nightclubs. But within a few years things
started changing. We got more and more involved in the work. We got married
and had children. We don’t remember when we stopped playing tennis, stopped going
to gym, and stopped doing any physical work, except carrying files and ledgers
in the office!
It was full of tension for Henry at the office. Every Department committed accounting
mistakes. At the end of the day, therefore, the accounts invariably did not tally.
Henry swore, called names, and sat late to reconcile the accounts. By the time
he reached home, he was tense, tired, and hungry. He flopped on the sofa, turned
the TV on, and sat with his beer and potato chips. He talked to his wife and
daughters during the commercials and ate dinner in front of the TV. He moved
from there only to go to bathroom and finally to the bed.
We reached the Headquarters. It was always a struggle for Henry to get out of
his car. In fact, he had out grown his car. He was excessively bulky and pot-bellied.
Yet he drove two-door small Honda Civic. Every time a colleague sat with him,
he or she would ask, “Why don’t you buy a bigger car?” His wife also asked the
same question. It seemed that just to spite them he was never going to change
It was nearly one in the afternoon. Office workers were returning from the
lunch. There was a mini crowd near the lift. Henry went ahead and pushed the
lift button that must have been pushed scores of times already. Within a minute
when the lift came, he had again pushed it twice! We entered. Soon it was filled.
The door closed. But before the lift moved, the doors opened again and a courier
boy tried to enter. Henry snapped at him, “Don’t you see the lift is already
full!” The boy still squeezed in. Henry gave him a dirty look.
We were summoned to discuss the budget. The boss was in a hurry. By now we
were also tired and in not very good mood. Henry and the boss got into an argument.
Henry got excited. To me it seemed a mere trifle. But Henry wanted to make his
point. The boss his own. Henry’s face grew red. He started breathing fast and
heavily. He lit yet another cigarette. I intervened. The meeting ended on a
All the way back Henry continued to live the anger of their encounter. We stopped
at a restaurant. Had a couple of beers each and ate a pizza. I went home. Henry
Next day, Henry was no more.
He had a heart attack in the night.